Ken Cameron

Credentials: Botany Department

Position title: Systematics & evolution of Orchidaceae with a focus on interactions with mycorrhizal fungi


I serve as Director of the Wisconsin State Herbarium (WIS), a collection of >1.4 million specimens, which is where much of my research is based. However, my primary laboratory research interests focus on the systematics, evolution, structure, and conservation of orchids (Orchidaceae) based on integrated studies carried out in the field, herbarium, library, and laboratory. Collaborating with others, I continue to use genomic data to reconstruct the phylogenetic history of orchids with the ultimate goal of producing a robust and stable system of classification for this diverse and charismatic family. My work has contributed extensively to our fundamental knowledge of orchid biology, but I consider myself a specialist on the orchid subfamily Vanilloideae. This ancient clade includes the only orchid of agricultural value, Vanilla, and is pivotal to the study of orchid evolution; several vanilloid orchids are partially or fully mycoheterotrophic and can no longer photosynthesize on their own.

In addition to orchids, I have published studies on the systematics, biogeography, character evolution, and classification of other equally fascinating plant groups such as Smilacaceae, Malpighiaceae, Cactaceae, Droseraceae, and Lentibulariaceae. My fieldwork has taken me from Mexico to Ecuador, from Tasmania to Borneo, and from China to New Caledonia, but some of the most memorable plant collecting trips have taken place right here in the United States. I am passionate about all aspects of plant biology, and eager to share that passion with fellow scientists, students, and the public alike.

I usually teach General Botany (Botany 130) during the Fall semester of odd-numbered years, and Plant Morphology & Evolution (Botany 305) during the Spring semester of odd-numbered years. I also co-teach the graduate level Plant Systematics & Evolution Seminar (Botany 940) and supervise hard working undergraduate research scholars in my lab as Directed Study (Botany 699) students each semester.