On Friday, June 28, 2019, the Research Museums Center staff celebrated the official retirement of Herbarium Research Scientist Christiane Anderson, while looking forward to her continuing work in botany and participation in the life of the Herbarium. Her general interest in plants, their diversity and the role they play in life are what led her to make this her life-long pursuit. She obtained a B.S. in botany from Michigan State University in 1966, and a M.S. (1968) and a Ph.D. (1971) in systematic botany from the University of Michigan.
Shortly after graduating from U-M, she and her husband, William R. Anderson, moved to New York for three years before U-M hired Bill in 1974. From 1974 - 1979, she worked part-time as a research assistant while raising two young children. In 1979 she was appointed as an assistant research scientist and in 1995, she was promoted to research scientist.
When most people think of Chris and her late husband Bill, they remember their research on Malpighiaceae. When Bill returned from the New York Botanical Garden, he brought a significant collection that was gifted to him. Over the years many researchers donated Malpighiaceae specimens to the Herbarium, because Bill was one of the few people doing research on this family. Today the collection stands at about 25,000 and is considered one of the most complete in the USA. When asked by EEB Chair Diarmaid Ó Foighil which was her favorite plant of the bunch, Chris quipped, “The one that is easiest to identify.” Touché!
Chris’ work on the collections was rivaled only by her editing prowess. Following the publication of the first volume of Systematic Botany Monographs, in 1982 the American Society of Plant Taxonomists sought her out to be the editor, and thus began a “fun” 30-year journey entailing 94 volumes and close to 15,000 pages of edited text. Her additional service to the ASPT included a term as treasurer (1979–1982) and as president (1998–1999).
Chris edited many publications for the Herbarium. She oversaw nine volumes of the “Contributions to the University of Michigan Herbarium” as well as three books by long-time curator Howard Crum: “The Structural Diversity of Bryophytes,” “Liverworts and Hornworts of Southern Michigan,” and “Mosses of the Great Lakes Forest.”
In addition, Chris played an important role in U-M’s library system. In 2002, the Herbarium, including the library, was relocated from Central Campus to Varsity Drive. In need of someone to be a reference librarian, check materials in and out, and even empty the dehumidifier in the Rare Book room, Chris was asked to step into the role, in coordination with librarians Dottie Riemenschneider and Charlene Stachnik.
As Chris looks back at her time working in the Herbarium, she has fond memories of long-time Herbarium curators, with whom she worked most closely, Rogers McVaugh, Ed Voss and Howard Crum, as well as artist Karen Douthit, who brought many of the species that she and Bill studied, vividly to life on paper.
As for her post-university plans, Chris will be spending time reading and gardening as well as hiking with her daughter, Rebecca. Yet, it will surprise no one to see her back working on the collections. During her retirement celebration when asked how she was able to work 40 years, her answer was simple, “I was paid to do something that would be my hobby.” We should all be so lucky.