October 14, 7:00 pm Presentation “New Guinea: the Island With the Richest Flora in the World”

Description of the talk:

Located just off the northern coast of Australia, New Guinea, the largest tropical island in the world, has some of the best-preserved ecosystems on the planet, and is recognized as a global center of biological and cultural diversity. The island has fascinated naturalists for centuries, but its rich flora has been relatively poorly studied until recently. Over the last few years, an international team of researchers, including NMSU’s own Zachary Rogers, has been inventorying thousands of plant species native to the island.

Speaker bio: Zachary Rogers grew up in Missouri along the Mississippi River, spending weekends out on the family farm. His mother, an elementary school teacher, sparked his interest in science at an early age, and science fairs and camps expanded his fascination with natural history. Transferring from pre-med to an ecology program with an emphasis on botany, he earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees in biology at the University of Missouri.

In 1999 he joined the Research Division of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, one of the top centers of plant research, conservation, and horticulture in the world. Working in the herbarium, Zach quickly gravitated toward the identification and classification of tropical plants. His early research focused on the flora of Ecuador. A few years later he began studying the flora of Madagascar and soon developed an interest in the plant family Thymelaeaceae, also known as the “Mezereum” or “Daphne” family, a group of about 1,000 species found in the tropical regions of Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Americas. Over the past 20 years, Zach has published extensively on plant biodiversity, including the naming and description of many species and genera new to science, and he has collected thousands of herbarium specimens made during field trips to unique ecosystems in remote parts of the world.

In 2017 Zach’s wife Sara, also a botanist, relocated to New Mexico to take a position as an assistant professor and Director of the New Mexico State University herbarium. A few months later Zach left the Missouri Botanical Garden to join Sara at NMSU in the Animal and Range Sciences Department. In 2018 Zach and Sara received a joint award from the National Science Foundation to improve the existing infrastructure of the two herbaria at NMSU. The aim is to increase the visibility of the University’s collection of 120,000 plant specimens, a great resource for teaching, research and outreach.