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Biodiversity Blog


Meet Amber Horning!

 Amber Horning

Amber Horning is our new Assistant Curator in the Billie L. Turner Plant Resources Center. Amber comes from the University of Mississippi, and took some time out of her busy day to tell us a little about herself.

Tell us where you came from before UT, and what you studied.

This past May, I received my Master’s of Science from the University of Mississippi in Oxford, MS under the guidance of Dr. Jason Hoeksema. As a graduate student I studied controls on resource exchange between ectomycorrhizal fungi and Loblolly pine seedlings in order to test a common assumption in many mutualism models that the ratio of exchange is central to determining outcomes in these symbioses.

What got you interested in botany?

I have always had a general interest in things botanical. As an undergraduate, opportunities pulled me more towards interactions between the above and below ground worlds, but as plants are a key part in nutrient cycling and species interactions I always had ties to botany. It wasn’t until graduate school that I had the opportunity to work more closely with collections and make some of my own as the Assistant Curator of the Pullen Herbarium.

Were there any people that really influenced or inspired you?

I had the good fortune to work for, and with, two amazing women at the University of Mississippi. Dr. Lucille McCook, the curator of the Pullen Herbarium, inspired me to pursue a career in plant collections by offering me an opportunity to learn every aspect of running a collection, showing me the utility and importance of herbaria. Not to mention that is was always great fun working with her. Patricia Miller is a naturalist in the Oxford area, a prolific and skilled arachnologist, and although she wouldn’t say so herself, she is also a very skilled mycologist. I worked closely with Pat while in Oxford and she continues to inspire me to pursue my interests in natural history or otherwise.

What interested you about the Billie L. Turner Plant Resource Center?

When I decided to pursue opportunities in herbaria I started following an herbarium mailing list that posts herbaria related questions, discussions, and positions. When the Assistant Curator Position showed up, I was excited by the opportunity. The Pullen Herbarium is a much smaller herbarium, only 80,000 collections (although it is the largest in Mississippi). So, the chance to really up my game in a much larger collection was enticing. After my interview with George and Bob, I felt I would be right at home at the Plant Resource Center.

What advice would you give students pursuing work in an herbarium collections?

If you have an interest in collections of any type, be it plants, insects, birds, or mammals it is best to start by getting involved in them. Try volunteering and learning more about the collection. If you have a special interest in particular taxa, curators and staff often welcome the possibility of projects based on your interests. These skills can turn into opportunities for positions, and greater experience that might inform interest for graduate school and a future career!

How are you enjoying life at UT and the Biodiversity Center? 

I am greatly enjoying life at UT and the Biodiversity Center! I had the opportunity to meet a great many people at PRC and the Biodiversity Center and I don’t think I could ask for a better group of people to work with. In the collections, I am constantly learning new things and I really enjoy the opportunity to work with student herbarium assistants.

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