Brian Atkinson, KU paleobotanist, wins national Emerging Leader Award

The Botanical Society of America (BSA) announced that Brian Atkinson, University of Kansas assistant professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, is the recipient of its 2021 Emerging Leader Award. The special award is given in recognition of “creative and influential scholarship as well as impact” in an area of botany which reflects the breadth of the national organization. Atkinson will be recognized at the annual BSA meeting and has been invited to present a special lecture at the event. 

Atkinson, who is also curator of the Paleobotany Division at the KU Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum, uses the fossil record to shed light on the early evolution of several plant lineages, including flowering plants. In 2020, he earned a three-year $850,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to lead an international team to Antarctica. The team plans to collect and analyze flowering plant fossils, to better understand past Antarctic diversity while exploring evolutionary connections to other continents. The work, which is to begin in 2022, will also provide data which may help forecast how current plant life will react to current and future climate changes.