The UW Botany Garden and Greenhouse: a Research, Teaching, and Outreach facility.

For June 13, 2018      

Hi WN@TL Fans,

I don’t know how many trees were in the Garden of Eden, but for me the two with names — the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life — have long been icons of the scientific enterprise.  To learn to discern between Good & Evil—or at least to separate the wheat from the chaff— and to grasp the essence of evolutionary trees of life: this is biology in a nutshell.

Even with that evolutionary tree, it’s sometimes hard to remember that plants are not just like people.  In humans, meiosis results in gametes;  in plants, meiosis results in spores.  People are diploid throughout almost all of their life cycle;  some plants spend nearly all their cycle as haploid. You can’t lop a finger off and stick it in a pot and clone a human; but you can lop a twig off a coleus and grow a new plant.  Humans develop completely before birth, with 10 fingers in general and grow no more;  plants produce new shoots and leaves continuously.  Humans have no cell walls and few cytoplasmic connections;  plants have cell walls and yet their cytoplasm is routinely connected from cell to cell to cell.  Many plants taste good….

Of course, when it comes to eating, people are chemoheterotrophs, while most plants are photoautotrophs.  That is, humans have to eat chemicals to get energy and carbon, while plants can use the energy of light to slam carbon dioxide together with water to make carbo-hydrates along with molecular oxygen as a byproduct.  As chemoheterotrophs, we do the opposite in respiring sugar.

As Lords of the Anthropocene,  in burning fossil fuels we wreck the world with the liberated CO2.

Plants live pretty much all over the world, on land and in water, from the arctic to the antarctic, although they cast little shade at either pole.  Getting a grasp on the astonishing range of life strategies, from haploid spore formers to seed plants to flowering plants, is one of the joyful challenges of becoming a botanist.

And that is why few places are more joyful than a botany greenhouse or a botanical garden, where humans gather together the plants of the world to grow, to show, to compare, and to test ideas about what makes plants tick.

This week’s talk (June 13) by Ingrid Jordon-Thaden is on “The UW Botany Garden and Greenhouse: a Research, Teaching, and Outreach facility.”  Here’s how she describes her talk:

“As a plant systematist and geneticist, Dr. Ingrid Jordon-Thaden will explain how she plans to use the unique plant collection and space for a wide array of research, teaching, and outreach programs within the Botany Department. From classic systematics and taxonomy to genetically modified organism research, the Botany Garden and Greenhouse will house numerous small-scale research projects.

It will continue its invaluable role providing diverse and high-quality teaching material for the botany courses within the department.

Additionally, the Botany Garden and Greenhouse can be used as a community education resource for public green space to enlightening workshop programs in hard-core botany.

She will explain how she plans to fight Plant Blindness one pair of eyes at a time and get involved in global conservation efforts and national education programs. She will illustrate how all of this will be possible after climate and other physical improvements are made within the greenhouse.”

About the Speaker

Ingrid Jordon-Thaden was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska.

Her undergraduate bachelors degrees are in horticulture and chemistry from University of Nebraska-Lincoln where her final senior thesis was on chemical taxonomy of native thistles and an Ulmus hybrid swarm. Ingrid then completed her masters in biology at UNL with Tom Elthon in corn mitochondria proteomics while managing the undergraduate botany lab courses. She moved to Germany in 2006 where she attended University of Heidelberg in plant systematics with a Brassicaceae (mustard family) research group under Marcus Koch. Her PhD thesis focused on the molecular systematics and biodiversity of Draba.

Ingrid then moved to Gainesville, Florida in 2010 to do a 2-year NSF post doc with Pam and Doug Soltis in Tragopogon polyploidization research at the University of Florida. In 2012, she moved to University of California-Berkeley as a Research Botanist with the herbaria where she continued her Draba research. From 2013 to 2015, she moved to Bucknell University, in central Pennsylvania, as the David Burpee Plant Genetics Post-Doctorate Fellow under Chris Martine. There she built his molecular lab and worked on dioecious spiny Australian Solanum population genetics and phylogenetics, also lecturing Plant Anatomy. She continued her population genetics and phylogeny of Draba while at Bucknell. In September 2015, she moved back to UC Berkeley full time to be the lab manager for Carl Rothfels, lecturer of Vascular Plant Systematics, and a Research Botanist for the Jepson and University herbaria.

As the new Director of the Botany Garden and Greenhouse since November 2017, she has been working to identify areas of improvements for the facility and its operations. She maintains her scientific collaborations with colleagues and is an active member of the Botanical Society of America as Genetics Section Chair and the American Society of Plant Taxonomists Chair of the Environmental and Public Policy Committee.


Ah, summer evenings:  if the weather permits, after Dr. Jordon-Thaden’s talk we’ll head to the Garden for some botanical roaming in the gloaming.

Let us go forth, be fruitful, and multiply.

Next week (June 20), we get to see what’s new under the Sun as Bruce Johnson returns to Wednesday Nite @ The Lab to share with us the hottest in photovoltaic production up on the roof and the coolest in tracking power use throughout the home.

Since June 20 is the Wednesday closest to the summer solstice, after Bruce’s talk we’ll head to the Terrace for beers and cheers and a sunset over Picnic Point.

I’ll buy.

Also, please note that Matt Goins of DOIT and Liz Jesse of BioTrek have launched the new WN@TL website at

The Wisconsin Alumni Association will be retiring the old site as of July 1.

Hope to see you soon at Wednesday Nite @ The Lab!

Thanks again,

Tom Zinnen
UW-Madison and UW-Extension