Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

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Smithsonian Botanical Symposium
May 19, 2017
National Museum of
   Natural History and
the U.S. Botanic Garden
Washington, DC


Presented by the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History Department of Botany in collaboration with the United States Botanic Garden:

"Exploring the Natural World: Plants, People and Places"

History hides behind our garden and museum displays. Plants and artifacts can be themselves objects of wonder, but scratch the surface and every item on display or curated for scientific study has a deeper story as to how it was collected and came to be included in our mostly urban cultural institutions. Large sponsored expeditions or even just curious individuals set off to explore remote corners of the world, and brought back plants, animals, and other natural history treasures. Often the focus was on a particular route or region. Sometimes circumstance caused an individual to take up residence in an unfamiliar part of the world and day-to-day observations of the new environment lead to discoveries that were sent home to eager audiences. Every garden, museum, and herbarium collection continues to grow through a delightful and maddening combination of purpose and accident.

The 15th Smithsonian Botanical Symposium, hosted by the Department of Botany and the United States Botanic Garden, will highlight the history of exploration undertaken by individuals and groups with an emphasis on exploration of the Americas. Several of our presentations are based on recently-published books or books in preparation.



US Exploring Expedition

Pacific coastal forest from US Exploring Expedition journal 1838-1842.

Speaker Abstracts

Coming soon...

Program and Schedule

Confirmed Speakers
Janet Browne (Harvard University)
Jacques Cayouette (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)
Javier Francisco-Ortega (Florida International University)
Pamela Henson (Smithsonian Institution Archives)
Eliane Norman (Stetson University)
Megan Raby (University of Texas at Austin)
Daniel Stone (National Geographic Magazine)
Charles Williams (The André Michaux International Society)

Friday, May 19
Morning Session
NMNH Baird Auditorium
9:00 a.m. Registration and coffee, Evans Gallery (enter through Constitution Avenue lobby)
9:30 a.m. - 12:45 p.m. Invited papers
10:45 a.m. Coffee break, Executive Conference Room
12:45 p.m. Lunch break - on your own

Afternoon Session
NMNH Baird Auditorium
2:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. Invited papers and discussion
3:30 p.m. Coffee Break, Executive Conference Room

Evening Events
The United States Botanic Garden
6:30 p.m. Closing reception and poster session, United States Botanic Garden, Washington, DC.


CALL FOR POSTERS The National Museum of Natural History and the U.S. Botanic Garden have begun accepting abstracts for poster presentations for the 15th Smithsonian Botanical Symposium, "Exploring the Natural World: Plants, People and Places", which will be held May 19, 2017 in Washington, DC. Space is limited and will be accepted based upon the quality of the abstract and the order received.


  • Abstracts must be submitted electronically to before 14 April 2017.
  • Abstract selections will be made by 21 April 2017. Notifications will be sent by email only.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR PREPARING ABSTRACTS Abstract submissions should include the following:

  • Topic must be related to the study of exploration or discovery and contain original research.
  • Author(s) name(s) including affiliation(s) and email address(es).
  • List the title in upper and lower case. Titles are limited to 150 characters.
  • Abstracts may not exceed 1,500 characters (approx. 200 words), including spaces.
After you submit your abstract, you will receive a confirmation email. If you do not receive an email, your abstract has not been received. Registration is mandatory to be included in the program.



  • Posters will be displayed on May 19th at the U.S. Botanic Garden during the closing reception.


  • Posters should be no larger than 30" x 40" (portrait orientation)
  • Presenting authors are requested to attend the poster session (6:00 pm - 8:00 pm) to take advantage of opportunities to discuss their work with symposium participants.

What will be provided:

  • Easels, foam board and binder clips for each accepted presenter.
  • We will NOT provide you with a table, computers, monitors or other electronic equipment and cannot guarantee access to electricity for your presentation should it be required.


National Museum of Natural History
   Department of Botany
   Office of the Associate Director for Science
United States Botanic Garden

Visitor Information


The National Museum of Natural History is located on the National Mall at the intersection of 10th St and Constitution Ave NW in Washington, DC 20560.

The United States Botanic Garden is also located on the National Mall, at 100 Maryland Ave SW in Washington, DC 20001.

For maps, directions, and additional information, visit the NMNH, USBG, or NPS websites.


Metrorail, Washington's subway system, and Metrobus link the city with nearby communities in Maryland and Virginia. The closest subway stations to the National Museum of Natural History are Federal Triangle and Smithsonian (both on the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines). The closest subway station to the United States Botanic Garden is Federal Center SW (also on the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines). For a Metrorail map and more information, visit the Metro website.

Washington is served by three major airports: Reagan National (DCA), which is most convenient for domestic travelers; Dulles International (IAD); and Baltimore/Washington International (BWI). DCA is served directly by Metrorail. IAD and BWI can both be accessed via public transportation, but are not directly served by Metrorail.

Parking is not available at the museum. There are several private parking garages in the vicinity.


There are many options in the Washington area. In general, prices decrease with distance from the National Mall (city center). However, it is important to factor in the cost and time required to travel between a particular option and the conference venues on the National Mall. It is recommended that you prioritize options within walking distance to a Metrorail stop or the conference venues.

For hotels, the popular online booking sites for travelers should provide you with a range of possibilities. As always, reading reviews can be helpful. Please keep in mind that Washington is a popular tourist destination; for the greatest number of options and best prices, book early. Please note that there is not an official conference hotel.

SBS 2017 - Optional Behind-the-Scenes Tour

A behind-the-scenes tour of the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History
National Museum of Natural History, 10th St. and Constitution Ave. NW, Washington DC, 20560
Hosted by Smithsonian Libraries

Come see the original books that early naturalists and explorers wrote about their travels and discoveries! The Smithsonian Libraries’ Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History will have on display a wide selection of publications produced by scientific voyages of exploration. From early Renaissance travels (Belon, Tournefort, and others), through the great age of exploration (Cook, Dumont d’Urville, von Humboldt, Darwin, et al.), to the government-sponsored expeditions across the North American West in the mid- and late-1800s, these books are held for you and your colleagues. In addition there will be a few examples of “directions for collecting” that reveal how plants were gathered, prepared, preserved, documented, and transported as specimens (living or dried) in centuries past. For more information on the Cullman Library collections, go to and click on the pdf at the bottom of the page.

  • Thursday, May 18 at 3:00 - 4:00 pm
  • Thursday, May 18 at 4:00 - 5:00 pm
  • Friday May 19 at 5:30 - 6:30 pm

Capacity for each tour is 20 people.

To sign up, please send an email message to indicating which tour you would like to attend. First come, first serve. A waiting list will be made to accommodate demand. RSVP by Monday, May 15.

Please note: The Cullman Library is a high-security facility; you will be on video camera. No food or drink is allowed in the library. Photography is allowed, but no flash.

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