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College of Natural Sciences
St. John 101
3190 Maile Way
Honolulu, HI 96822
Tel: (808) 956-8369
Fax: (808) 956-3923
Web: www.botany.hawaii.edu


*Graduate Faculty

*G. D. Carr, PhD (Chair)—biosystematics, cytotaxonomy, chromosome evolution
*C. W. Morden, PhD (Graduate Chair)—molecular systematics and evolution of plants and algae
*K. W. Bridges, PhD—systems ecology
*C. C. Daehler, PhD—population biology, invasive plants, plant-herbivore interactions
*D. R. Drake, PhD—seed ecology and conservation of Polynesian plants
*T. K. Duarte III, PhD—hydrology, natural resources management/optimization
*D. C. Duffy, PhD—conservation, restoration ecology
*J. M. Fragoso, PhD—ecology, tropical forests
*S. C. Keeley, PhD—molecular systematics, evolution in island systems
*W. C. McClatchey, PhD—Pacific ethnobotony, ethnopharmacology
*M. Merlin, PhD—biogeography, natural history of the Pacific
*L. Sack, PhD—physiology and ecology of species co-existence; structure/function; hydraulics
*A. R. Sherwood, PhD—systematics, evolution and biogeography of algae
*C. M. Smith, PhD—physiological ecology of marine macrophytes, marine ecology, cell biology
*A. H. Teramura, PhD—global climate change, ozone depletion, physiological ecology
*T. B. Ticktin, PhD—ethnoecology, conservation
*D. T. Webb, PhD—plant anatomy, electron microscopy, morphogenesis, symbiosis
*G. J. Wong, PhD—mating systems and biosystematics of basidiomycetes

Cooperating Graduate Faculty

D. Borthakur, PhD—plant molecular genetics
D. A. Christopher, PhD—gene regulation of photosynthesis, uv effects
D. E. Hemmes, PhD—plant ultrastructure (UH-Hilo)
C. Hunter, PhD—reef ecology
Y. Sagawa, PhD—cytogenetics, tissue culture
W. S. Sakai, PhD—ultrastructure, physiological anatomy (UH-Hilo)

Affiliate Graduate Faculty

J. J. Ewel, PhD—tropical forest succession
K. C. Ewel, PhD—ecology, management practices, wetland and terrestrial ecosystems
D. E. Gardner, PhD—biocontrol, taxonomy of rust fungi
D. R. Herbst, PhD—endangered and threatened Pacific flora, plant morphology
G. T. Kraft, PhD—systematics and evolution of Pacific Basin macroalgae
L. L. Loope, PhD—ecology, conservation of rare and endangered species (Maui)
W. A. Whistler, PhD—systematics, Pacific ethnobotany

Adjunct Faculty

A. K. Chock, MS—Hawaiian ethnobotany
R. Gay, MS—plant ecology
D. H. Lorence, PhD—systematics of flowering plants (Kaua‘i)

Degrees Offered: BA (including minor) in botany, BS in botany, MS in botany, PhD in botany

The Academic Program

UH Manoa has the only botany department (BOT) located in a tropical environment in the U.S. Both aquatic and terrestrial tropical ecosystems provide the subjects of research and teaching. The department is committed to broad-based botanical training that focuses on developing an understanding of Hawai‘i’s unique island environment. While it maintains traditional areas of botanical study, the department also uses new approaches and current technologies. It has faculty in anatomy, ecology, systematics, ethnobotany, physiology, and population and evolutionary biology. Research programs focus on ecology, evolution and conservation of Hawai‘i’s ecosystem and unique endemic flora; the ecology and physiology of marine macroalgae; invasion biology by alien weeds; and the uses of plants by the human cultures of the Pacific Basin. Participation in the interdepartmental undergraduate biology program and the graduate program in ecology, evolution and conservation biology provides interactions with other departments and expands opportunities for breadth in research and instruction. All botany faculty members, regardless of rank, teach courses in the undergraduate curriculum as well as at advanced levels.

The department offers bachelor of arts, bachelor of science, and minor degrees in botany at the undergraduate level; the MS and PhD degrees at the graduate level. Undergraduate majors follow a number of career paths leading to employment as naturalists, environmental planners, policy makers, conservation biologists, teachers, researchers, and museum or organizational directors. A number of graduates have assumed important positions in public and private institutions at the national and international levels. Support at the undergraduate and graduate levels is available via competitive tuition waivers and scholarships. Teaching and research assistantships are available at the graduate level.

