"If you learn about biodiversity, you will find that there are many things, literally millions of things, left on the planet that we still don't know about."
Associate professor of biology, David Burpee Professor in Plant Genetics and Research
Discovering new species never gets old.
Over a decade of exploring the Australian outback, botanist Chris Martine has found several new species. "Each time, it's like a dream come true," he says. Contrary to the idea that the golden age of discovery is past, Martine thrives on the excitement of realizing how much of the natural world is still unknown. || Read story: The dawn of adventure botany
"We are discovering new things every day," he says. "That is an incredible message for both the public and my students, that if you learn about biodiversity, you will find that there are many things, literally millions of things, left on the planet that we still don't know about. It just takes the proper training and willingness to go out and find them."
Martine studies wild relatives of eggplant. Unlike the large purple fruits in grocery stores, the wild species produce smaller green or cream, egg-shaped fruits that give the plants their name. He uses both appearance and DNA technology to determine not only which plants represent new species, but also the evolutionary story behind them.
As Bucknell's new David Burpee Chair in Plant Genetics and Research, Martine looks forward to continuing his work on wild eggplants, as well as exploring questions related to seed dispersal, invasive and native species interactions, and pollination biology.
Martine loves telling people about nature as much as he loves studying it. "Part of my job as a scientist is to share with the public the amazing things we do and the amazing things we discover," Martine says. "I think if we expect people to understand science and support scientific endeavor, then we need to tell them what we are up to."
He has produced several short, online videos, telling the stories of fire-dependent pine cones, carnivorous plants, and more. He looks forward to producing more episodes, starting from his wish list of the world's coolest plants. | Watch video
Martine knows the effect an enthusiastic teacher can have on students. "I didn't grow up thinking I was going to be a biodiversity scientist." Martine says. "It wasn't until I became an undergraduate and met truly inspirational professors who showed me how amazing the natural world is that it triggered this passion in me. That is my daily goal as a college professor — to be that same kind of motivation."
Posted September 2012