Plants are all around us, in many different forms. We use plants as food,
medicine, building materials, fiber for clothing and more. The Botanical Society
of America's website says botany is the scientific study of plant life. A
branch of biology, botany is a broad field. Botanists study things like the
structure, growth, reproduction, metabolism, diseases and evolution of plants.
Plant genetics is a big area in botany right now. Botanists studying plant
genetics use molecular data in plant research.
Cynthia M. Ross is a botanist at a university. She explains how botany
differs from horticulture. Horticulturists try to breed attractive plants
that have economic value to people. Horticulture might appeal to persons with
an artistic bent.
Botany is a science. It attracts people who are interested in "why" something
happens. For example, a horticulturist might try to produce a dahlia with
a bright red flower. A botanist would say, "Why is that dahlia so red?" and
try to answer that question at the genetic level.
Botanical researchers conduct research outdoors in the field and analyze
the results in a laboratory. "I can tailor the research to whatever mood I'm
in," says Ross. "Last year, I felt in the mood for field work. This year,
I'm in the mood to get in the lab and play around."
The Botanical Society of America's website says that botanists work for
educational institutions, federal and state agencies, and industries. Most
botanists working for universities and colleges combine teaching with research.
Many botanists travel to exotic locations to conduct their research.
According to the Society, some botanists work in jobs that do not require
research or teaching. They might do marketing or administration for a plant-related
industry. Their employers could include pharmaceutical companies, seed companies
and biotechnology firms. Some get additional training and work as scientific
writers, computer programmers, botanical illustrators and more.
People with a physical disability could choose this career. Instead of
doing field work, a botanist could work in the laboratory, doing computer
modeling, for example.
"A person with a physical disability might have a smaller pool of jobs
to choose from, but still there are some excellent jobs out there," says Lynn
J. Gillespie. She's a botanist with the Canadian Museum of Nature.
Botanists must be interested in science and mathematics, and must be comfortable
using computers. Depending on the job, they might be required to make presentations,
supervise staff, do paperwork and reports, teach, publish in journals, attend
conferences, etc. Botanists say communication skills are very important.