Donald R. Kaplan Memorial Lecture

The Kaplan Memorial Lecture Committee would like to invite speaker nominations for the Kaplan Memorial Lecture. This lecture will take place during the annual Botany Conference scheduled for June 15-19, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

To nominate someone for this opportunity, please address communications to the Kaplan Memorial Lecture Committee through Heather Cacanindin (
Deadline is January 10, 2024.

Nominations must include:

  1. a short description of the research of the speaker,
  2. a list of recent publications; and
  3. a brief statement of how the nominee fits the selection criteria.
  4. the Professional Conduct Disclosure Form from the nominator and any other letter writers

All nominated awardees must adhere to the BSA Guidelines for Professional Ethics and the Ethical Guidelines for Nominated Awards.
See below for more information on the award's background, criteria for selection, and more.


Donald R. Kaplan was one of the preeminent comparative developmental biologists of his generation. Exemplary in his analytical approach, Don sought fundamental structural and developmental commonalities that in his words transcended taxonomic boundaries. Don was a lifelong member of the Botanical Society of America. His research and teaching accomplishments spanned the algae, bryophytes, ferns, gymnosperms and angiosperms and were recognized by his peers across the world and within BSA. Don earned every major award given by the BSA: the Charles Edwin Bessey Award for botanical teaching (2005), the Jeanette Siron Pelton Award (1989), the Centennial Award (2006) and the Merit Award (1984). Don had many Ph.D. students over the years that have gone on to productive careers as researchers and educators and trained their own students.

At the Annual meetings of 2008 the Botanical Society of America, the Donald R. Kaplan Memorial Lecture in Comparative Development was established to commemorate Don's contributions to botanical knowledge and promote his research interests within the Botanical Society of America. Interest and principle of the fund to support this lecture will be used to invite a leading scholar to present a talk at the annual meetings of the Society.  The selected speaker is provided with an honorarium and reimbursement for travel expeneses to attend the meeting, with the total amount determined by the Kaplan Memorial Lecture Committee.

Name of the Lecture - Donald R. Kaplan Memorial Lecture in Comparative Development

Definition of Comparative Development - Broadly speaking, comparative development involves the study of developmental phenomena in all photosynthetic organisms, including cyanobacteria, algae, and plants that relate to the generation of form. Research in comparative development may involve a wide range of approaches, including morphology, anatomy, paleobotany, genomics, phylogenetics, evolutionary biology, physiology, biophysics, or biochemistry. A central theme is the application of a comparative approach to studying a range of organisms in order to address questions of homology (i.e., similar developmental phenomena related via the descent from a common ancestor) vs. analogy {i.e., similar developmental phenomena or molecular pathways occurring due to similar selection pressures, functions, or constraints).

Ideal Speaker and Criteria for Selection

The Kaplan Lecture speaker should be able to give a synthetic talk in the area of comparative development or morphology that reviews a topic for a general botanical audience while providing novel insights based on new or newly analyzed data. The following criteria will be used to rank and select from the nominees:

  1. The speaker should be able to discuss a topic in the general area of comparative plant development or morphology.
  2. The speaker should be able to frame the topic in way that it is of interest to a general botanical audience.
  3. The speaker should be able to incorporate novel interpretations of recent or historical literature in the field, and
  4. The speaker should have a significant body of research to draw upon from his/her own career.

Nominees will also be evaluated on the basis of demographic diversity. Nominations from outside the U.S. are encouraged.

Mechanism for selecting the Speaker

  1. Nominations for the speaker may come from the Society at large, the officers of the D&S Section or the members of the Kaplan Lecture Committee. The nominator will provide the committee with
    • (i) a short description of the research of the speaker,-
    • (ii) a list of recent publications; and
    • (iii) a brief statement of evidence supporting the selection criteria in the nomination.
    • (iV) the Professional Conduct Disclosure Form from the nominator and any other letter writers if letters of support are included
  2. Each nomination will be discussed by the Committee and each member will independently rank potential speakers according to the criteria as described above.
  3. A rank order list based on this input will be compiled by the Chair of the Committee and the three highest ranked names will be presented to the committee. The Committee will discuss the pros and cons of each potential speaker and vote for their top choice from this list. The nominee who has the highest number of votes will be invited by the Chair of the Kaplan Committee to be the speaker for that year.
  4. In the event that the first speaker is unable to accept the invitation, the next nominee on the list will be chosen.
  5. If a member of the Kaplan Lecture Committee is being considered as a potential speaker, another individual will substitute and participate in the discussion and final decision.
  6. Nominees will be held for two years for future consideration, unless withdrawn.

