Public Programs

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Hummingbird pollinating<br />
Alloplectus penduliflorus photo © Murray Cooper.

Flower of Glossoloma penduliflorum visited by a Tawny-bellied Hermit hummingbird (Phaethornis syrmatophorus). Photo by Murray Cooper.

Gesneriads: Pollination, Evolution, and Natural History of a plant group from the New World Tropics

Monday March 20, 2023 at 8:00 PM
Virtual Program via Zoom

John L. Clark, Ph.D.

John Clark is a native from the Sourland Mountains and is currently a research botanist at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, FL.

The flowering plant family Gesneriaceae are the jewels of tropical forests – often indicator species of habitat integrity and frequently visited by a broad range of pollinators. Clark’s talk will share recent discoveries from exploratory research expeditions in the Neotropics. Learn about the science of biodiversity, plant evolution, and botanical gardens’ role in promoting the conservation of endangered flora. Clark will explain the peer-review process of documenting biodiversity, describing new species, and collaborative science’s role in conserving critically endangered ecosystems.

An evolutionary biologist and a botanist, Clark studies plant systematics, evolution, and biodiversity, focusing on the identification, classification, phylogeny, and taxonomy of neotropical gesneriads. He has published more than 150 species names and collected more than 17,000 plant specimens, including the discovery of hundreds of species of plants and the publication of five new genera. Since the late 1980s, Clark has spent extensive time exploring South and Central America and the Caribbean to research its flora, including six years as a resident botanist in Ecuador.

Clark recently joined Selby Gardens (Sarasota, Florida). Before, Clark taught science at the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, where he was the science department’s Aldo Leopold Distinguished Teaching Chair. There he directed annual research expeditions to Ecuador and Cuba, where students and faculty explored remote regions to document and study plant biodiversity. Collections from those expeditions yielded new species to science and species thought to be extinct. Clark’s earlier career was at The University of Alabama, where he was curator of the herbarium and associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. Clark continues to serve as a research associate with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Bald Eagle at Hawk Mountain © Bill Moses
Bald Eagle at Hawk Mountain © Bill Moses

John L. Clark with Ecuadorian botanists during a collaborative research expedition to the recently established Reserva Natural Kinti Toisán (Ecuador’s BirdLife International). Other botanists include Álvaro J. Pérez (The Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador) and Francisco Tobar (Ecuador’s BirdLife International and the National Herbarium of Ecuador). Photo by John L. Clark.

Bald Eagle at Hawk Mountain © Bill Moses

John L. Clark (Marie Selby Botanical Gardens) holding Columnea eubracteata during a 2022 research expedition to the western slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes. Photo by John L. Clark.

Prior to Coronavirus-19, programs were held indoors at the Pennington School

Programs were held at Stainton Hall auditorium at the Pennington School on the 3rd Monday of each month, from September to May. Time: Refreshments served at 7:30 pm; program begins at 8:00 pm. We strive to feature engaging speakers and interesting topics for our lecture series. If you have any recommendations for topics or speakers for one of these programs, please visit our contact page and let us know. All our programs are free and don’t require advance registration!

Stainton Hall, Pennington School
112 West Delaware Avenue
Pennington, New Jersey 08534

FYI:  There is a new entrance to The Pennington School campus off W. Delaware Ave just a few feet to the west of the old one.  It leads to a new parking lot immediately behind Stainton Hall.  For now, one can use both entrances, but parking at the new one is less crowded and conveniently close to the rear entrance near the south side of the building.