The University of
My name is Robert Kevan Schoonover II, and though I was born in Asheboro, North Carolina, I spent most of my childhood in Fuquay-Varina. I graduated from Holly Springs High School and came to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2011.
From an early age I have been interested in the natural world, and especially in plants. This interest was further nurtured by my father and grandfather, both of whom are avid gardeners. Every time my family went on camping trips, I was interested in the plants around the campsite -- so much so that I’ve acquired many botanical field guides. This love for plants led me to my first full time job as an assistant gardener at Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanic Gardens in Raleigh, North Carolina, in the summer of 2012.
I am a rising senior at UNC – Chapel Hill, double majoring in Biology and Anthropology and minoring in Chemistry. I am a fourth generation Tar Heel, and the thirteenth person in my family to attend the University. I volunteered in the UNC Herbarium during the spring of 2014, and learned to mount and file herbarium specimens in the vascular plant collection.
As a Mohr Herbarium Intern I will be exploring a very different group of plants in the Herbarium: the algae. I will be databasing & making digital images of the University of North Carolina Herbarium’s extensive red marine algae collection. The goal of the Macroalgae Digitization Project is to make available to the public and scientists the over 60,000 algae that are in the UNC Herbarium’s collection. Our algae will be cataloged and searchable along collections of 48 other herbaria across North America via the website macroalgae.org Moreover, as the UNC Herbarium is a regional imaging hub, I will be imaging algae specimens from the University of Alabama Herbarium (UNA); it will be interesting to see if Dr. Mohr collected any algae! (Spoiler alert: No. See Kevan Schoonover’s final report on the UNA algae collection.)
I also participated in PULSE with the Carolina Vegetation Survey this summer, working with the Fort Bragg and Dare County groups to survey under-represented ecological community types. In my free time, I am a representative in UNC-CH’s Student Congress and the Chair of its Rules & Judiciary Committee.
I also enjoy traveling and photography. My family has been on five road trips across the United States, visiting nearly every state in the Union (we’ve yet to visit eleven states: Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Michigan, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Nevada, Alaska, and Hawaii). The goals of these road trips are to not only see the country, but to enjoy our National Parks in particular. Ever since our first road trip, I have made it a goal to visit every National Park in the United States. On our road trips, my family camps; we do not have an RV and we try to avoid hotels if possible. My camera has been with me every step of the way. Our last road trip was the first one where I had my own camera that was of good quality. I took thousands of pictures while on our trip, including “Morning Reflection” in Glacier National Park, Montana.
Derick Poindexter was the Charles T. Mohr Intern in the University of North Carolina Herbarium during 2013, and will continue into 2014. “As a result of being a Mohr Intern last summer and into the fall, I was able to complete the research needed to publish “Taxonomy and geographic distribution of Carex lucorum var. austrolucorum (section Acrocystis Cyperaceae)” in Brittonia, a scientific journal published by the New York Botanical Garden. This manuscript, co-authored with Dr. Robert Naczi of the NY Botanical Garden, is currently in press. Additionally, I continue to use my Mohr Internship to work on several other projects: taxonomic notes on Carex bullata (a sedge), a reassessment of the genus Marshallia (an aster), typification and variation in Pycnanthemum (a mint), and a taxonomic re-evaluation of the genus Stipulicida (a pink).
Though born in the foothills, I was raised in the mountains of North Carolina and there developed a precocious interest in nature and biology. I began working in landscaping at the age of 14 to support myself, as my mother was a single parent with three children. These beginnings in landscaping taught me work ethic and allowed me to spend ample time in my first home – the outdoors.
I graduated from Alleghany High School, Sparta, North Carolina, then served as a college ambassador at Surry Community College, where I received an A.A. and A.S. degree within two years. The remaining two years of education were at Berea College, Berea, KY. In 2004, I graduated from Berea College (B.A. in Biology) with my first two scientific publications near completion and in press. I spent 2.5 years at Appalachian State University, where I conducted a floristic survey of Mount Jefferson State Natural Area, Ashe County, North Carolina. This work further elucidated plant species diversity in the Amphibolite Mountains Macrosite (a nationally significant ecological area) in northwest portion of our State. I continued working as a Research Botanist and Project Manager for a National Science Foundation funded Research Coordination Network (SERNEC).
I have given walks (including regular participation in the Great Smoky Mountain Wildflower Pilgrimage) and seminars over the past 10 years promoting species diversity in the southern Appalachian Mountains. In addition to rare plant monitoring, invasive species detection, and floristic studies (from small areas to entire counties in the eastern United States), I have been active in new species descriptions, taxonomic treatments in various works (Flora of North America, Flora of Virginia, and Flora of the Southern & Mid-Atlantic States) and discoveries.
My interest in plant taxonomy has led me into many projects, many of which are still ongoing. In short, I’m dedicated to plant biogeography, conservation, and systematics and I plan to continue pursuing these areas throughout my career. Personally, I am the father of two boys (ages 9 and 2). Through my own love of nature and academic pursuits, I try to instill in them an appreciation of life (particularly plants) and the natural world around them.
At the University of North Carolina Herbarium, I’m currently involved in several projects that are directly facilitated by the Mohr Internship. The most important of these is a morphology-based reassessment of the genus Marshallia which is in the Aster Family. Of particular interest in this genus is one species that honors Dr. Charles T. Mohr, Marshaliia mohrii Beadle & F.E. Boynt. This plant, colloquially known as “Mohr’s Barbara’s Buttons,” was described from a specimen collected by Dr. Mohr in Cullman County, Alabama. This species name was chosen not only to commemorate the collector, but also to acknowledge his work as of one of Alabama’s first botanists.
At present, Marshallia mohrii is considered Federally Threatened and at risk of extinction. It is only known from a handful of sites primarily in Alabama, and with a few records from adjacent counties in Georgia.
Marshallia mohrii has an extra set of chromosomes (i.e., is polyploid) and consequently somewhat variable. I am assessing this variability to see if any geographic patterns exist that may require a finer circumscription of this already rare taxon. Additionally, Dr. Alan Weakley and I have examined variation in the other species of the genus, with one recently described new species (Marshallia legrandii Weakley), two that appear to need elevation from varieties to species, and an additional new species restricted to the Interior Highlands of Arkansas and Missouri.
Ultimately, this merely scratches the surface of my interests and pursuits that will be facilitated by this internship. I must express my deepest gratitude to the donors. With my family obligations in mind, this internship will provide me the much needed freedom to pursue pressing taxonomic questions. Your endowment, coupled with the unrivaled breadth specimens available at UNC, is enabling me and other researchers to understand plant diversity of the southeastern United States.”
Marshallia mohrii grown
University of North Carolina
CB# 3280, Coker Hall
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3280
phone: (919) 962-6931
fax: (919) 962-6930
Last Updated: 4 June 2014