Focus: Plants & Fungi - Research

Seed Plants There are a number of botanists at The Field Museum that study flowering plants. Their research interests cover such topics as the diversity of neotropical plants, taxonomic revisions of the Asteraceae, Solanaceae, and other diverse plant families, forest ecology, especially as it relates to conservation biology, the restoration of paries and oak-savannas in the Chicago area, and the search for new anti-AIDS and anticancer compounds in plants. Fungi/Lichens Field Museum mycologists are interested in documenting and understanding the diversity and biogeography of fungi, the effect of human activity on this diversity, the evolutionary relationships among the fungi, and the mutually beneficial symbioses (mutualisms) such as lichens and mycorrhizae that some fungi form with plants. To do this they travel the world collecting new species, documenting diversity, and studying fungal ecology. Back at the museum they study the museum's collections using computer assisted microscopy, high speed computers, and molecular biology techniques to further investigate these questions. They also are actively involved with developing the next generation of mycologists by training undergraduate and graduate students. Mosses/Liverworts/Hornworts Field Museum scientists study a group of green land plants commonly referred to as bryophytes, which include mosses, liverworts and hornworts. Field Museum bryologists have broad research interests that include systematics, biogeography, conservation, and education outreach. Geographical strengths include the Midwest U.S.A., Australasia and Oceania, and southern South America. Economic Botany Economic botany is broadly defined as the study of the relationship between people and plants. This interdisciplinary study encompasses the fields of anthropology and botany as it explores the countless ways humans employ plants for food, medicine, textiles, shelter and more. Today economic botany continues to make significant contributions to anthropology, botany and environmental conservation.