Morgan Gostel


  • Time Zone

  • Organization
    The Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT)

  • Role
    Scientist Mentor: I will mentor teams of students online

  • Research Interests (300 words)
    I study plant biodiversity and evolution - the factors that have lead plants to become what I consider the coolest group of organisms on Earth. Plants are one of the most diverse groups of life on our planet. Although humans are dependent upon them for most of our basic needs, there is still so much that we do not understand about them. I'm interested in how different groups of plants are related to one another, understanding how many species there are in certain groups (like sunflowers), and discovering and describing new species from areas of the world that are not well known. I hope that my research helps others - scientists and non-scientists alike - understand the importance of plants, where there come from, how to conserve and protect them, and why and how they have developed the amazing forms and functions they have. I've studied many groups of plants in my career, but I'm currently focused on the sunflower family - which is one of the most diverse groups of plants on Earth, with between 25,000 and 30,000 species! I'm especially interested in plants from South America and Africa, where I have visited to collect and study many species.

  • Profile Question 1
    When and why did you decide to go into a science career?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 1 here (300 words):
    I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a scientist. Ever since childhood I have been curious about the world and the organisms that live in it. I started all kinds of collections - rocks, books about animals, seashells, and I would even collect cool leaves and preserve them between wax paper. I actually didn't think I wanted to study plants when I went to college, believe it or not! I grew up on a small farm and to me, plants meant doing chores - cutting the grass, raking, weeding the garden, etc. For some reason, this made a bad association for me about plants. When I took my first botany course, though I realized just how amazing plants are - how diverse and beautiful they are, how they can live in so many unique and sometimes strange environments, and how they interact with other organisms for their reproduction and survival. It was then that I realized I had found my dream! Plants, which are just as - or even more fascinating - don't run away from you or bite you when you try to collect them or study them and you can return to the same place sometimes and find the same plant that someone collected one hundred years ago!

  • Profile Question 2
    Do you have advice for students about preparing for a science career?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 2 here (300 words):
    My best recommendations are to never give up, work hard, and keep asking questions. There have been many points when I thought I might not be cut out to pursue a career in science - it's a lot of work, afterall. At the same time, almost all of the work I do is REALLY FUN, so in many ways it doesn't really feel like work. Finding a career that makes you feel this way is one of the most important things you can find in life and once you find it, you should do your best to try and find out how to be successful with it. When I say never stop asking questions, I don't just mean asking questions from teachers, but take opportunities to ask scientists questions - ask them how they got started and if there is any way you can be involved in a science project. The best way to learn is to do - so if you find an opportunity, like PlantingScience, to get involved in a project - take that chance and you might find it leads somewhere great!

  • Profile Question 3
    Can you share a funny/interesting lab or field story?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 3 here (300 words):
    One of my favorite stories to share is from my first time in Madagascar. I was 24 years old and couldn't really believe I was there - it's an amazing country, truly famous for it's biological diversity and during a trip into some remote mountains, we set up camp next to a beautiful waterfall. After hiking for several hours to reach our location, we had a nice dinner, fell asleep, and woke up to pouring rain. It rained all day, except for a small 10 minute break in the afternoon, just after lunch. For this very brief time as we continued to hike and collect plants, we heard some funny grunting noises and looking around us in the tree tops, saw a group of lemurs surrounding us, curious about who these funny people were visiting their forest. After an long, exhausting day, but filled with collections of many unique plant species, we returned to our camp to discover that the small stream that fed the waterfall near our tents had grown tremendously - it was practically a river! In order to leave two days later, the small village nearby had to build a makeshift raft for us to cross the water. I always laugh thinking of this story - it was the first time that it really sank in just how lucky I was to be able to work as a plant scientist and also a silly reminder that although it may be tempting to camp next to a beautiful waterfall, it's important to consider the consequences of being so close to a stream that could flood!

  • Capacity: How many teams at a time are you comfortable working with?

Recent Posts

gasrussellfall2017 project 2 Morgan Gostel
commented on a blog post

Hello team,

Thank you for sending your M&Ms - this looks great! I just have a few quick questions to clarify a couple of details (so I could replicate the experiment exactly). I always end up needing to update some details from my methods…

gasrussellfall2017 project 2 Morgan Gostel
commented on a blog post

Hello all,

What a great idea - I'm also excited to see how these substances affect the rate of photosynthesis! I just have a few questions:

A) What exactly will you use to augment the level of sugar and pH in your solutions? 


pmshsullockfall2017 project 1 Morgan Gostel

Hello C, P, K, M,

I just finished reviewing your Lap Report and congratulations! You did a great job - it's very well written and organized! The presentation of your data and results in table format is very helpful and I think you clearly…


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