The 2012 Richard and Minnie Windler Award winner for the best systematics botany paper published in Castanea during 2011 is Dr. James Schrader for his work ‘‘Taxonomy of Leitneria (Simaroubaceae) Resolved by ISSR, ITS, and Morphometric Characterization’’ (Schrader, J.A. and W.R. Graves, Castanea 76:313–338). Jim is currently Assistant Scientist III in Dr. Bill Graves’ Woody Plant Ecology Lab in the Department of Horticulture at Iowa State University. Jim received his B.A. in Biology from Bemidji State University in Bemidji, Minnesota, in 1997, and both his M.S. and Ph.D. in Plant Physiology from the Department of Horticulture at Iowa State University. He completed his graduate studies in 2002 and was immediately hired to work in his present research position.
Jim has studied rare plant species with disjunct populations for many years, including the biosystematics and phenology of Alnus maritima for his Ph.D. dissertation. Remarkably, he was the 2003 Windler Award recipient for his paper on this species in Castanea in 2002. In Jim’s words, ‘‘Castanea is a wonderful journal in which to publish papers on systematics. It is highly respected around the world, and the editorial staff have been wonderful to work with.”
Jim became acquainted with Leitneria while looking for his next research project on rare and disjunct plant species. He was surprised at how little work had been done on Leitneria below the genus level, although its higher-level taxonomy had long been debated. ‘‘I have felt very fortunate to visit colonies within all five disjunct populations of Leitneria,’’ said Jim. ‘‘Visiting the locations in person was quite valuable in understanding the variable ecologies of the Leitneria taxa.’’ As in his dissertation work, Jim approached the systematics of Leitneria with both molecular and morphometric methods. Using these tools, he was able to ascertain differences strongly supporting his description of new species and subspecies of Leitneria. He believes there is no reason for a researcher not to include molecular work in resolving systematics problems, given the increased affordability and ease of implementation of modern molecular methods.
Jim’s research interests are currently in the field of applied horticulture, where he has started a 5-year, USDA-funded project entitled, ‘‘Bioplastic Container Cropping Systems: Green Technology for the Green Industry.’’ The goal of this project is to develop and test biorenewable, biodegradable container materials (as opposed to petroleum-based plastics) for container-crop production. While conducting such a large project, Jim will not have time for plant systematics research for a while, but he would eventually like to return to work in that area.
—Katherine G. Mathews, Western Carolina University, Chair, Windler Award Committee.