Samuel Schmerler

Samuel Schmerler

Samuel Schmerler

Former Curatorial Fellow


BA Biology and American Studies, Brown University (2011)

As the 2011 curatorial fellow I am learning about living collections management from the curatorial staff. I work with Kyle Port on plant labeling, mapping, and assessment, and with Kathryn Richardson on documentation, herbarium vouchering, and research support.

I planted my research roots at the Arboretum as an undergraduate at Brown, where I worked with Erika Edwards and Michael Donoghue on leaf evolution in the genus Viburnum. While these shrubs (and small trees) are all pretty closely related and live in apparently similar habitats, different species diverge wildly in leaf form and function. My bachelor’s honors thesis focused on Viburnum leaf morphometry, and involved working both with fresh leaves from the Arboretum’s living collection and preserved specimens from the herbarium. I found that the amazing diversity of leaf form in Viburnum derives from evolution in size and along only two shape axes, which only became clear after intensive sampling (>3000 leaves) from Harvard’s collections. To compare leaf function across Viburnum, we also utilized the Arboretum’s plants in a three-year (2009-11) common garden study. We measured leaf development and reproductive phenology, water handling, photosynthetic performance, nutrient biochemistry, and a whole host of anatomical characters for ~100 plants in three dozen taxa.

I’m excited to turn a new leaf and branch out beyond Viburnum. I’m also looking forward to incorporating my fascination with museology (particularly how we construct and display the natural world) into my work with living collections.


  • Schmerler, S. 2012. Plainly Unique: Schisandra chinensis. Arnoldia 69(3): 36. [pdf]