Associate Curator and McAllister Chair of Botany
In the fall of 2022, the Academy lost one of its most treasured science heroes, Dr. Nathalie Nagalingum, McAllister Chair and Associate Curator of Botany. We celebrate and remember Nathalie's brilliance, wit, warmth, and contributions to science, and extend our sincerest condolences to her family, friends, and fans around the world. Watch our video tribute to Nathalie here.
Nathalie Nagalingum studied the evolution and diversification of plants, particularly ferns and cycads, and also oversaw the Academy’s botany collection. Nagalingum was one of just a handful of researchers worldwide who studied cycads, a palm-like plant that comprises the most endangered group of organisms on Earth. In addition to her research, Nagalingum was passionate about museum science and the opportunity to use her research findings to inform broader conservation projects.
Watch: Cycads: An Ancient Plant
As a world-traveling botanist, Nagalingum brought exciting new research to the Academy’s oldest collection and joined the ranks of veteran botany curators from the department’s nearly 160-year history. Nagalingum also joined a strong tradition of female botanists at the Academy. She carried on the legacy of the famed Alice Eastwood, an early 1900s botany curator who helped pioneer women in science.
Watch: The Price of Plant Poaching
Nagalingum has fostered her passion for plants since childhood despite a rather urban upbringing in Melbourne, Australia. As a teenager, she cultivated her own vegetable garden because she wanted to be more sustainable. While at the University of Melbourne, Nagalingum naturally gravitated toward degrees in science, eventually earning a PhD in paleobotany.
Watch: Saving Cycads with Science
“I found that I love thinking about how impermanent the world is,” said Nagalingum. “What did the landscape look like before flowers or big oaks existed? When you frame history in terms of vast geologic time, you realize that modern landscapes as we know them can still change so dramatically.”
Rare species are of utmost conservation concern because they have very few individuals left in the wild and a