department of botany sangamner college वनस्पती शास्त्र विभाग संगमनेर महाविद्यालय


What is Botany?

Botany is the scientific study of plants. "Plants," to most people, means a wide range of living organisms from the smallest bacteria to the largest living things - the giant sequoia trees. By this definition plants include: algae, fungi, lichens, mosses, ferns, conifers and flowering plants. Today scientists believe bacteria, algae and fungi are in their own distinct kingdoms, but most general botany courses, and most Botany Departments at colleges and universities, still teach about these groups.

Because the field is so broad, there are many kinds of plant biologists and many different opportunities available. Botanists interested in ecology study interactions of plants with other organisms and the environment. Other field botanists search to find new species or do experiments to discover how plants grow under different conditions. Some botanists study the structure of plants. They may work in the field, concentrating on the pattern of the whole plant. Others use microscopes to study the most detailed fine structure of individual cells. Many botanists do experiments to determine how plants convert simple chemical compounds into more complex chemicals. They may even study how genetic information in DNA controls plant development. Botanists study processes that occur on a time scale ranging from fractions of a second in individual cells to those that unfold over eons of evolutionary time.

The results of botanical research increase and improve our supply of medicines, foods, fibers, building materials, and other plant products. Conservationists use botanical knowledge to help manage parks, forests, range lands, and wilderness areas. Public health and environmental protection professionals depend on their understanding of plant science to help solve pollution problems.

Why Choose a Career in Botany?

Plants have intrigued people for thousands of years. They provide aesthetic beauty as well as materials for our basic needs. Today our world presents new and complex problems that were never dreamed of a century ago. For instance, increasing human population is linked to environmental problems of gigantic proportion. Coupled to the need for more food is increasingly greater environmental impact.

Leaf of Western Skunk Cabbage,Lysichitum americanum grows up to four feet in length in marshy or swampy areas of the Pacific Northwest.
Photo courtesy of Marsh Sundberg.
Air and water pollution increase while biological diversity is reduced. Recent progress in technology and molecular biology provide powerful new tools that can help us solve these and other challenging problems. Some of the tools you might learn to use include: electron microscopes, radioisotopes, digital imaging analysis, polymerase chain reaction, cell and tissue culture, satellite imaging and telemetry.

One of the best things about plant science is the number of different specialties and career opportunities from which you can choose. This diversity allows people with different backgrounds, aptitudes, and interests to find satisfying careers in plant biology. More than many other scientific fields, botany continues to provide opportunities for women as well as men. There are few things more fulfilling than to work in a job that is both fun to do and a benefit to others.

Among the careers available to a person who enjoys the outdoors are positions as an ecologist, taxonomist, conservationist, forester, or plant explorer. Your work may take you to foreign and exotic lands. It may allow you to live and work in the great outdoors. A person with a mathematical background might find biophysics, developmental botany, genetics, modeling, or systems ecology to be exciting fields. Someone with an interest inchemistry might become a plant physiologist, plant biochemist, molecular biologist, or chemotaxonomist. Many people do not realize that most of the basic biological processes are the same in both plants and animals. Plants, however, are easier to grow and manipulate.

Plant structure may appeal to a person who enjoys microscopy and the beauty of intricate form and design. Persons fascinated with microscopic organisms often choose microbiology, phycology or mycology. On a larger scale, ornamental horticulture and landscape design requires artistic use of plant form and color. A person concerned about the world food supply might study plant pathology (diseases) or plant breeding. At larger universities there are frequently separate departments specializing in different applied subdisciplines of botany. Some examples are: Agronomy (field crops), Horticulture (ornamentals, fruits and vegetables), Microbiology (microbes such as bacteria and fungi) and Plant Pathology (diseases of plants). Plant biologists who enjoy working with people have a wide range of opportunities in teaching and public service.

Botany and Society

The explosive growth of human population is changing the earth dramatically. Only by understanding how human activities affect our environment can we predict global climatic changes. Scientific studies of these changes and their effect on natural ecosystems and crop production are crucial to the future of our society.

Other environmental issues, such as pollution, also interest botanists. Many plant species are especially sensitive to certain pollutants. Botanists study the effects of different types of pollution on plants. They use their results to advise lawmakers on legislation for environmental protection and on ways to save priceless natural areas.

Plants are chemical factories - plant biochemists are engaged in identifying and purifying potentially useful chemicals produced by plants. Many of the drugs listed in the U.S. Pharmacopeia are still obtained from plants or derivedfrom plant products.
Photo courtesy of Marsh Sundberg.

