Linda Brown Recognized with the 2019 Distinguished Service Award

Linda Brown, the esteemed Business Office Manager of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists (ASPT) from 1996 to 2019, is the recipient of the 2019 ASPT Distinguished Service Award. Linda is recognized for her significant contributions that have been instrumental in the success and growth of ASPT during her tenure. Linda first took on managerial duties for ASPT as an assistant to the Treasurer in 1996; little did she know what that first job would blossom into! As a Society, we have come to depend heavily on Linda’s institutional memory and knowledge, boundless commitment, unwavering dedication, and amazing fortitude over the past 23 years. She has truly been the engine that has kept ASPT moving forward.

ASPT officers past and present have highlighted her personal commitment to the Society, her wealth of knowledge that has been essential to the organization’s leadership, and her effective execution of an exceptionally diverse set of tasks necessary to run a professional organization. The fourteen letters of nomination each provided details of her talents and tremendous impact as well as her regular inclination to go beyond the call of duty. As one letter pointed out, her title of “Business Office Manager” was too modest given her unparalleled leadership, organization, efficiency, and wisdom. There is no doubt that she has been the bedrock of the organization; her efforts to keep the society on budget, to develop and implement necessary policies, and to keep council members on task is evident in the successes of ASPT over the years. Much of her work behind the scenes has been completed with a patience that is awe- inspiring and, as one past president notes, “borders on saintly.” We have all benefited from her flexibility and grace in seeing tasks to completion.

Linda’s commitment to ASPT has undoubtedly contributed to its success, but has also played an especially important role in serving student members. She has been the face of the Society to many hundreds of early career researchers who have verified their student status with her during the process of becoming ASPT members, received research awards and travel grants from her on behalf of the Society, and visited the ASPT booth at the annual Botany conference. Our Society will be forever in her debt for her numerous contributions. While she will be sorely missed (and the Society may fall apart without her steadfast leadership) we wish her the best in retirement.


Recipients of the 2019 ASPT Undergraduate Research Prize

The American Society of Plant Taxonomists (ASPT) has selected Blake Fauskee, Matthew Fertakos, and Lauren Frankel, as 2019 Undergraduate Research Prize (URP) recipients. The prizes are considered the Society’s most prestigious recognition of undergraduate achievement. The URP has been presented annually at the international Botany conference since 2015 for outstanding, independent research projects in plant systematics completed within the last two years.


Blake Fauskee, just completed a bachelor’s degree at the University of Minnesota Duluth, in Duluth, Minnesota, U.S.A, and is a recipient of the 2019 Undergraduate Research Prize from the American Society of Plant Taxonomists for his work on apomixis in the fern species Myriopteris lindheimeri, a species native to northern Mexico and the southwestern United States. As a member in the lab of Dr. Amanda Grusz at the University of Minnesota at Duluth, Fauskee evaluated genotypic diversity across the range of the species using 10 microsatellite markers from 96 samples. His findings show that genotypic diversity is higher in Mexico than in populations to the north, near the US-Mexico border. These findings will inform future studies regarding the role of apomixis in M. lindheimeri at the population level.  Fauskee has also participated in a National Science Foundation funded REU program hosted by The Field Museum in Chicago, where he looked into mitochondrial genome assembly and RNA editing in ferns. In her letter of nomination, Dr. Grusz notes that “[Fauskee] is a cornerstone of my lab group and will be deeply missed as he goes on to explore new avenues in graduate research.”


Matthew Fertakos just completed a bachelor’s degree at the College of New Jersey in Ewing, New Jersey, U.S.A., and is a recipient of the 2019 Undergraduate Research Prize from the American Society of Plant Taxonomists for his work on the assessment of species distribution modeling and species delimitation in North American Castanea. Working alongside Dr. Wendy Clement at the College of New Jersey and Dr. Elizabeth Spriggs at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, Fertakos utilized 4,527 herbarium specimens and climate data to assess species limits between C. pumila and C. ozarkensis based on climate space analysis, and evaluated the accuracy of chestnut species distribution models when compared to fossil pollen data. Nominator Spriggs describes Fertakos as “a dedicated, creative, generous researcher who is passionate about plants and science and is generally curious about the natural world. He is a wonderful scientist with a bright future ahead of him.”


