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Biodiversity Blog


The Value of the Billie L. Turner Plant Resources Center (PRC) for Teaching Plant Systematics

Plant Systematics 2017

Every fall semester the PRC Director, Dr. Robert K. Jansen, teaches an undergraduate course in Plant Systematics.  The course includes lectures, labs, field trips and student access to the dried plant specimens in the PRC.  The main focus of the labs/field trips is to introduce students to angiosperm families with an emphasis on those that have native species in central Texas.  A substantial component of the course requires each student to make a collection of 25 species from 15 different angiosperm families during four field trips and to learn how to identify them using taxonomic keys.  The PRC, one of several major collections in the Biodiversity Center, is an active partner in teaching the course by providing preserved specimens for the labs, access to the collections, support for collecting trips and space and assistance for students to key and confirm the identifications of their collections.  This past fall Plant Systematics had 20 students enrolled (see photo) and two support staff, PRC curator Dr. George Yatskievych and teaching assistant Chaehee Lee.  The instructor and students in the course greatly appreciated the support of the PRC.  Below is a selection of quotes from six students in the fall 2017 course (see photo) that emphasize how valuable the PRC was in making the Plant Systematics course a special experience.

“The Plant Resources Center itself, the people who work there, and the collection it contains all contributed to an enhanced learning atmosphere that I don’t believe the lab alone could have provided.  The cooperative nature of the lab and the Plant Resources Center took the class to a different level.  I wish other labs were able to work with centers such as these that afford the students to get a more in-depth look at the subject being studied.” - Aaron Degrange

“The herbarium, to me, became this place where time didn’t exist full of people with the same goals and intents, and that gave me a place to sit and stare at plants for five hours straight (of which, I actually did). Ultimately, without the herbarium, I would have likely not completed my identifications, nor would I have fully appreciated the course to the fullest extent.” - Nicole Mullane

“In my estimation, having access to the Plant Resources Center was an immense benefit.  Not only did it amplify my enjoyment of the course, but the Plant Resources Center proved to be nothing less than vital in completing my plant collection.  The Plant Resources Center was valuable in ways beyond my plant collection.  Namely, the Center provided plant specimens for families that we were studying in class of which there was no live material available to showcase.” - Kyle Simpson

“As a plant biology major, the Plant Resources Center was an invaluable resource for my experience in the Plant Systematics course.  There were many aspects of the Plant Resources Center that added value to my experience, such as the curator and those who frequent the center, collections, and dedicated timeslots to work on the project.  The Billie L. Turner Plant Resources Center located at The University of Texas at Austin gave me the opportunity to explore my interest in plants in an interactive way that even going out into the field could not provide.” - Carolina Richardson

“On Friday after classes I had the ability to walk into the Tower and enter into the world of botany between rows and rows of specimens.  I am grateful for the Plant Resources Center, to key out a few flowers outside of class with George, the professors, some friends, and lots of plants at the ready.  I could not have learned 60 families of angiosperms otherwise, nor enjoyed the class nearly so much.” - Dylan Winkler

“The herbarium is a magnificent asset to the university.  Plant Systematics is a class that opens the eyes of its students to the incredible diversity that exists in the plant kingdom to the point that it is not uncommon to see a student excited about the morphology of a weed.  The herbarium offers a great space to work on the specimens the students collect, but it is also another source of wonder.  As a lover of the history of science, when I first saw the specimen that the herbarium has that was once in the possession of Charles Darwin, I got chills.  The Plant Resources Center is a functional place for students to work on their collections, a source of inspiration and an avenue for future exploration.” - Diane Stanley

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