Mark A. Schlessman Professor of Biology
I am an evolutionary biologist who loves plants. I study plant sex, specifically the ways that flowering plants distribute stamens and pistils among their flowers in order to specialize more on either the male or the female component of reproductive success. I teach introductory biology, plant diversity & evolution, field botany, evolutionary genetics, and ecology & evolution of sexual reproduction. I’m also working on a flora of the Vassar College Ecological Preserve, digitizing the Vassar College Herbarium, management of the Vassar College Arboretum, and Vassar’s class tree program.
- BA, Colorado College; MS, PhD, University of Washington
- At Vassar since 1980
Research and Academic Interests
- BIOL 393. Special Topics in Biology
- Schlessman, M.A,, *L.B. Vary, J. Munzinger, & P.P. Lowry. 2014. Incidence, Correlates, and Origins of Dioecy in the Island Flora of New Caledonia. International Journal of Plant Sciences. 175:271-286.
- Pei, N., Z. Luo, M.A. Schlessman, & D. Zhang. 2011. Synchronized protandry and hermaphroditism in a tropical secondary forest tree, Schefflera hepataphylla (Araliaceae). Plant Systematics and Evolution. 296:29-39.
- Schlessman, M.A. 2010. Major events in the evolution of sexual systems in Apiales: ancestral andromonoecy abandoned. Plant Diversity and Evolution 128:233-245.
- Schlessman, MA & F.R. Barrie. 2004. Protogyny in Apiaceae, subfamily Apioideae: systematic and geographic distributions, associated traits, and evolutionary hypotheses. South African Journal of Botany 70(3).
- Schlessman, M.A., *N. Underwood, *T. Watkins, *L. M. Graceffa, & *D. Cordray. 2004. Functions of staminate flowers in andromonoecious Pseudocymopterus montanus (Apiaceae, Apioideae). Plant Species Biology 19:1-12.
- Schlessman, M.A., & *L.M. Graceffa. 2002. Protogyny, pollination and sex expression of andromonoecious Pseudocymopterus montanus (Apiaceae). International Journal of Plant Sciences 163(3):409-417.
- Schlessman, M.A., G. Plunkett, P. P. Lowry, & D.G. Lloyd. 2001. Sexual systems of New Caledonian Araliaceae: A preliminary phylogenetic reappraisal. Edinburgh Journal of Botany 58:221-228.
* student author
In the Media
URSI and Ford Scholars Learn Research Can Be Frustrating—and Fun
Learning that setbacks are an integral part of research, about 60 Vassar students took part in projects this summer on the auspices of the Undergraduate Research Summer Institute (URSI) and Ford Scholars programs.
From Fjord to Forest
More than 2,800 miles away from the college, environmental studies students gained an understanding of Icelandic ecology that no textbook could have bestowed.
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- PhD, Botany, University of Washington
- MS, Botany, University of Washington
- BA, Biology, Colorado College
I am an evolutionary biologist who loves plants. I am especially interested in the ways that angiosperms distribute stamens and pistils among their flowers in order to specialize more on either the male or the female component of reproductive success. Specifically, I focus on andromonoecious plants, those that produce both bisexual and male flowers. My favorite plants are those in the parsley family (Apiaceae), ginseng family (Araliaceae), and spider flower family (Cleomaceae). I’ve studied these plants (and some others) in the Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mountain, and Northeastern US, New Zealand, and New Caledonia. I’m also working on a flora of the Vassar College Ecological Preserve and on digitizing the Vassar College Herbarium.
In the biology department, I teach introductory biology, Plant Diversity and Evolution (BIOL 208), Evolutionary Genetics (BIOL 248), Plants and Plant Communities of the Hudson Valley (BIOL 276), and Ecology and Evolution of Sexual Reproduction (BIOL 355). In environmental studies, I’ve taught Environmentalisms in Perspective (ENST 125), Native Americans and the Environment, and Environmental Science in the Field (ENST 254), in the American southwest and in Iceland. Ethnobotany is one of my academic “hobbies” so I’m happy to advise students who are interested in that field.
I’m working on development of the Vassar College Arboretum and Vassar’s class tree program. I’m also involved in the Poughkeepsie Farm Project, a CSA farm located on campus (farmproject.org).