Paul Berry

Congratulations to newly minted Professors Emeritus Paul E. Berry, Robyn Burnham and Paul Dunlap who retired from active faculty status May 31, 2018.

Dr. Berry is now professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology and curator emeritus of the University of Michigan Herbarium.

Berry received his Bachelor of Science degree from Haverford College in 1975, and his Master of Arts and doctoral degrees from Washington University, St. Louis in 1979 and 1980,  respectively. From 1980-88, he was at Universidad Simón Bolívar, Caracas, Venezuela, rising to associate professor and serving as department chair from 1984 to 1986. From 1989 to 1997 he was curator at the Missouri Botanical Garden and adjunct associate professor at Washington University from 1995-98 and the University of Missouri-St. Louis from 1989-97. From 1998-2005 he served at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as associate professor then professor and herbarium director. He joined the University of Michigan in 2006 as professor. He also served as director of the University Herbarium until 2015, and as interim director of the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum in 2007-08.

Berry is recognized internationally as a leader in the study of plant systematics and evolution. He has worked worldwide on the evolution and diversification of some of the most difficult groups of plants, with a special interest in the systematics and biogeography of large genera, such as Euphorbia (including Poinsettia, Crown of Thorns and many succulents) and Croton.

He has also worked extensively on South American plants, and was an editor and prime  mover for the multivolume “Flora of the Venezuelan Guayana,” an in-depth treatment of one of the most biodiverse areas of the world. His other taxonomic interests include Fuchsia (Onagraceae) and the monocot family Rapateaceae.

As director of the U-M Herbarium, Berry worked especially to expand and modernize the gathering of digital data and its distribution to the research community and the public, and was a strong supporter of the Michigan Flora project. He was also active in the American Society of Plant Taxonomists, serving as president from 2007-08, as well as serving on many editorial and grant review boards.

A recent research project stems from his interest in Euphorbiaceae, giant genera, and international collaborations. He was the principal investigator on a National Science Foundation award in the Planetary Biodiversity Inventories program (PBI). The project, called "EuphORBia: a global inventory of the spurges," aimed to produce a worldwide virtual monograph of the genus, using modern bioinformatic tools, traditional field work and taxonomy, molecular phylogenetics, and floral developmental studies. Euphorbia contains over 2,000 species and is distributed worldwide, but is most prominent in Africa, where many cactus-like succulents have evolved. This was a highly collaborative project, with training of students, postdocs, and participation of colleagues on all the vegetated continents.

Berry’s current plans are to enjoy retirement, build a boat, learn to scull, and clean up the mess at home; complete ongoing projects in the Euphorbiaceae; and continue to curate part of the collections in the U-M Herbarium.

Robyn Burnham in Yasuni National Park, Ecuador.

Dr. Burnham is now associate professor emerita of ecology and evolutionary biology, curator emerita of the University Herbarium and director of the E. S. George Reserve at the University of Michigan.

Burnham received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1980 and her Master of Science and doctoral degrees from the University of Washington in 1983 and 1987, respectively. She was a Smithsonian Postdoctoral Fellow from 1988-1989, and a curator of botany and paleobotany at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History from 1990-1991. She joined the University of Michigan in 1991, and was promoted to associate professor in 1997. She has served as associate curator of paleontology, associate professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences and associate curator of vascular plants (Herbarium). She is also a research associate at the Smithsonian Institution, Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, and The Field Museum of Chicago.

Burnham is internationally recognized as an authority on the ecology and systematics of lianas (vines), and conducts field work in both tropical and temperate forests. She co-edited the book “The Ecology of Lianas.” She is recognized as a prominent researcher in the field of plant taphonomy (the burial of plants in the fossil record) and in the paleoecological characteristics of past forest systems.

She is a dedicated teacher, receiving the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts award for excellence in teaching in 2006, and has designed courses in plant diversity and neotropical plants. She is especially devoted to students, for many years shepherding an informal group that kept plant-oriented undergraduates abreast of jobs, internships, grants and other opportunities.

