Chair, Historic Designation Committee
Whittemore, Alan (Active)
National Arboretum
Alan was born on May 16, 1957, in Redwood City, California, of Canadian parents. The family spent a lot of time outdoors, and Alan learned his botany in California and on family trips to British Columbia. He earned his BS degree in chemistry and botany at the University of California, Davis, in 1978, where he supplemented his class work with work in the University’s arboretum and herbarium. The summer after graduation was spent working as a volunteer in the herbarium of the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Alan then went to the north coast of California to enter the masters’ program at Humboldt State University, where he worked on liverwort taxonomy from 1978 through 1980. Alan returned to the Bay area to work as a peptide chemist, but left after one year to enter the PhD program in botany at the University of Texas at Austin, working on the taxonomy and terpene chemistry of several genera of Asteraceae and receiving his PhD degree in 1987. Alan spent most of the next 13 years in St. Louis, Missouri. From 1988 through 1990, he did postdoctoral work in Barbara Schaal’s lab at Washington University, using DNA markers to estimate introgressive gene flow among several species of oak. In 1991, he moved to the Missouri Botanical Garden. There, he mainly worked on the Flora of North America project, writing treatments and assisting with the editing. Other projects included work on bryophyte taxonomy and participation in several foreign collecting expeditions. From 1993 to 2000, he also taught evening classes at Washington University. Alan came to Washington, D.C., in 2000 to become the research taxonomist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Floral and Nursery Crop Research Unit, and supervisor of the 650,000-specimen herbarium of the U.S. National Arboretum, one of the few herbaria in the country to emphasize both wild and cultivated plants. Alan carries out research on the taxonomy and evolutionary genetics of various groups of woody plants, primarily the oaks and hackberries. Alan has worked on the taxonomy and evolution of many different plant groups. He published research on 20 different families of flowering plants, plus mosses and liverworts, and carried out fieldwork in the United States, Mexico, Belize, Kazakhstan, Armenia, China, and the Russian Far East. Alan is currently editor-in-chief of the journal Systematic Botany (American Society of Plant Taxonomists) and has served as president of the Botanical Society of Washington. In addition to botany, Alan enjoys astronomy, history, and walking. He was elected to the Washington Biologists’ Field Club in 2004.