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Photo by Carol Gracie

B. S. in Biology : Muhlenberg College
Title: Honorary Research Curator

Research: monographic studies on AnacardiaceaeIn addition to serving as an honorary curator at the Institute of Systematic Botany, I am also chairman of the board of Bat Conservation International and Beneficia Foundation,and am the chairman of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library Visiting Committee. Beneficia Foundation is a major supporter of conservation work worldwide and has supported many research and conservation projects of Garden scientists.

My research in the Anacardiaceae – the cashew family – was nurtured by the guidance of Senior Curator Dr. Scott Mori. Who inspired me to study the cashew genus, Anacardium, of which two species are featured in my curator painting. The Anacardiaceae is an economically important family that includes an unusual assortment of fruit and nut producing species including cashew, mango, pistachio, and pink pepper corn. The family also includes a number of highly poisonous plants such as poison ivy, poison sumac, poison wood, and the Asian lacquer trees. My current research focus is on the phylogeny of the Anacardiaceae as a whole in collaboration with Dr. Susan Pell, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and Garden curator, Dr. Douglas Daly. My interest in bat conservation is closely tied to my study of seed dispersal of the Anacardiaceae. Fruit bats in both the old and new world disperse cashews and feed on the cashew “apple.”

My curator painting shows a typical cerrado landscape in central Brazil, highlighting two species of native cashew, wild cashew of commerce (A. occidentale), and the dwarf cashew (A. humile). There are three species of dwarf cashew, which are unique to the cerrado ecosystem. Each species has a large underground trunk and lateral underground branches that are adaptations for the dry, fire-prone habitat. This painting shows typical plants and animals of the cerrado, such as the widespread, Vochysiaceae, Salvertia convallariodora, and the tree-sized nightshade, Solanum lycocarpum, which is being fed upon by the highly endangered maned wolf. My love of ornithology is reflected in the inclusion of the curl crested jay, the most conspicuous birds of the area. The cerrado of central Brazil and adjacent Paraguay and eastern Bolivia is very rich in both plant and animal diversity and endemism. It is one of the most endangered ecosystems in all of South America due to clearing for agricultural and other human uses.

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