Plant Systematics, Conservation Biology, and Ethnobotany

Research Experiences for Undergraduates

June 3 – August 9, 2024

Application period now closed

NSF Logo REU Site: Botany and Conservation Biology Research at the Missouri Botanical Garden. (Supported by NSF award DBI-2243824)


Missouri Botanical Garden is pleased to announce the opening of the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program that will provide research opportunities for 10 students, for 10 weeks during the summer of 2024. Students will work on independent mentored projects in plant systematics, conservation biology, and ethnobotany. Participants will have access to the Garden’s herbarium of more than 7 million specimens, an excellent botanical library, rich garden collections, a laboratory facilities for plant anatomy, microscopy, digital imaging, SEM, and DNA analysis, and the Shaw Nature Reserve – a 2,400 acre ecological preserve featuring prairie, forest, glades, wetlands, and 14 miles of hiking trails.


Students must be returning to an undergraduate degree program in the fall following the REU program. If you will be graduating in May or June in the year of the program, you are not eligible. To be eligible you must also be a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident.


REU interns receive food and lodging assistance, support for research, and a weekly $600 stipend.

Mentors and Projects

Students will work closely with a Ph.D. mentor from the Missouri Botanical Garden on an independent research project. Projects available in 2024 involve subjects including taxonomy (especially of plants from biodiverse tropical regions), restoration ecology, conservation biology, plant morphology, and emerging crops. Students will be trained in all aspects of research, including project design, background research using library and electronic resources, methods, data collection and analysis, and presentation of results in a poster, public research symposium, and possibly a published paper. Learn more

Safety and health guidelines

Students will be expected to comply with all lab, field, research and workspace safety guidelines as well as with all public health measures. As is always the case, the REU program cannot provide Garden visitors with health insurance, so students should be prepared to be responsible for seeking health care should they become ill during the program.

Additional Training

Students will also participate in professional enrichment sessions dedicated to a variety of topics, including improving writing skills, ethics in research, intellectual property rights, getting into graduate school, taking the GRE exam, graduate school options, conservation, and sustainable living. Students will participate in weekly Lunch and Learn sessions in which these subjects will be discussed. Students will also participate in field trips to local natural areas and cultural attractions. The REU program will be integrated with other ongoing MBG programs involving herbarium and garden support staff, high school students, undergraduates, graduate students, professional botanists, educators, and visitors.


To apply, please go to the ETAP portal and submit all application materials, including:  a cover letter, application form, letter of recommendation, and transcripts.

Application Deadline - February 28, 2024

Application form


Frequently Asked Questions

1. How are final selections made and when will we be notified?

Selection is made on the basis of a combination of qualifications. We seek participants who have a sincere interest in the featured programs (botany, systematics, conservation, ethnobotany). We seek well-qualified students who need minimal training. We seek students who may be qualified but come from less than optimal schools or backgrounds. High academic achievement is not the only criterion. Demonstrated effort in learning about botany is viewed favorably, especially coursework in plant taxonomy and ecology. Mentors are notified of the applicants that have indicated interest in their projects and given a chance to participate in the selection process. All applicants (whether accepted or not) will be notified via e-mail as soon as possible (probably by late-March).

If you get an offer for another situation and you need to know your current status sooner, contact the REU Coordinator at for assistance.

2. Should I send my resume?

No. Only the requested materials will be considered by the review panel.

3. Do I need to send transcripts from all the colleges I have attended?

Yes, unless your current college summarizes your prior work on its transcript.

4. Do I need an official transcript, or will an unofficial one do?

Either is fine as long as it is complete and in a legible format. If you are scanning documents be sure to save them in a compact file format such as pdf or jpeg (do not email huge tif files, and check to be sure that standard software will open the files readably).

5. When is your due date? Do you take late applications?

Review of applications will begin on February 28. All complete applications that have been received at MBG by February 28 will receive full consideration. If ten candidates are not recruited from the initial pool, late applications may be considered.

6. What if I am interested in just one project?

You can list just one project if you want to; however, listing three choices improves your chances of being chosen. Experience shows that many students are attracted to just a few projects, but the reality is that most projects can have only one student.

7. Why can’t seniors apply?

The rule to not allow graduating seniors to apply is the National Science Foundation's rule. A primary objective of the NSF-REU program is to encourage undergraduates to enter or stay in science, and to pursue science as a career. By the time a student is in the last semester of a program, their major and post-graduation plans are likely settled.

8. Do students work on one of the projects listed on your website or do they design their own project and work with a faculty mentor?

Students typically work on an aspect of their mentor's project, and they conduct a special research project with them. A different independent project might be considered after making arrangements with a mentor and the REU coordinator. We try to be flexible.

9. Are there multiple students working with one mentor?

Usually, there is only one student per mentor; however, additional students may be considered if the mentor is willing to accommodate more.

10. My school is on the quarter system and ends after your start date. Can I still apply if I have to arrive late?

We could most likely accept students starting a day or two late, but not more than that. The first week is mostly orientation. Our advice is usually to go ahead and apply. If you are accepted you can try to get final exam dates changed or we might make other arrangements.

11. What are your guidelines for the reference letters?

Our guidelines are as follows:

a) We are looking for comments on the student's academic ability, motivation, work habits, and potential as a researcher. When selecting a recommender, please be sure they can comment on your potential for conducting research.

b) The letter needs to be written on official university or agency letterhead. We prefer a signed copy. This can be either a scanned letter or email with a digital signature. Provide enough contact information to allow us to contact the recommender if we choose.

c) Letters must be received by the deadline for full consideration.



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MBG Mission "to discover and share knowledge about plants and their environment in order to preserve and enrich life"