The botany programs strongly emphasize field experience and hands-on laboratory training with locally important plants, their environment, historical and present uses, as well as the unique aspects of plant evolution and ecology in Hawai‘i and the Pacific. The department’s website at www.botany.hawaii.edu allows glimpses into the many environments and special plants in Hawai‘i, and provides further information about faculty interests and research.

Over half of all the endangered plant species in the U.S. are endemic to Hawai‘i. Botanical knowledge and understanding are essential to the continued preservation of these unique plants. The botany department cooperates with government and private agencies (see “Affiliations” below) in conservation efforts for these species. The department also provides identifications and fundamental knowledge about Hawai‘i’s unique plants to local citizens, schools, and state and federal agencies.

Hawai‘i’s location provides botany students with the best opportunity for exploration of tropical marine or terrestrial ecosystems available anywhere in the U.S. The varied environments and climates present in the islands allow work from oceanic reefs to the tops of snow-covered volcanoes. The isolation and geology of the islands have produced a unique flora, unmatched in its potential for effective study of systematic, evolutionary, ecological, and ethnobotanical questions.


Botanical studies are enhanced by cooperative working relationships between the department and Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology, Harold L. Lyon Arboretum, Kewalo Marine Laboratory of the Pacific Biomedical Research Center, Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit of the National Park Service, The Nature Conservancy, State of Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Tropical Botanical Garden, Honolulu Botanical Garden, Herbarium Pacificum and the Department of Botany of the B.P. Bishop Museum, Hawai‘i Agriculture Research Center (formerly Hawaiian Sugar Planters’ Association), and Waikiki Aquarium.


Student advising is coordinated by the undergraduate adviser who is available to talk with prospective majors about their interests. An information sheet is available in the department office. Graduate students entering the department are assigned an interim committee of three faculty members who provide general advice. The students committee and the Chair of Botanical Sciences oversee requirements and provide a link between the Graduate Division and the student.

Graduate students are encouraged to interact with each faculty to become acquainted with various research approaches and areas of expertise. Once a research topic has been identified, a permanent committee will be established to provide specific assistance.

Undergraduate Study

BA Degree

The BA degree provides students flexibility to pursue a broad liberal arts education and still gain a sound foundation in botany with an area of particular interest. Courses are available in conservation, ecology, ethnobotany, evolution, physiology, structural botany, systematics, and selected faculty research specialties. The courses applied toward the botany major may be selected with the student’s interest area in mind.


  • 28 semester hours in approved biological courses beyond BOT 101 and 101L or equivalent
  • BOT 201/201L and 351/351L
  • 2 credit hours of BOT 399
  • One option from each area:
  • ecology and conservation: BOT 350, 450, 453, 454, 456, or 482/482L
  • form and function: BOT 311, 410/410L, 446, 470/470L
  • genetics and evolution: BIOL 275/275L, 375/375L, BOT 450, 462, CMB 351
  • organisms: BOT 430, 461, 480
  • CHEM 151/151L, 152/152L, or higher
  • ICS 101
  • PHYS 100/100L or higher

Prospective majors should consult the department promptly to design a curriculum that satisfies these requirements.

BS Degree

The BS degree is designed for those students who plan a career in science with an emphasis on plants, especially those intending to do graduate studies. A full complement of basic courses in biology, chemistry, math, and physics is required in addition to botany courses. As with the BA degree, students may choose among a variety of courses to fulfill requirements for the major.


  • BIOL 171/171L, 172/172L and the specific requirements in the following areas:
  • cell and molecular biology: BIOL 275/275L, BOT 470/470L
  • ecology and conservation: BIOL 265/265L or BOT 351/351L and one of BOT 350, 450, 453, 454, 456, 482/482L
  • organismal and structural botany: BOT 201/201L, 461, 311 or 410/410L, and 430 or 480
  • genetics and evolution: BIOL 375/375L, BOT 462
  • CHEM 161/161L, 162/162L, 272/272L
  • ICS 101
  • MATH 215, 216 or higher
  • PHYS 151/151L, 152/152L

Prospective majors should consult the department promptly to design a curriculum that satisfies these requirements. BOT 101 to BOT 160 do not fulfill major requirements.



Students must complete 15 credit hours in non-introductory courses with a grade of C (not C-) or higher.
For evolutionary botany:

  • BOT 201/201L, and 462
  • Electives: BOT 410/410L, 430, 450, 461, 470/470L, 480, 662, or 663

For tropical field botany:

  • BOT 453
  • Electives: BOT 201/201L, 350, 450, 454, and 461

Individual programs may be designed by the student and adviser for approval by the faculty.

