Springfield Sun writer, Nicole Jenet reports on Morris Arboretum's new botanist.
Since the beginning of January, Michael Burgess has been settling in as the Morris Arboretum’s newest research botanist.
Burgess, a New Hampshire native, relocated to Chestnut Hill with his wife, Susannah Burgess, and 9-month-old daughter, Ada, for what he called a “wonderful opportunity” with the arboretum, where he would have the opportunity to work with a team of “exceptional” botanists.
In his new position, Burgess said Tuesday that he will be responsible for updating and redesigning the Pennsylvania Flora Project website as well as getting involved in field work and research and possibly assisting in teaching the arboretum’s field botany and plant systematics classes.
While acquiring his master’s from the Antioch University of New England, Burgess said he was inspired to go into botany from a professor and botanist.
“I was walking in the woods and he was pointing out a number of plants and naming them. I was awestruck by his knowledge,” he said of the field he soon became “consumed with.”
Burgess debated between going to law school or working for his Ph.D. He said he had a strong passion to teach on the college level, and he needed a Ph.D. for that.
“I was weighing those two options, and I landed on the side of science,” he said.
So he studied plant systematics.
He received his doctorate from the University of Maine, where he completed his dissertation research on the genus Amelanchier — also known as the serviceberry.
“I’ve always been attached to the outdoors, and I guess it was just a natural outgrowth from that,” Burgess said.
At the arboretum, Burgess will be able to focus on things he can continue to expand upon and develop a different skill set and continue to enhance it as a field botanist, he said.
“I tend to just love the idea of being outside,” Burgess said of being a field botanist, rather than a botanist who works in a lab.
In four years of graduate school, Burgess said, you “lose touch with the world because you’re so focused on your work,” but “everyone has been very warm and genuine, opening up their culture and welcoming” him at the arboretum.
“Everyone here is generally interested not just with what they do, but where they are,” Burgess said of his co-workers, who, he said, tend to have more of a “family feel, not just a work culture.”
For more information about Morris Arboretum's botany research, Botanical Research at Morris Arboretum