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2015 THE MICHIGAN BOTANIST 25
BVB AND THE EARLY DAYS OF “WOODY PLANTS”
Terry L. Sharik School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science Michigan Technological University Houghton, MI 49931 email@example.com
I came to the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources (SNR) in the fall of 1964 as a Master of Forestry student, working under Dr. Grant Sharpe, who headed up the Forest Recreation program there, one of the few programs of its kind in the United States. Having completed my B.S. degree in Forestry (with a Wildlife Management option) at West Virginia University, I became increas- ingly interested in the human dimensions of natural resource management. It is worth noting that if one wanted to study in this area, recreation was really the only field in which to do so (excluding economics, which had a very narrow per- spective on social science). Thus, it was natural that I chose to study with Grant, whose area of expertise was natural history interpretation. That fit me very well, because this was where my chief interests resided. Moreover, he taught the Den- drology course, which was designed in such a way that the faculty member gave the lectures, and the labs were taught by a teaching fellow, the only such position in SNR at that time. I was delighted when the offer to come to SNR also included the teaching fellowship in dendrology, since my love of nature focused heavily on the natural history of trees. I recall how I scrambled to find field sites for the outdoor lab sessions, which I had to do, because Grant pretty much left it to me to decide on teaching sites. As I recall, the lectures were organized by genera, and species within genera—the traditional way of teaching about trees at the time. The labs were then used to reinforce the lectures.
Burt (whom I always called “BVB”) accepted a faculty position in SNR in 1963, but spent his first year as a post-doctoral researcher in Germany, so I did not interact with him during this time. Apparently, the decision was made to have him teach the Dendrology course upon his return from Germany, along with for- est ecology and silviculture, but the latter two apparently not until his second year in residence (the third year of his appointment). That I was awarded the teaching fellowship required in some sense that he work with me, and so our re- lationship began in earnest in the summer of 1965, when we set about develop- ing the course in a way that made sense to him. At the same time, it was appar- ently decided to have Dr. Herb Wagner, a renowned fern expert and plant systematist in the Botany Department, team-teach the course with him. Herb had been at the University of Michigan for many years and, in fact, had BVB in his Plant Systematics course when the latter was a student there.
SNR decided to offer a two-semester course sequence in the biology of woody plants, the first semester focusing on their systematic relationships, iden- tification, and ecology, and the second on their physiology. BVB and Herb would
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FIGURE 1. Terry Sharik and Burt Barnes fording Meadow Creek in the Monongohela National For- est, West Virginia, June 1966. Photo by Bruce Dancik.
teach Biology of Woody Plants I, and Dr. Bob Zahner, soil scientist and tree physiologist, would teach Biology of Woody Plants II. Thus was born the deci- sion to cover all woody plants—trees, shrubs, and vines. In Biology of Woody Plants I, Herb delivered the lectures on systematics, and BVB the ones on ecol- ogy and distribution. The emphasis was on basic processes, using various species as examples, as opposed to the traditional systematic coverage of genera and species within genera. I followed this approach in my teaching for decades at four different academic institutions after leaving SNR.
So off the three of us went in the summer of 1965, scouting field sites for the labs, almost all of which took place outdoors and most in wildland settings. Herb had clearly spent a lot of time in the field and knew all the special places that were relatively undisturbed and that harbored plants that were relatively rare. The range of sites and ecosystems was impressive. Herb loved rare and different things in nature (especially plants and butterflies), and his enthusiasm for them was very contagious. In fact, Herb was by far the more flamboyant of the two of them, including in the classroom where he was always doing outrageous things to get students interested in plants. As I reflect back, it seems possible that sub- sequent remarks by Burt’s students about his “elaborate skits, schemes, and jokes” had their origins in Herb, and I wonder if they were perhaps not magni- fied following Herb’s death in 2000. One also wonders how much of an influence Herb had on Burt’s exclamation of “too much” upon observing something inter- esting in nature. In any case, we developed a woody plant species list for each of these sites, and I then produced lists of the distinguishing characteristics of the
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species and descriptions of their natural and cultural history. I recall subsequent teaching assistants in the course, of which there were many, telling me that they continued to use my notes over the years.
I had originally intended to leave SNR upon completing my Master’s degree in the spring of 1966, and in fact was offered a job in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota, but Herb and BVB gave me the hard sell to stay on and do a Ph.D. degree in forest botany. I agreed, and completed my doc- torate in 1970. During that time, I served as the only teaching assistant in the Bi- ology of Woody Plants course. In subsequent years there were multiple teaching assistants in the course as it grew in popularity.
My main objective in this piece was to recount the early history of the Biol- ogy of Woody Plants I course in SNR and BVB’s role in that course. I might have talked a lot more about BVB the person, but I already covered this to a consid- erable degree in my remembrance of him in a memorial that I wrote and pub- lished in the Journal of Forestry in November 2014 (volume 112, no. 6, pages 623-624). Other special memories include chasing dark-barked birches (Betula spp.) with fellow graduate student Bruce Dancik (“BPD”) and BVB in the Ap- palachians and the Lake States (Figure 1), and sprinkling aspen (Populus spp.) pollen, to which BVB was allergic, in his brief case. We always referred to each other by our initials (BVB, TLS, and BPD), a practice that originated with BVB, who liked to keep things short in his communications, which always ended with “Later, BVB.”
In closing, I might add that BVB and I had a wonderful relationship that con- tinued throughout the years until his death. There is clearly a part of me that is missing with him gone, but he lives on in me and in the numerous other students he taught and mentored. And so, it is time to sign off.