Burnham is currently involved in research on woody climbing plants (lianas) of the Amazon Basin, particularly in northcentral Brazil. Her previous work was focused on lowland forest liana communities in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, especially at the base of the Andes Mountains. Her continuing interests in the community structure and species composition of lianas of Amazonian forests aims to demonstrate the impact of forest fragmentation on the long-term conservation of forests. The broad interests of her lab focus on the impacts of human intervention in Amazonian forests from oil exploration, agriculture, wood extraction and gold mining. Burnham is an active researcher at the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project (PDBFF) north of Manaus, Brazil. Research questions there focus on the biodiversity and population structure of over 400 species of lianas in continuous forest where she has measured all liana stems over one centimeter in diameter on the ForestGEO plot. In addition, she is completing a census of 70 hectares of fragmented forest in one, 10 and 100 hectare reserves for comparison with the continuous forest. 

In Michigan, Burnham has established a 23-hectare liana plot in the "Michigan Big Woods" ForestGEO network at the E. S. George Reserve. It is one of the few temperate plots of its size with all climber stems measured, tagged and mapped by species to exact locations. The goal of this research is to determine the impact of human-created roads versus natural forest openings on the rate of forest invasion by aggressive invasive vines such as bittersweet and multiflora rose.

In retirement, Burnham will continue her collaborations and student mentoring in Brazil, with research in two major forested sites. She intends to increase her activities in sustainable local farming (both dairy and edible/medicinal plants) and pursue her personal interests in yoga and spirituality.

Paul Dunlap diving in Okinawa. Image: Jan Weirauch.

Dr. Dunlap is now professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology.

Dunlap grew up on the West Coast, in California and Oregon. After graduation from high school in 1967, he was inducted into the U.S. Army, received language and radio training, and then served as an intelligence specialist with foreign duty in Vietnam and Japan. After discharge from military service in 1971, he attended Oregon State University, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology in 1975 under the guidance of Richard Morita; he then returned to Japan and taught English at private schools in Tokyo for two-and-a-half years. In 1978, he began graduate study at the University of California, Los Angeles on bacterial symbiosis with James Morin and Kenneth Nealson (then of Scripps Institution of Oceanography), earning a doctorate in biology in 1984, after which he did postdoctoral research in microbiology with E. Peter Greenberg at Cornell University until 1987. He then took faculty positions at New Mexico State University, from 1987 to 1989, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, from 1989 to 1996, and the University of Maryland Center of Marine Biotechnology, from 1996 to 2000.

Dunlap arrived at the University of Michigan in January 2001. At U-M, he taught Introductory Microbiology BIO 207 each year and Microbial Diversity EEB 470 in alternate years. He served on many departmental and institutional committees, including graduate admissions committees, search committees, the Promotions and Merit Committee, the Executive Committee, the University Committee on the Use and Care of Animals, and the Military Officer Education Programs Committee. He also carried out extensive service outside U-M, including service on many National Science Foundation proposal review panels.

Dunlap’s primary areas of research interest at U-M were phylogenetics and genomics of light-emitting bacteria and bioluminescent symbiosis between luminous bacteria and marine fishes. His group’s research demonstrated that, in contrast to conventional microbiological wisdom at the time, bacteria exist as and can be resolved as sharply delimited phylogenetic species, when sufficient numbers of strains, genes, and habitats are sampled and analyzed, and that, at least for certain bacterial lineages, the incidence of horizontal gene transfer is low and does not lead to speciation. His group’s research in symbiosis examined shallow, coastal-dwelling fishes and deep-sea fishes in Japan, Okinawa and the Philippines, defining the species-level patterns of host fish and bacterial symbiont affiliation, the extent of host-symbiont coevolution, the host developmental stages at which specific bacteria are acquired from the environment to initiate symbiosis, and the massive genome reduction in obligately symbiotic bacteria. A major focus of his group’s research was the bioluminescent symbiosis of a coral reef fish in Okinawa, and the group’s work revealed several novel aspects of the host’s functional morphology, developmental biology, use of bacterial luminescence, and behavioral ecology while also defining the host’s reproductive biology and the developmental timing and ontogenetic consequences for the host fish of initiation of the symbiosis. Among students and postdocs who studied with Dunlap at U-M are Megan Pearce, now at Northwestern University, Kimberley Davis, now at Johns Hopkins University, Tory Hendry, now at Cornell University, and Alison Gould, now at the California Academy of Sciences.

Following his retirement from U-M, Paul plans to continue research on symbiosis with colleagues in Okinawa and to pursue genealogical research on his ancestors, some of whom immigrated to the U.S. in the 1700s. He is also writing a semi-autobiographical novel based on his experiences during the second Indochina War in the 1960s.

Includes excerpts from the University of Michigan Regents' retirement memoirs.

Compiled by Gail Kuhnlein