Why are you a member of the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society? Why do we join these professional organizations? Since I was a graduate student, I have been paying dues to two large international botanical societies—why did I join another, particularly a small, regional organization like SABS? In 2003, when I was a new faculty member at Western Carolina University, Dr. Dan Pittillo, former professor of botany and director of the WCU herbarium, took me under his wing. Dan first introduced me to SABS and encouraged me to become a member. I was awestruck then (and still am now) by his level of involvement with SABS and many other botanical interest groups, and by his passion for public outreach. This passion resulted in his many accomplishments in native plant conservation in the region, including the preservation of the Buck Creek serpentine forest area in Clay County, North Carolina, and the passing of a steep-slope building ordinance in Jackson County, North Carolina. Seeing that passion for plant diversity and conservation combined with public involvement can lead to concrete results, and I have taken steps to get more involved. My involvement in public outreach includes spreading the botanical gospel via field trips and talks, taking over Dan’s former role of local ‘‘fearless fall foliage forecaster,’’ (for which I am perennially underqualified), and now serving as president of SABS.
SABS has always been an organization for those interested in the flora of the Southern Appalachians region, but it now encompasses much more, as the journal Castanea has expanded to include papers pertaining to all eastern US botany and from floristics to molecular biology. Still, the fascination with the Southern Appalachians biome persists. My first field trip here occurred in the spring of 1998, when I was a postdoc at the Harvard University Herbaria and a recent transplant from the Hill Country of Texas. David Boufford generously led a trip of a small group of herbarium faculty, grad students, and postdocs to the Highlands, North Carolina, area where we based ourselves at the Biological Station and made botanical forays in every direction. I’ll never forget driving the Blue Ridge Parkway in the whiteout of a fog bank, hiking beneath the towering old-growth trees of Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, puzzling over the plethora of spring wildflowers, and exalting in my first field sightings of Cypripedium acaule and Panax quinquefolium. I’ve been stuck on the region ever since, and am lucky enough to have secured an academic position at a university in the midst of it. SABS is here to remind us that we belong to an organization of like-minded colleagues taking part in the study, admiration, and revelation of this region’s flora, with links to flora of all the southeastern USA.
A priority for our society should be to encourage continued fascination in the flora of the southeastern region as well as sustained membership in SABS in order to have the torch carried forward. Students and new faculty are the best source of new members in our society. Current members should expound the benefits of membership to eager, young botanical researchers and teachers, like Dan did for me. Some of the benefits include the opportunity to apply for research and travel awards, to publish in the journal Castanea, to network with like-minded individuals, and to attend and present research at a student-friendly meeting. In spring of 2015, we will be meeting with the Association of Southeastern Biologists, as per custom, in eclectic, outdoorsy Chattanooga, Tennessee, where there will be many wonderful poster sessions, talks, symposia, and field trips in which to participate.
A perk of membership is subscription to and free publication pages in our journal, Castanea, which as mentioned accepts submission of papers pertaining to botany of the eastern USA. One incentive to publish in Castanea is the chance at winning the Richard and Minnie Windler Award for best papers in systematics and ecology, which are awarded each spring at our annual meeting. So, please consider publishing in Castanea this year, and encourage your students to do so as well! SABS is lucky in that we have a long history and sound finances to support awards and other endeavors, thanks to the dedication of current and former officers and to our many benefactors. Regarding awards, please submit nominations for next year’s Elizabeth Ann Bartholomew Award (this year’s winner being Tom Wentworth), to honor an individual who has distinguished themselves in professional and public service that advances our knowledge and appreciation of the world of plants and their scientific, cultural, and aesthetic values. This brings me back to the main subject of this address, public service and outreach. As president of SABS, I would like to inspire all of us to do more in service of our shared botanical passion in order to accomplish the goals we envision for ourselves, our institutions, and our communities.