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What do NPR, DPI and WIN all have in common?

February 10, 2011

While Super Bowl Sunday was a day to remember for the Green Bay Packers, it was also a day of fame for DPI’s Dr. Patti Anderson. Dr. Anderson submitted a correct response to National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition puzzle segment, and was selected to be on air to solve another puzzle.  The on-air puzzle required Dr. Anderson to switch a vowel in the last word of the clue and add another word to arrive at the answer. Dr. Anderson’s background in agriculture proved beneficial in the contest, as the answers included words like “boll weevil” and “farm hand.” The host of the show, Liane Hansen, and puzzle master Will Shortz, were both very impressed with Dr. Anderson’s quick answers. We are proud of Dr. Anderson for her success with NPR’s puzzle contest, but we’re also proud of her touting DPI’s  important mission on national radio. Listen to the contest clip from NPR here

Dr. Anderson is a biological scientist and heads the Botany Section of the Bureau of Entomology, Nematology & Plant Pathology at the Division of Plant Industry. The Botany Section serves Floridians by identifying plant specimens, managing the DPI Herbarium, and recommending additions and deletions to the state’s lists of endangered, threatened and commercially-exploited plant lists, just to name a few. 

DPI employees have interesting, often one-of-a-kind jobs, and all have unique stories behind their involvement with the protection of Florida’s plant and apiary industries and environment. Ever wonder how someone ends up being the administrator of a state botany section? Check out Dr. Anderson’s story below from the DPI website. 

Growing up on a farm gave me a wonderful opportunity to experience both agriculture and the natural habitats of south Mississippi. It also gave me a craving to see city sights. I went to college, then graduate school, studying social science rather than plant biology, to find work in the city. During my first job as a sociologist for the New York City Human Rights Commission, I took a programming course for fun and discovered a talent for solving computer problems. I found exciting and rewarding work in this field in business, then government, then as a self-employed computer consultant.

Eventually, I missed having time with plants and decided to give biology another chance. After studying botany and ethnobotany at the New York Botanical Garden and receiving an M.A. in Biological Sciences from Lehman College, I moved to Florida to study ecology at the University of Florida. I hoped to combine my interests in ecological and social processes to better understand conservation and economic development. A Fulbright fellowship allowed me to carry out research in Ecuador that became the basis for my dissertation. I hoped to find work in this field and make a contribution to the conservation of tropical forests.

As it turned out, after doing post-doctoral research at Penn State, I found work as the Science Educator for Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, Florida. There I began a project funded by Howard Hughes Medical Institute using ethnobotany to encourage pre-college science education and multigenerational cultural exchange. The project paired students in two Miami middle schools who interviewed older Hispanics and Haitians about plants. About this time, I moved to Gainesville for family reasons and found work at the Florida Museum of Natural History, again as an educator. After four years, I learned there was an opportunity for a botanist with the state Department of Agriculture. Now I identify plants and learn from the entomologists about bugs and have a wonderful time. Sometimes I even get to collect plants from long leaf pine habitats that are not so different from the Piney Woods in Mississippi where I started.”

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