Lauren Frankel just completed a bachelor’s degree at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, U.S.A., and is a recipient of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists 2019 Undergraduate Research Prize. Frankel was nominated for research she completed after being awarded a competitive summer fellowship to study with Dr. Laura Lagomarsino at Louisiana State University to study computational phylogenomics last year. Over the course of the summer of 2018, Frankel analyzed two sequence capture datasets to infer phylogenetic and phylogeographic relationships within Neotropical bellflowers. Nominator Lagomarsino says that “as a senior undergraduate, [Frankel] already performs bioinformatic research at a level well above what I expect of graduate students, and even many postdoctoral fellows.” Frankel was also a participant in a National Science Foundation funded REU program at the Ohio State University where she generated and analyzed RADseq data for a population genomic study of Palmer’s amaranth. She has also studied tropical biology during a semester in Peru.


Isaac Lichter Marck Receives the 2019 ASPT George R. Cooley Award

The American Society of Plant Taxonomists (ASPT) has selected Isaac Lichter Marck as its 2019 Cooley Award recipient. Considered one of the most prestigious early-career recognitions in the plant sciences, the award is named for George R. Cooley, a successful banker who studied plants and worked in conservation in retirement.

Since 1956, the Cooley Award has been given for the best paper in systematics presented at the annual international Botany conference by a botanist in the early stages of their career. Awards are made to members of ASPT who are either graduate students or within one year of their post-doctoral careers for work judged to be substantially complete, synthetic, and original that is presented in a manner that is clear and engaging.

Lichter Marck’s talk, “Historical biogeography of the rock daisies (tribe Perityleae; Asteraceae) in the sky island archipelagos of the southwest U.S. and northern Mexico” was presented at Botany 2019 in Tucson, AZ, U.S.A. and focused on elements of his dissertation work, which he is conducting in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley and the Jepson Herbarium under the advisement of Dr. Bruce Baldwin.

His work focuses on historical biogeography and ecology of the southwestern desert flora, with special attention to sky islands and other insular environments, including edaphic islands. His field, herbarium, and laboratory studies of the rock daisies have shown them to be an ideal system for examining the origins of desert sky-island plant diversity. In his award-winning presentation, he showed evidence that desert sky-island rock daisies in the genus Perityle have descended from subtropical ancestors that appear to have been pre-adapted to dry, exposed environments in otherwise densely vegetated areas in the Sierra Madre Occidental of Mexico. Diversification in these ancestral subtropical environments predates the development of desert conditions in the American Southwest, which was occupied after the development of basin and range topography, followed by invasion of lower elevation settings after widespread aridification. 

One talk attendee noted that Lichter Marck “presented an extraordinary paper that rose above a strong pool of competitors, like a sky island in a desert sea.” The judges were impressed by Isaac’s ability to synthesize a deep and intimate understanding of his study group with impressive data collection and extensive fieldwork to illuminate a big question in plant systematics and evolutionary biology more broadly: How is it that the deserts of northern Mexico and the southwest United States harbor such a diverse flora of seemingly highly specialized and well-adapted plants, despite the fact that these regions are geologically very young?

As a fourth year PhD student, Lichter Marck’s current plans are to continue his studies of desert plant evolution and biogeography. He completed his undergraduate studies in 2011 at Wesleyan University.

Talk abstract:


Collection Informatics/Database Specialist - Milwaukee Public Museum

The Milwaukee Public Museum seeks qualified applicants to serve as the application administrator of MPM’s Collection Management System (Axiell EMu) (75%) and support digitization and research efforts of cultural and biodiversity collections (25%).