Donald R. Kaplan Memorial Lecture

Previous Lectures:

2022 - Lena Hileman, University of Kansas, "Patterns and processes of floral diversification in the wildflower genus Penstemon."
2021 - 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."


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

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.
  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.

More information on how to submit a nomination will be updated here when the award is opened in late 2020.

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).

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.

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.

JUSTIFICATION: The work of the Kaplan Lecture Committee will be to accumulate enough principle (or corpus) to eventually allow interest to sustain the cost of inviting outstanding speakers. For the first two years the two sources of fundraising have been (1) donations from the Society membership, and (2) proceeds from fundraising events at the annual meeting. We think that a three member committee is the optimum size for the workload and to provide the necessary continuity. Additional individuals may be called upon to supplement and support the work of the primary members.

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.

How the speakers will be supported prior to the fund reaching the targeted amount

Prior to the funding reaching a level at which it generates sufficient interest income to support an honorarium and full travel and registration expenses, speakers will be offered an honorarium only. The level of this honorarium will be set by the Kaplan Lecture Committee. Use of the Kaplan Lecture Funds Principle and interest of this fund will be used exclusively to support speakers for this lecture series. Checks written from the fund will be authorized by the Chair of the Kaplan Committee.

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.