By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)–Jeannine Barr, a graduating senior from Lanesville, Indiana majoring in biology with minors in plant science and chemistry, has received a Young Botanist Award, Certificate of Special Achievement from the Botanical Society of America (BSA).
Barr is one of 16 students nationally and the first from IU Southeast to receive this honor.
Founded in 1893, the BSA exists to promote botany, the field of basic science dealing with the study and inquiry into the form, function, development, diversity, reproduction, evolution, and uses of plants and their interactions within the biosphere.
The Young Botanist Awards offer individual recognition to outstanding graduating seniors in the plant sciences and encourage their participation in the BSA.
Barr traces her interest in botany to a position she held as an invasive control intern at Charlestown State Park. Here she became skilled at identifying and treating non-native plant species.
“I quickly realized that to know non native plants I had to learn a lot of the natives as well, so I threw myself into learning local flora and fell in love with the diversity of Southern Indiana,” Barr said. “I quickly became amazed about the diversity that I had simply not noticed my whole life.”
That amazement became a commitment to protect native species.
“Treating and understanding these nonnative plants is important because by understanding them we are finding a more concise way to treat them.” Barr said. “In treating these invasive plants we are protecting the local environment and diversity that they are destroying.”
Barr has been a standout student during her IU Southeast career. A Dean’s List scholar for four years, she has also been an undergraduate research fellow since 2018, conducting and presenting in-depth data on the character, geographic distribution and treatment of the invasive species Cardamine impatiens or narrowleaf bittercress.
She also has served as a research assistant, lab assistant, supplemental instructor and assistant curator of the IU Southeast herbarium, in addition to an internship at the Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve.
While Barr has excelled in the classroom and laboratory, it is the time spent in the field that has fed her spirit and enabled her to work with colleagues who are placed to help her advance in her career.
“Making connections and getting advice from people who have succeeded in the field is by far the best thing I did,” Barr said.
Besides David Taylor, professor of biology at IU Southeast, Barr names Allen Pursell from The Nature Conservancy and Tavia Cathcart-Brown, an experienced botanist and author, as crucial sources of advice and guidance.
“Jeanine exemplifies a love and depth of knowledge about plants, a drive to understand plants better and a passion for learning,” said Taylor.
Barr has already taken the next step in her career, securing a position as restoration crew member with The Nature Conservancy in northern Indiana.
She envisions earning a master’s or doctoral degree, and would love to one day become the state botanist. She advises students who are just setting out to throw themselves into the field, and dare to take on big challenges.
“I remember when I started to follow my career path I was told by a lot of people that it was a very competitive field and that I should maybe reconsider,” Barr said. “But I already knew that, and thought if I could just push myself hard enough, everything would work out.”
Homepage photo: Jeannine Barr ’20 photographs a monkey face orchid (Platanthera integrilabia) in the Boone National Forest. Courtesy of Jeannine Barr.