Pete Lowry, Director of the Africa and Madagascar Program at the Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG) in St. Louis (USA), is a systematists by training, studying the evolution and classification of flowering plants, with a focus on the mostly tropics family Araliaceae, and the on flora of two biodiversity hotspots, Madagascar (where he began working in 1986) and New Caledonia (where he has worked since 1981). He coordinates the MBG’s research and conservation program in Madagascar, which employs over 100 Malagasy staff members and focuses on the discovery of one of the world’s richest and most threatened floras, building local expertise and capacity, and working with local communities to conserve 13 newly established botanical reserves. As a practicing plant systematist, Pete conducts research on a wide range of groups in both Madagascar and New Caledonia, making regular visits to both countries (two among the more than 25 countries in which he has conducted field work). Pete also coordinate’s MBG’s consulting program, which provides expertise on flora and vegetation, primarily to the mining sector. He is permanently based at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, serving as MBG’s liaison to the Herbier National. He has authored more than 230 scientific papers and technical reports on a wide diversity of subjects, and serves on numerous committees, councils and boards.
Gregory Plunkett is the Director and Curator of the Cullman Program for Molecular Systematics at the New York Botanical Garden. Before joining the Cullman Program at NYBG in 2009, he was a Professor of Biology at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he served on the Faculty for over 12 years, teaching courses in general botany, plant taxonomy, economic botany, and molecular systematics. His fieldwork has been concentrated in the Southwest Pacific islands, especially Melanesia (including Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands), where many genera and species of Araliaceae and its relatives are endemic (e.g., Schefflera, Polyscias, Osmoxylon, Meryta, Myodocarpus, and Delarbrea). He also works in tropical and temperate South America, where several groups of Apiales have experienced parallel radiations along the Andes, including Schefflera and Hydrocotyle (Araliaceae), and Apiaceae subfamily Azorelloideae.
David Neil, current Director of the Conservation and Wildlife Management Unit of the Universidad Estatal Amazónica (UEA); is a botanist, specialized in Systematic Botany. The family that he has studied the most is Fabaceae (Leguminosae). Dr. Neill has worked since 1985 in the study of Ecuadorian flora, in a series of inventory projects in the Amazon, the Andes and the Pacific Coast. In the last 10 years, his investigations of the flora have been carried out mainly in the Cordillera del Cóndor region, in the provinces of Morona-Santiago and Zamora-Chinchipe. During his research in Ecuador he has found dozens of new species and two new genera for science. He is currently initiating an inventory of the flora of CIPCA in collaboration with teachers and students of the Amazon State University.
From left to right: Dr. Marcela Mora (course coordinator), Dr. David Neill (instructor), Dr. Gregory Plunkett (instructor) and Dr. Porter Lowry (instructor).