It’s time for another changing of the guard at Botany One. Anne Osterrieder has stepped down to work in medical outreach. In her place comes Lorena Villanueva Almanza.
Lorena is a Mexican plant biologist passionate about plants and writing. As Academic Editor of Botany One, Lorena will work with botanists, plant scientists and journalists to write stories that can help people notice and appreciate plants.
Even though she loves literature, she decided to become a biologist to protect the unique ecosystems of the Baja California Peninsula, a place threatened by the building of hotels and mining activities. As a Biology student at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), she edited the student-led publication El Aleph, where she also wrote about the plants in the grounds of the science college.
She became fascinated with the genus Ephedra and worked on it for her dissertation. Her passion for taxonomy led her to pursue a master’s degree in the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, Scotland. After going back to Mexico, she worked as a research assistant for the Flora of the Tehuacán-Cuictlán Valley project, but her passion for Baja California remained strong.
She moved to Riverside, California to work on the taxonomy, ecology and ethnobotany of the genus Washingtonia as part of her PhD. This was a dream come true as she travelled throughout Baja California Peninsula and southern California, meeting locals while collecting data and leaf material. During her research, she participated in outreach projects and started a science communication group. After graduating, in the summer of 2020, she was fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) 2020 Mass Media program sponsored by the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB). In this position, she worked as a science and environmental reporter for the local newspaper The Indianapolis Star.
Lorena will be specifically concentrating on feature stories. It means that the blog will have someone explicitly looking beyond the Annals of Botany Company’s journals for botanical stories. “I want to publish stories that have built our identity as humans; from the early crops in the Fertile Crescent to the nitrogen-fixing corn that might hold the key to the future of agriculture.”
“I will work to publish stories that speak about our close relationship with plants for survival —just imagine the plants we see on our table everyday— health, beauty and recreation. I want to publish stories of plants that teach us about the evolution of life in our planet; stories about the scientists working to record the diversity of plants and the strategies they use to make the most of their environment. By publishing these stories, I hope to remind ourselves that we are part of nature regardless of where we live.”