As a curator in the Botany Department at the California Academy of Sciences, Dr. Sarah Jacobs is part of a core team of scientists that collectively curates the Academy’s collection of over 2.3 million herbarium specimens. As the Howell Chair of Western North American Botany, she is particularly focused on guiding and shaping the collection of Western North American plants, ensuring their preservation, growth, and relevance into the future.
Jacobs additionally runs a research lab that studies plant systematics and speciation. Her particular focus is the plant genus Castilleja, more commonly known as “the paintbrushes”, and arguably one of the most iconic western wildflowers (though she admits to likely bias). Her work combines large morphological, molecular, and ecological datasets to examine and characterize the speciation process in this charismatic and taxonomically challenging group.
Jacobs is passionate about science education, with a special interest in fighting “plant blindness” and fostering an understanding that Science is for everyone. As a scientist at the Academy she actively participates in several of the Academy’s programs that provide field and museum-based research experience to high school and undergraduate students, as well as events that engage with the public at all ages.
Jacobs received her Bachelor of Science at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, a Master of Science at Washington State University, and her doctorate at the University of Idaho.