Graduate Study

The department offers programs leading to MS and PhD degrees. Hawai‘i’s location offers unique opportunities to study the patterns and processes of evolution, adaptation, and morphological and physiological variations within a geographically variable and isolated setting. Faculty expertise spans from the molecular to the whole organism in marine and terrestrial environments, with emphasis on evolutionary biology, ecology, ethnobotany, molecular evolution, physiology, structural botany, and systematics. The faculty includes a number of nationally and internationally recognized scientists in ecology, ethnobotany, physiological ecology, and systematics.

In addition to the previously listed affiliations, botany is closely affiliated with the program in ecology, evolution, and conservation biology, providing a variety of opportunities for graduate student education, research, and support.

Recipients of the MS degree often teach at the high school level, pursue careers with government agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or National Park Service, or work with environmental organizations like the Nature Conservancy or the Sierra Club. Those with a PhD may teach and/or conduct research in private industry or in colleges and universities or work with environmental organizations or the government.

A brochure listing faculty members and their research areas and publications is available from the botany office and on the website: www.botany.hawaii.edu. Applications for admission and opportunities for financial aid and support are available upon request.

At the time of application, an official record of the student’s performance on the GRE General Test must be submitted to the department. The subject test in biology is also recommended. Three letters of recommendation from persons who can appraise the student’s aptitude for advanced work are required. In their statement of objectives; applicants should identify a specific area of study within botany: Conservation, Ecology, Ethnobotany, General Botany, Marine Botany, Systematics/Evolution or Whole Plant Biology. Minimum curriculum requirements for each track are available at the department website. Applicants will be evaluated for their level of preparation and potential to successfully complete their proposed plan of study. Application deadlines are February 1 for fall semester and September 1 for spring semester. Normally, teaching assistantships are available for the beginning of fall semester, but openings may occur mid-year.

MS and PhD students are admitted to candidacy when they have successfully completed any requirements and pre-program deficiencies identified by their committee and after they have demonstrated the ability to collect, analyze, integrate, and communicate scientific information effectively in the English language. This requirement may be satisfied by a class paper, publication, or other written evidence deemed acceptable by the committee.

Because scientific findings are typically presented orally, as well as in writing, all students must gain and demonstrate proficiency in the presentation of seminars. Students must complete at least two BOT 610 seminars to satisfy this requirement. In addition, MS Plan A and PhD students must present two public seminars: first, outlining the background of a research problem and the student’s proposed research program; and second, at the conclusion of their program, describing the research results and conclusions. The latter seminar also includes a final examination by the thesis or dissertation committee. The final examination for the MS Plan B students includes the presentation of a public seminar summarizing the results of one of their directed research studies.

Master’s Degree

Plan A (thesis) and Plan B (non-thesis) are separate MS programs with distinct purposes. Before admission to candidacy, the plan that a candidate intends to follow must be declared and approved. Plan A is the usual program to be taken by candidates. Plan B is for students who do not intend to make research in botanical sciences their profession. Plan B programs emphasize the methodological aspects of botanical sciences.

MS Plan A (Thesis) Requirements

For Plan A, a minimum of 30 credit hours is required. Of that, a total of 12 credit hours shall be for thesis and a minimum of 18 additional credit hours for courses approved by the candidate’s committee.

MS Plan B (Non-thesis) Requirements

For Plan B, a minimum of 30 credit hours is required. Of that, a total of 18 credit hours shall be earned in the major field or an approved related field in courses numbered 600 and above. Of these credits, at least 6 (but not more than 9) must be for directed research in aspects of botanical sciences chosen by the candidate in consultation with his or her committee.

Doctoral Degree

The PhD program includes gaining a working knowledge in an approved foreign language or other research-tool subject, as well as passing a comprehensive examination and writing a dissertation. Suitability of the language or tool subject is determined by the graduate faculty according to the student’s area of specialization, and proficiency is ordinarily determined by examination or satisfactory completion of a specific course of study.


The comprehensive examination is solely oral, or a combination of oral and written, and is conducted by the candidate’s committee, plus any members of the graduate faculty who wish to attend. In addition to general botany, the candidate is examined in-depth in areas of related disciplines that have been previously agreed upon by the student and the committee.

The dissertation is expected to be an original contribution based on independent research. It is initiated by the preparation of a critical review of the literature that becomes the basis for a dissertation proposal. Dissertation research for the PhD degree is carried out in an aspect of botanical sciences for which a member of the graduate faculty of the field will accept responsibility as committee chair.

BOT Courses