By using plant tissue culture, botanists can grow entire plants from single cells. This has exciting potential in biotechnology, horticulture, forestry, and plant pathology. For example, the stately American chestnut was once a widespread tree in our Eastern forests. Today it has virtually disappeared because of a disease-producing fungus that causes chestnut blight. The American chestnut recently has been grown in plant tissue culture. If we can develop a blight-resistant strain of American chestnut, we will be able to propagate disease-resistant trees very quickly. These trees could then be planted in our forests and the American chestnut would once again be one of our most important hardwood species.

Plants are chemical factories. Many of the chemicals that they produce are useful to humans. Besides food, plants provide raw materials for paper, building materials, solvents and adhesives, fabrics, medicines, and many other products. Botanists study the chemicals produced by different plants to find new uses for them. For example, we use some plant chemicals to treat certain types of cancer.

The earth's biological diversity, or the kinds of organisms that populate the earth, is decreasing. As humans change the environment for their own purposes, plants and animals living in these areas become increasingly endangered. Plant taxonomists and plant ecologists work to identify and understand new plant species, especially in such biologically rich areas as tropical rain forests. Plants of the rain forests are important in their own right, but they could be major new resources for people as well. Perhaps a plant as yet undiscovered will become an important food crop. There are probably many undiscovered plants that produce useful drugs to cure or treat human diseases. Biological diversity also provides an important source of new genes to improve the plants we now use. As techniques of genetic engineering improve, so will our ability to improve our domestic plants.

Current Issues

One of the most exciting fields in botany today is biotechnology. Because of very recent advances in genetics, plant scientists have tools to splice genes from one plant into another. The potential usefulness of this is staggering. For example, several amino acids required in the human diet are not produced very well by plants - It may be possible to make major food crops more nutritious by adding genes to produce these deficient amino acids. More research is required, however, before this type of gene transfer becomes useful and practical.

Virtually all economically important crop plants are candidates for improvement via biotechnology. The apricot, Prunus armeniaca, shown here is an important fruit species of Southern California. Over 200,000 tons are harvested annually.
Photo courtesy of Dave Webb.

Another challenging area of basic biological research involves cell membranes. All forms of life have cells and all cells have membranes. Plant scientists are trying to understand the important cell activities that involve membranes. For example, living things need energy to survive, but they need cell membranes to use this energy. Membranes also help move materials into and Out of cells. Plant biologists want to understand how membranes work since living things could not exist without cell membranes.

Teaching botany is a challenging and rewarding career. A teaching botanist must understand a variety of subdisciplines of the field and be able to explain them to students. This provides an opportunity to inspire new generations with an understanding of, and appreciation for, plants.

We are learning more and more about plant genes and what they do. Now botanists are turning their attention to how genes work, or express" themselves. Plants are complex living organisms. How a plant develops from a single cell into a complex organism with billions of cells is a problem that will occupy many botanists for years to come. The ease with which we can manipulate plant cells, compared to animal cells, makes plants an ideal model system for such studies.

Many other careers for botanists do not involve teaching or research. Some botanists work in marketing or administration of plant-related industries such as pharmaceutical companies, seed companies, biotechnology firms, scientific publishers and biological supply houses. Other plant biologists work in museums, herbaria, and botanical gardens. Some, with additional training, become scientific writers, computer programmers, botanical illustrators, or even lawyers or physicians. Service in public affairs, at the community and national levels, is an increasingly important role for plant biologists.

Environmental monitoring is important both before and after human disturbance. Plant scientists study marine habitats (as illustrated here in the state of Washington) as well as terrestrial ones.

Areas of Specialization in Botany


ANATOMY - microscopic plant structure (cells and tissues).

BIOCHEMISTRY - chemical aspects of plant life processes. Includes the chemical products of plants (PHYTOCHEMISTRY).

BIOPHYSICS - application of physics to plant life processes.

CYTOLOGY - structure, function, and life history of plant cells.

ECOLOGY - relationships between plants and the world in which they live, both individually and in communities.

GENETICS - plant heredity and variation. Plant geneticists study genes and gene function in plants.

MOLECULAR BIOLOGY - structure and function of biological macromolecules, including biochemical and molecular aspects of genetics.

MORPHOLOGY - macroscopic plant form. Morphologists also study the evolution and development of leaves, roots and stems.

PALEOBOTANY - biology and evolution of fossil plants.

PHYSIOLOGY - functions and vital processes of plants. Photosynthesis and mineral nutrition are two exampIes of subjects studied by plant physiologists.

SYSTEMATICS - evolutionary history and relationships among plants.

, uses mathematical models to demonstrate concepts like nutrient cycling.
TAXONOMY is the subdiscipline of identifying, naming, and classifying plants.

