Rob was born in Evanston, Illinois, on December 9, 1952. His family moved to Eugene, Oregon, in 1961, where he learned to enjoy outdoor pursuits, including, fishing, hiking, camping, skiing, and studying nature. His college degrees include a BS degree at Oregon State in 1978, and MS and PhD degrees at New Mexico State Universities in 1980 and 1986. He conducted postdoctoral research at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and Cornell, all focused on ecology and systematics. He currently is a research associate in the department of botany, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. Rob’s research interests focus on the taxonomy, character evolution, and breeding systems of Poaceae (Gramineae; grasses; about 11,000 species), especially of the cool season grasses (Pooideae; about 3,500 species) and the genus Poa (bluegrasses; over 500 species). He employs molecular and traditional characters at all levels within the family, and deals extensively with nomenclature and classification in the family.
Among his major contributions to the field continues to be the data basing of grass nomenclature and taxonomy in TROPICOS (Missouri Botanical Garden’s on-line taxonomic database (which now has almost 80,000 names of grass taxa, original publications, types, and secondary literature citations, and links to specimens, maps, and images, synonymy, and other databases); as chief editor of all subfamilies, revising Pooideae genera, and updating the Catalogue of New World Grasses (published in four volumes in the Contribution U.S. National Herbarium, 2000 to 2004); and contributions to higher classification of the grasses in the Botanical Review (1998), monocot symposia (1998, 2002), and the Grass Phylogeny Working Group (2000, 2001), and the genus Poa.
Rob has published over 50 scientific papers. His research and collection trips have taken him to 17 countries, with extended collecting trips in the western hemisphere from the high Canadian arctic to Tierra del Fuego, across the Mediterranean from Spain to eastern Turkey, three trips around China, and to Australia. He recently published a revision of the Poa for the Flora of China and the Flora of North America.
His positions in scientific organizations include president (2001-02) and vice president (2000-01) of the Botanical Society of Washington, and project editor for Poaceae in Flora of North America (1997-99).
Rob is married to Nancy Lemley Soreng and has two daughters; Hannah and Mattea. His personal interests include whitewater rafting, canoeing, cross-country skiing, and nature photography.
Rob was elected to membership in the Washington Biologists’ Field Club in 2004.