I come to this position having spent 40 years on the Berkeley faculty, first as a member of the Botany Department and later in its successor, the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology. My research interests were focused on the controls for growth and development in plants, with an emphasis on root development. Along the way I became interested in how roots perceive and respond to gravity. I also maintained a deep commitment to teaching and have served as a long-time instructor for Introductory Biology, which gave me the opportunity to introduce several generations of Berkeley undergraduates to plants, and as importantly, impressed on me the need for educating the public about future challenges to life on Earth. As with many Berkeley faculty, I have participated in administrative duties and have served for about 10 years in the College of Natural Resources as an Associate Dean, in which role I facilitated review and advancement of the faculty.

In my new position as Garden Director I want to spend my first few months learning the lay of the land, finding my place and footing, and understanding where my talents and skills can best be applied. That said, I come to the Garden with some objectives already in mind. Underlying what I would like to accomplish is my view that we humans are partners with the plants; that we are intimately linked to and depend on the plant world. As well, especially in this time of climate change and habitat destruction, it is certain that the future of the plant world is influenced by and depends on human activities, and on our expanding our knowledge, understanding and indeed, appreciation of this remarkable group of organisms. From protecting rare and endangered species, to having a prominent role in habitat restoration, the Garden, with its unparalleled collection, serves as a major resource in these efforts. Additionally, it is important to appreciate that the Garden, as a whole, is our “ace” card in enlisting public support. It is the means by which we draw the public into plant world. Thus, the major efforts put in to developing and maintaining the collection extend beyond their purely scientific utility.

The broad themes I want to emphasize, expand and develop include:
-public education
-curation of the collection
-plant conservation/habitat restoration

I have used this first communication with you to outline some thoughts about where I would like to put some of my future efforts. But I am sure that as I become more familiar with the Garden, that other priorities will appear. In this regard, on the horizon are issues relating to the physical plant, including outdated greenhouses and needed repairs to the many Garden pathways. I look forward to positioning this Garden as a major player and resource, as we move into a time of great environmental challenges.

Lew Feldman

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