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AGRONOMY - crop and soil sciences. Agronomists make practical use of plant and soil sciences to increase the yield of field crops.

BIOTECHNOLOGY - using biological organisms to produce useful products. Most people today have a narrower view of biotechnology as the genetic modification of living organisms to produce useful products. Plant biotechnology involves inserting desirable genes into plants and having those genes expressed.

BREEDING -development of better types of plants. Breeding involves selecting and crossing plants with desirable traits such as disease resistance.

ECONOMIC BOTANY - plants with commercial importance. Economic botany includes the study of botany harmful and beneficial plants and plant products.

FOOD SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY - development of food from vanous plant products.

FORESTRY - forest management for the production of timber, and conservation.

HORTICULTURE - the production of ornamental plants and fruit and vegetable crops. Landscape design is also an important subdiscipline in horticulture.

NATURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT - the responsible use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of society.

PLANT PATHOLOGY -diseases of plants. Plant pathologists are concerned with both the biological aspects of disease and with disease management, or control.

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EDUCATION - providing knowledge and insight about plants, plant biology, and the crucial ecological roles of plants. Includes teaching in schools, museums and botanical gardens, development of educational materials, and science writing.

EXPLORATION - search for new, undiscovered plants.

HISTORY - development of botany as a scientific discipline.

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BRYOLOGY - the study of mosses and similar plants. Bryologists study all aspects of these plants, including their identification, classification, and ecology.

LICHENOLOGY - the biology of lichens, dual organisms composed of both a fungus and an alga.

MYCOLOGY - the biology of fungi. Fungi have a tremendous impact on our world. They are crucial in the biosphere because they help recycle dead organic material. Some fungi are important producers of biological products such as vitamins and antibiotics.

MICROBIOLOGY - the study of microorganisms. Microbiologists may be specialized by organism (for example, microbiologists that study bacteria) of by a branch of biology (for example, MICROBIAL ECOLOGY).

PTERlDOLOGY - the study of ferns and similar plants. Pteridologists study all aspects of fem biology.

PHYCOLOGY - the study of algae, which are the base of the food chain in the aquatic environments of the world. Phycologists that study algae in oceans are sometimes called MARINE BOTANISTS.


The major employers of plant biologists are educational institutions, federal and state agencies, and industries. Job opportunities usually depend upon educational training and experience. New positions in botany are expected to increase at an above-average rate through the turn of the century. Growing world population continues to increase the need for better food supplies. Environmental concerns, such as air, water and soil pollution, will create openings for ecologists in government and industry. The search for new drugs and medicines and useful genes for improving crop plants will continue to create a need for botanical explorers.

Leading students to discover more about plants and the botanical sciences can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience.
Photo courtesy of Marsh Sundberg.

Educational institutions, which employ most plant biologists, range from high schools and community colleges to universities. High schools and community colleges have few openings for those who wish to teach specialized courses and there is little time or equipment for research activity. Nevertheless, for botanists who primarily enjoy teaching, such positions are very satisfying.

Most positions for professional plant scientists are in colleges and universities. Almost all colleges and universities offer courses in plant science and there are faculty positions for botanists who have different specialties. In addition, educational institutions employ botanists as researchers and as administrators.

Federal and state agencies need botanists in many different fields. Plant biologists work in various branches of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including the Medical Plant Resources Laboratory, the Germplasm Resources Laboratory, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the National Arboretum, and the U.S. Forest Service. The U.S. Department of the Interior, which includes the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Geological Survey, also employs botanists. Plant scientists also work in several other federal agencies, including the Public Health Service, State Department, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Smithsonian Institution, and Environmental Protection Agency. In addition, each of the 50 state governments employs plant scientists in agencies similar to those of the federal government. Environmental organizations, like the Nature Conservancy, also hire botanists.

Field studies can lead you to a variety of interesting places. These students collected a small specimen of the brown alga, Nereocystis. Growing along the rubbery stipe are epiphytic red algae Of the genus PorphyraPorphyraknown as Nori, is raised commercially in the orient.
Photo courtesy of Marsh Sundberg.

Industry is the third major employer of plant biologists. Drug companies, the oil industry, the chemical industry, lumber and paper companies, seed and nursery companies, fruit growers, food companies, fermentation industries (including breweries), biological supply houses and biotechnology firms all hire men and women trained in botany. Recently the first genetically altered food crop, the FlavrSavr(tm) tomato, reached store shelves. This opens a new career field for botanists.

Botany offers many interesting and worthwhile career opportunities. The work is frequently varied and the surroundings pleasant. Because of the great diversity in the plant sciences, people with many different backgrounds, abilities, and interests can find a satisfying career in botany.

