Walter Judd, University of Florida distinguished professor of biology and Florida Museum of Natural History affiliate curator of botany, recently received the Botanical Society of America’s 2012 Merit Award, the society’s highest honor.
The award recognizes individuals who demonstrate excellence in research, education and public policy, and also provide exceptional service to the botanical community.
Judd, known for his contributions to plant systematics, taxonomy and phylogenetics, accepted the award in July during the society’s annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio. He has taught at UF since 1978 and led a class in tropical botany for the past 30 years at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and the National Tropical Botanical Garden, in Miami. His research focuses on the Melastomataceae and Ericaceae families, which include meadow-beauty, blueberry, azalea and rhododendron, and the distribution and evolutionary relationships of the plant species over the southeastern United States and the West Indies.
Equally passionate about teaching and research, Judd said the two reinforce one another.
“In responding to student questions, issues come up and I think, ‘Hmmm, that needs to be researched,’ ” Judd said.
Judd said teaching in Florida, which has temperate and tropical plant species, led to his interest and research of the evolutionary relationships of flowering plants. His integration of teaching and research also led to one of his greatest achievements as lead author of the popular undergraduate textbook, “Plant Systematics: A Phylogenetic Approach.”
“The textbook has been adopted at over 100 universities, and the emphasis I want to see in teaching has been magnified by the success of my book,” said Judd, whose impact on the systematics community now reaches beyond the walls of his classroom into the courses of botany students worldwide.
Learn more about the Herbarium at the Florida Museum.