Ken Cameron Receives 2014 Peter Raven Award

The American Society of Plant Taxonomists awarded Dr. Ken Cameron, Professor of Botany and Director of the Wisconsin State Herbarium at University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Society’s 2014 Peter Raven Award. The award is named for Dr. Peter Raven (1936 – ), eminent botanist and President Emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden who has made outstanding contributions to science education and outreach.

Dr. Cameron is a world expert on systematics of the Orchidaceae (orchid family), in particular the genus Vanilla, and his lab researches the evolutionary history of many other tropical plant families. He has mentored 12 graduate students during his tenure both at University of Wisconsin-Madison and in his previous appointment at the New York Botanical Garden. Ken is currently part a team that was awarded a major research grant to study the interaction of evolutionary history and ecology in shaping the flora of Wisconsin. As director of the Wisconsin State Herbarium, Ken manages over 1.2 million specimens, including a major collection of arctic lichens.

Throughout his career, Ken has engaged with audiences ranging from professionals to chefs to horticulture enthusiasts about systematics and orchid biology. He is an in-demand speaker of many plant enthusiast societies, who remark that he has “a unique ability to explain complex scientific concepts in a way that everyone in the audience can understand.” His work has been frequently featured in the popular press, including an article in the New York Times and coverage on NOVA and HGTV. Ken has a long history of writing on natural history topics for non-technical audiences. His popular book, Natural History and Cultivation of Vanilla Orchids, was described by a letter writer for this award as “an enlightened read for plant lovers”. He has also written several children’s books about plant biology in English and in Spanish. Most recently he has involved his graduate students in authoring monthly articles for the American Orchid Society on current topics in orchid research. Their group has also crafted award-winning public outreach displays at major orchid society meetings.

Dr. Cameron received his bachelor’s degree in biology from Rhodes College (Memphis, TN) and Ph.D. from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with his doctoral dissertation about the evolution of vanilloid orchids. He has been a Professor of Botany at University of Wisconsin-Madison since 2008, with previous appointments as director of the Cullman Program for Molecular Systematics at the New York Botanical Garden, and professor at Guildford College (Greensboro, NC). Ken has served the American Society of Plant Taxonomists in numerous capacities, including as Associate Editor of Systematic Botany for several years. He is a former recipient of the ASPT George R. Cooley award.

Read the UW News Story here

Read the ASPT Press Release here