STANWYN GERALD SHETLER

Photo of Stan Shetler

Stan was born on October 11, 1933, in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He grew up and attended schools nearby. His father was a minister and a school teacher, who founded and directed a K-12 parochial school. His interest in natural history began with bird watching in the sixth grade and was stimulated by his science teacher and fostered by his mother. Birding has been a lifelong avocation.

Stan came to the Department of Botany, National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution in 1962 directly from graduate studies at the University of Michigan, where he subsequently earned a PhD degree in systematic botany after completing his dissertation. He spent his whole professional career at the Smithsonian before retiring at the end of 1995. Earlier he earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in 1955 and 1958 from Cornell University after first attending Eastern Mennonite College (now University), Harrisonburg, Virginia. Beginning as an assistant curator, he rose to the rank of curator, with his curatorial area of responsibility being temperate and arctic North America, including, notably, the local flora of the Washington, D.C., region. From 1984 to 1994, he served as associate director and then deputy director of the National Museum of Natural History.

Stan’s botanical interests have been wide-ranging, but he is a recognized expert on the bellflowers (genus Campanula) and the flora of the Arctic. His publications number well over 100 scientific, technical, and popular titles, including three books and the recent Annotated Checklist of the Vascular Plants of the Washington-Baltimore Area (2 volumes, 2002, 2002). The books are on Russian botanical history (1968), a monograph on the evolution of the New World harebells (Campanula rotundifolia complex) (1982), and the popular Portraits of Nature: Paintings by Robert Bateman (1986), which accompanied a Smithsonian exhibition by the same title organized by him in 1987. The exhibition explored the diversity of nature through the Canadian artist’s work. He also edited the English translations of the last eight volumes of the 30-volume Flora of the USSR plus the general index volume. He is first author of the Checklist of the Vascular Plants of Plummers Island, Maryland, which was published in 2006.

From the mid-60s to the mid-70s, Stan was executive secretary and then program director of the international Flora North America Program, which pioneered in the use of computers for taxonomic information and set the stage for the subsequent effort to prepare a modern treatise of North American plants. His research travels have taken him across North America and to parts of South and Central America, Europe, Asia (Caucasus, Siberia, Tuva), and Australia.

Stan has been a frequent lecturer, teacher, and consultant through the years. He has been active in various conservation and environmental causes. He has served on the board of the Piedmont Environmental Council (1985-88) and several terms (latest, 2006) on the board of directors of the Audubon Naturalist Society, including three years (1974-77) as president. He is a charter member (1982) of the Virginia Native Plant Society and has been serving on the state board of directors as Botany Chair (1996-2003) and director-at-large (2004-2006). He has taught plant identification courses for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Graduate School off and on since 1963.

Honors include election as fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1994) for “contributions to the formation of electronic data banks and the computer registry of botanical specimens,” and fellow of the Washington Academy of Sciences (2002). Upon retirement he was appointed botanist emeritus by the National Museum of Natural History. In 1995, he received the Paul Bartsch Medal, which is the Audubon Naturalist Society’s top award for contributions to natural history and conservation. In 1988, he was invited by the Chautauqua Institution to present the featured lecture at the celebration of the late Roger Tory Peterson’s 80th birthday. He received the Piedmont Environmental Council’s Individual Award for Contributions to Environmental Improvement in 1981 for his role in drafting a Vegetation Preservation Policy for Loudoun County, Virginia.

Stan was elected to membership in the Washington Biologists’ Field Club in 1970 and served as vice president from 1981 to 1984 and as president from 1984 to 1987. He lives in Sterling, Virginia, with his wife, Elaine. They have a son, Stephen, and a daughter, Lara, and one granddaughter.

Photo of Stan Shetler