Dr. Erica Wheeler
Dr. Erica Wheeler

Dr. Erica WheelerFormer Head of Collections Care and Conservation

Why did you want to become a botanist?
For as long as I can remember, I have loved the world of plants.  I have very fond memories of days spent picking Salmon Berries in the back yard, weaving placemats from cherry tree bark and imagining a tiny world of fairies in the moss along the creek.  When I grew up, my affection for plants became a fascination with their beauty and diversity and with their importance in our lives.  Plants make the oxygen we breathe!  When I learned that trained botanists spend their days studying plants, I decided that’s what I wanted to be!

How did you become a botanist?
I studied biology at university and was especially interested in plant taxonomy and biodiversity classes, which taught me about the differences between major groups of plants such as mosses, ferns, conifers and flowering plants.  I wasn’t always the best student in the class, but I worked very hard to learn and was soon doing my own research projects as a graduate student in plant taxonomy.  I now have a doctorate degree (PhD) in this field and this helped me get a job as a botanist at the Royal BC Museum.

What do you do as a botany collections manager?
My job is to take care of the botany collection at the Royal BC Museum, which includes over 215,000 specimens of pressed, dried plants. I make sure that the collection is safe from damaging things such as water, light and insects.  I help with the work of adding new specimens to the collection every year and love going to the field to collect.  A big part of my job these days is making sure that the information about our botany specimens is recorded in a computer database so people from all around the world can easily learn about our botany collection.  I also help other botanists with their research by sending specimens to them by mail for their studies.