Requirements for a Career in Botany

Four years of college and a Bachelor's degree are the minimum requirements for most careers in botany. With these, positions are available as laboratory technicians or technical assistants in education, industry, government, museums, parks and botanical gardens. As in other fields, a wider range of positions is available with more education and experience. Many positions require a Master's or Doctor's degree. A Ph.D. is required for most teaching and research positions in colleges and universities.

Researchers in the tropical rain forest of Costa Rica stand near the base of a Screw Pine, Pandanussp., with numerous stilt roots supporting the plant. This is one of several modifications of plant parts that occurs frequently in tropical plants.
Photo courtesy of Knut Norstog.

High School Preparation

1. Course work
To prepare for a career in botany, you should take a college preparatory curriculum including: English, foreign language, mathematics, chemistry, physics, and biology. Courses in social studies and humanities are also valuable since botanists often get involved in public affairs at community and national levels.

2. Extracurricular activities
Other valuable experiences include participation in science fairs and science clubs. It also helps to have summer jobs or internships related to biology, such as working in parks, plant nurseries, farms, experiment stations, laboratories, camps, or for florists or landscape architects. Hobbies such as camping, photography, and computers are also useful.

3. Become informed
Get information on colleges and universities by writing to the Office of Admissions of each school you wish to consider and requesting a catalog describing school requirements, courses, and facilities. Your counselor or library may have some of these. Also ask for information about scholarships and other financial aid. Many schools do not have a separate department of botany or plant biology but instead have a department of biology that includes botanists. In any case, write, call, or better yet, visit the schools you are interested in and ask to meet with some of their botanists to discuss your career options and how they might help you to realize your goals. The Botanical Society of America office has a list of botanists' names, addresses and phone numbers from all areas of the country. Its address and telephone number are listed inside the back cover of this booklet.

College Program of Study

The courses you select will vary depending on the curriculum of the college you attend and your own interests. To be best prepared for the job market, you should get a broad general education in language, arts, humanities and the social sciences in addition to specializing in plant biology. Most curricula require math, through calculus, and/or statistics as well as chemistry and physics. You should know how to use a computer. Some schools recommend, or require, a foreign language. This is especially important if you hope to work in the tropics.

Many colleges and universities require a core program in biology before you may enroll in specialized botany courses. At other institutions you can take botany courses right away. A faculty advisor will help you decide what courses to take. Whether your advisor is a botanist or not, visit with other botany professors in the department and ask for their suggestions.

If possible, you should arrange to do an undergraduate research project under one of your professors. The project might include helping the professor with his/her research or pursuing your own independent interests. This experience will help you decide which area or areas of botany you like best. It will also give you valuable insight into how science works. Research experience will also be very helpful should you decide to pursue graduate work.

Summer jobs or internships can provide important additional experience. These positions occur in government agencies, college and university research laboratories, agricultural experiment stations, freshwater and marine biological stations, and private companies. Start investigating summer opportunities early - the previous fall or winter. The best positions are usually filled by late spring.

The best piece of advice, regardless of your interests or which school you attend, is get to know the faculty. If you have questions about a course, ask your teacher after class or during office hours. If you are interested in laboratory or field work, let the faculty know and offer your services. Faculty are "turned on" to students who show interest - and you will be "turned on" to Botany!

Some Frequently Asked Questions about a Career in Botany

1. Will I get a job? 
Plant science is a growing field as more and more people recognize how vital plants are to many aspects of society - However, some areas are more competitive than others. For instance, in recent years the number of ecology graduates has outnumbered the job openings, but positions are open in agronomy and biotechnology. A degree in botany provides a solid scientific foundation to make you more employable in other fields as well, should you later decide not to be a botanist.

2. How much will I earn? 
As in any field, salary depends on training and experience, as well as where you work. In general, salaries in scientific and technical fields are above average in a community. Salaries for botanists are competitive with other sciences. The outlook is best for those with advanced degrees and with working experience.

3. Where can I work? 
Botanically related jobs are found in any community. Some are primarily indoors, others involve mostly outside work. They may be in cities, in the country, or in natural wilderness areas. Opportunities are available throughout the country and throughout the world. For many botanists, a career in botany is a passport to visit and study plants in exotic lands.

4. How should I prepare myself? 
A college degree, preferably in botany, plant science or biology, is necessary for most careers in botany.

5. Where should I study? 
For an undergraduate degree, most colleges and universities have a biology department with courses in botany. For graduate degrees, you should choose a school with strength in your particular interest area.

Get started......For A Good Future

Department of Botany

Sangamner College


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