Important Considerations for Award Committee Members

(1) Conflicts of Interest

Committee members are not eligible to vote on a nominee if there is a conflict of interest where the committee member is or has been in a position of trust (such as employment, officer, consultant, contractor) with the nominee such as:

  • Currently (or recently) being a member of the same institution as the nominee
  • Being a current or recent collaborator (past six years)
  • Being or having been a dissertation supervisor or student of the nominee
  • Having close familial ties or a personal relationship with the nominee
  • Other conflicts as determined by the Board of Directors

(2) Considerations for Reviewing Award Packets

Letters of support should be arm’s-length, and it is advisable to have one from researchers in the same country, from a different country, and/or from junior scientists at the home institution who are not supervised by or in a power relationship with that researcher. Both measures may help detect possible issues with professional misconduct (e.g. plagiarism, fabrication of data) and inappropriate behavior, (e.g. bullying and harassment). Awards committees should decide how many letters are required and if any specific types of letters should be included in the award’s description.

  • Could this nomination benefit from including a letter of support from a student or early career letter of support from someone at the home institution?
  • Could this nomination benefit from a letter of support from someone outside their institution but in the same country?
  • Is the awardee lacking a nomination from someone at their current institution?

Lead nominators and each letter writer should complete the Professional Conduct Disclosure Form. Award Committees reserve the right to solicit the Professional Conduct Disclosure Form and additional information from another person not included as an initial nominator or letter writer. Awards Committees must complete any follow-up with those who complete the form if any issues are raised. As a practice, we will not retain the names nor circumstances of anyone who is removed from consideration for the Award through our process.

(3) Bias Training

Award committee members should confirm that they have taken bias training within the past 2 years (e.g. for a search committee or awards committee). If you have not, (or want to brush up on these principles), then we recommend the following:

Viewing one or more of these videos/training sites will help our awards committees to ensure evaluation of the nominations is done more fairly.


Previous Lectures:

2024 - Dr. Cynthia Jones, University of Connecticut, "A Meditation on Leaf Shape"
2023 - Dr. Erika Edwards, Yale University, "Plant morphology as a bellwether of subsequent evolutionary innovation"
2022 - Dr. Lena Hileman, University of Kansas, "Patterns and processes of floral diversification in the wildflower genus Penstemon."
2021 - Dr. M. Alejandra Gandolfo-Nixon, Cornell University, "Understanding the Plant Fossil Record, Plant Morphology, and Plant Anatomy is critical in the genomic era."
2020 - Dr. Ned Friedman, Harvard University, "Angiosperm seeds are a mess!"
2019 - Dr. John Z. Kiss, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, "How will space zucchini and Arabidopis help get us to Mars?"
2018 - Dr. Toby Kellogg, Danforth Plant Science Center, "A tale of two meristems, Or, Dissecting a synapomorphy."
2017 - Dr. Dan Chitwood, Independent Researcher, "Persistant homology and organismal theory: quantifying the branching topologies of plants."
2016 - Dr. Neelima Sinha, University of California, Davis "Heteroblasty and Heterophylly – when two programs collide."
2015 - Dr. Juerg Schoenenberger, University of Vienna, Vienna "Who dares to call oneself a plant morphologist?"
2014 - Dr. Sarah Hake, USDA Gene Expression Laboratory , Albany, CA "A new angle on the maize leaf"
2013 - Dr. Elena Alvarez-Buylla Roces "From genes to complex networks and morphologies in plant evolution"
2012 - Dr. Larry Peterson, University of Guelph "Mycorrhizas - Co-ordinated development between plants and fungi."
2011 - Dr. Ralph Quatrano, Washington University, St. Louis "Mechanisms of cellular polarity:a comparative approach from mosses to seed plant."
2010 - Dr. Nancy G. Dengler, University of Toronto "Inside Leaf Development."

Kaplan Lecture Committee Composition

The Kaplan Lecture Committee will consist of three members from the Society at large, one of whom will be the Chair of the Committee. The members will have three year terms with the opportunity to stand for reappointment to subsequent terms. Nominations for replacement members will come from the Committee on Committees. The three members will have staggered three year terms, such that one member is appointed each year.

Kaplan Lecture Committee Responsibilities

The Kaplan Lecture Committee will have the following responsibilities:

  1. Fund-raising for the Kaplan Lecture,
  2. Working with the BSA to manage the budget,
  3. Selecting the speaker for the annual Kaplan Lecture,
  4. Working with the BSA to schedule the lecture and make appropriate arrangements for the speaker,
  5. Introducing the speaker, and
  6. Reporting on its activities at the annual meeting of the BSA.

Responsibilities of the Society

The major duties of the BSA are:

  1. Maintaining the Fund and providing yearly reports to the Kaplan Lecture Committee.
  2. Scheduling and advertising the Kaplan Lecture at the annual meetings.
  3. Coordinating with the Kaplan Committee on its fundraising efforts.

History of This Award and Committee Responsibilities

To accomplish the goals of this Lecture and to start the fundraising effort, the Kaplan Lecture Fund Committee was appointed by the BSA. The original Committee consisted of volunteers from the Developmental and Structural Sections membership who responded to a section-wide e-mail request for volunteers sent by Cindi Jones, then Chair of the Developmental and Structural Section.

The Kaplan Lecture Committee (1) started the process of fundraising and (2) contributed to the scheduling of the first Lecture in the series given by Nancy Dengler in 2010, in Providence, RI, and (3) has provided the following description and framework for the award and its selection.