webinar register page

Symposium banner with images of five neotropical plants
20th Smithsonian Botanical Symposium
The National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) and the United States Botanic Garden (USBG) will jointly host the 20th Smithsonian Botanical Symposium, “New Horizons in the Study of Neotropical Floras,” on 19 May 2023.

The tropical regions of America—the Neotropics—have long intrigued explorers and scientists who sought to study, catalog, and explain their incredible biodiversity, which includes more than 100,000 plant species. The origins, evolution, and even species composition of the Neotropical flora are far from understood and are the subject of active research in the face of ongoing habitat loss and climate change. The 20th Smithsonian Botanical Symposium will feature current research on the natural history, geographic diversity, evolution, and conservation of plants in the Neotropics. Speakers will include scientists who explore this incredible flora and contribute to our understanding of how and why there are so many plant species in tropical America.

The Symposium will be in a hybrid format with both online and in-person attendance. The talks will be held at NMNH in Washington DC, and an evening reception and poster session will take place at USBG.

Tentative schedule (all times are Eastern Daylight Time):
1:00 pm – Opening remarks and the presentation of the José Cuatrecasas Medal for Excellence in Tropical Botany
1:15 pm – Lúcia G. Lohmann - An integrative approach to studying Neotropical floras: A case study from the Amazon
1:45 pm – M. Alejandra Jaramillo - Piper evolution and ecology: A peppery tale from the understory
2:15 pm – Break
2:45 pm – Patricia Dávila-Aranda - Wild plant conservation in Mexico in the 21st century
3:15 pm – Alejandra Vasco - Accelerating lineage discovery to document Neotropical fern diversity
3:45 pm – Break
4:15 pm – Paola Pedraza-Peñalosa - Documenting the flora of a diversity hotspot: Las Orquideas National Park, Colombia
4:45 pm – Panel discussion
5:15 pm – Wrap-up
6:00 pm - Reception at USBG (in-person)

May 19, 2023 01:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Logo of the Smithsonian Botanical Symposium
* Required information


Lúcia G. Lohmann
@University of São Paulo, Brazil
Lúcia G. Lohmann obtained her Ph.D. in Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics from the University of Missouri-St. Louis (2003) and conducted her postdoctoral work at the Missouri Botanical Garden (2004). She has been a faculty in the Department of Botany at the University of São Paulo (Brazil) since 2004 and was a Visiting Professor at UC Berkeley (USA) between 2017-2019. She also serves as Executive Director of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) and holds Research Associate appointments at both the Missouri Botanical Garden (MOBOT) and The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG). She is a member of the São Paulo Academy of Sciences (ACIESP), a corresponding member of the Botanical Society of America (BSA), and an international honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAA&S). Her primary research interest is to understand species diversity patterns and biogeography in the Tropics, especially in the Amazon basin.
M. Alejandra Jaramillo
@Universidad Militar Nueva Granada, Colombia
M. Alejandra Jaramillo is an Associate Professor of Applied Biology at Universidad Militar Nueva Granada. Dr. Jaramillo graduated as a biologist from Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá. She finished her Ph.D. at Duke University in 2001 and was later a postdoc at Harvard University. Dr. Jaramillo lived in Brazil and the USA before returning to Colombia, where she has been in her current position since 2015. Her work has focused on the phylogenetics of Piper. She has also worked on several aspects of tropical plant conservation and sustainability.
Patricia Dávila-Aranda
@National Autonomous University of Mexico
Patricia Dávila-Aranda is a senior Professor and Vice Rector for Institutional Development at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). She received her B.S. from the Autonomous Metropolitan University of Mexico, her Master’s from UNAM and her Ph.D. from Iowa State University. She is a botanist whom in her first stage of her professional life overtook floristic and systematic work in the Mexican deserts, with a focus on Poaceae and Cactaceae. Later, building on her early research, as well as data from collaborators and students and open data bases, she adventured into conservation research activities. She has published taxonomic treatments, 118 papers, 33 book chapters and 16 books, many in collaboration with her colleagues and students. Every semester she teaches an undergraduate course in basic taxonomy and a graduate course on biodiversity conservation. Under her supervision, 15 undergraduate students have obtained their B.S., 22 their Master’s, and 13 their Ph.D.
Alejandra Vasco
@Botanical Research Institute of Texas
Alejandra Vasco is a Research Botanist at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas. She received a PhD in Biology from The City University of New York and The New York Botanical Garden, and a BS in Biology from the Universidad de Antioquia, in her native Colombia. Vasco’s research focus is on the diversity and evolution of ferns. Together with colleagues Weston Testo and Michael Sundue, Vasco leads Ferns of Colombia, a project funded by the National Science Foundation to document and explore the high diversity of ferns in this country.
Paola Pedraza-Peñalosa
@New York Botanical Garden
Paola Pedraza-Peñalosa is a Research Associate at The New York Botanical Garden. Her main research interests are the taxonomy, evolution, and conservation of Ericaceae, a fascinating and biodiverse family that includes species of global and local economic importance such as blueberries, lingonberries, arándanos, and mortiños. She is mostly concerned with the systematics of the tribe Vaccinieae within the Neotropical region. Vaccinieae is an exciting group as it is the food source of many animals from hummingbirds to mammals, about 94% of the Neotropical species are endemic, and many species are endangered. For her studies, she combines molecular, anatomical, and morphological data. She also conducts collections-oriented research that seeks to contribute to both the conservation and botanical knowledge of the Tropical Andes, a hotspot with one of the highest levels of biodiversity and endemism in the world, but which faces accelerated habitat loss and remains poorly understood.