Pamela S. Soltis
Distinguished Professor and Curator; Director, Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida; Biodiversity Institute, University of Florida
The Great Tree of Life: Biodiversity, Genomes, and Societal Challenges
The Tree of Life has emerged as a grand symbol and organizing principle for biodiversity, deftly weaving scientific and cultural meaning. With 2 million species described, and many millions yet undiscovered, the Tree of Life is immense. Assembling the evolutionary tree for all life was long considered impossible, but the perfect storm of algorithm development, computer power, innovations in DNA sequencing technology, and global teamwork has enabled construction of the first family tree of all living species on Earth. With this framework, the Earth BioGenome Project aims to sequence the genome of every species on Earth. The combined power of genomics and the Tree of Life holds promise for addressing societal grand challenges ranging from food security to climate change.
Pamela Soltis is a Distinguished Professor and Curator in the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida and is Director of the University of Florida Biodiversity Institute. Her research focuses on patterns and processes of plant evolution, spanning genome to landscape scales, with applications for biodiversity assessment and conservation. She also serves as Director of Research for iDigBio, the NSF-sponsored National Coordinating Center for Biodiversity Collections. Dr. Soltis received her B.A. in Biology from Central College in Pella, Iowa, and her Ph.D. from the University of Kansas. She has served as President of the Botanical Society of America, the Society of Systematic Biologists, the American Society of Plant Taxonomists, and the International Society for Phylogenetic Nomenclature. In these roles, she has emphasized scientific literacy, diversity, and opportunities for students and early-career scientists. As a member of the Board of Directors for the American Institute of Biological Sciences, she focuses on communicating science to the public and promoting diversity in the scientific workforce. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Awards include the Dahlgren Prize in Botany, the Asa Gray Award, the Stebbins Medal, the Botanical Society of America’s Merit Award, and the Darwin-Wallace Medal, all jointly with husband and collaborator Douglas Soltis, as well as the Southeastern University Research Association Distinguished Scientist Award, University of Florida Teacher/Scholar of the Year (2021-22), and teaching and mentoring awards from Washington State University and the University of Florida.