Graduate Program

Claremont Graduate University's Department of Botany

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden is home to the Claremont Graduate University (CGU) Department of Botany.

The graduate program in botany emphasizes systematics and the evolution of higher plants. Sub-disciplines include monographic and revisionary studies, population and conservation genetics, molecular systematics, phylogenetics, plant anatomy, floristics, comparative morphology, biogeography and reproductive biology. Thesis work leading to the Master of Science (M.S.) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree may be carried out in any of these fields. The program is research intensive with a strong fieldwork component. Considerable interaction takes place between students and faculty.

Additionally, a seminar series addressing topics of systematic and evolutionary botany is offered routinely during each semester. This series draws attendees not only from our student body, but also from plant science researchers, faculty and students at nearby colleges and universities.

The CGU Department of Botany is unique in that it is located within one of Southern California's premier gardens—Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden—86 acres dedicated to the conservation of the state's flora, to the display of native plants for visitors and to research and graduate education. Graduate classes and laboratories, faculty and student offices, and all research facilities used by students are located at RSABG, in close proximity to the CGU campus. The program benefits from the Claremont University Consortium (CUC), through which botany graduate students may take courses at any of the undergraduate Claremont Colleges or from any of the other graduate programs that are part of CGU.

The CGU Department of Botany at RSABG prepares its graduates to compete with top-caliber graduates in the field. The graduate student population is small, usually 10–15, and competition for existing positions is keen. Requirements for admission are rigorous and prospective students must have a strong academic record, excellent references and demonstrate a commitment to botanical research. Prospective students are encouraged to study admission requirements and to contact faculty whose research interests parallel their own.

All students in the Claremont Graduate University Botany Department at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden may be reached by calling (909) 625-8767. Their individual extensions are listed below

A. Eileen Berbeo, Doctoral Student, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Dylan Cohen, Doctoral Student, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., ext. 201

Fernando Cuellar, Doctoral Student, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., ext. 201

Nick Jensen, Doctoral Candidate, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., ext. 201

Manuel Lujan, Doctoral Candidate, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,ext. 217

Nicolas Medina, Doctoral Student, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., ext. 223

Keir Morse, Doctoral Student, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Sandra Namoff, Doctoral Candidate, ext. 217

Andrew Siekkinen, Master's Student, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., ext. 201

Sophia Winitsky, Master's Student, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., ext. 234


Inquiries may be directed to individual faculty members or to Frances Lehman (, botany program coordinator.

For application and admission information, please refer to Admissions on the CGU website.

For degree requirements and other institutional policies, see the Degree Regulations section of the CGU Bulletin CGU Bulletin. 


CGU Botany Program Admissions Guidelines

The botany program cultivates a collegial, interactive atmosphere in which graduate students participate as colleagues with faculty in the common pursuit of excellence in scholarship and research. Graduate students are expected to be independent, self-motivated, and enthusiastic about learning and about undertaking and completing original research. Because of these expectations and our commitment to maintaining an atmosphere that promotes research productivity, prospective graduate students are carefully screened to ensure high academic standards and compatibility with the ethos of the botany program. Therefore, the objective guidelines below may be less important in individual cases than demonstrated research ability or intellectual independence.

General guidelines for admission to the CGU Botany Program


GRE® General Test (tests taken on or after August 1, 2012)

Combined score (Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning) of at least 312;
Analytical writing score of at least 4.50;
GRE® Biology subject exam strongly recommended but not required

For international students: to be considered for admission, applicants are required to achieve a minimum score of 85 (iBT), with section scores of no less than: Writing 22, Speaking 17, Reading 20, Listening 17. Official scores of 6.5 or higher from the University of Cambridge's International English Language Testing System (IELTS) may be considered in lieu of a TOEFL score. 


An undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4-point scale (or equivalent); 
A demonstrated ability to perform independent research.

Application Deadlines for Fall 2018 Admission:

Priority Application Deadline: December 31, 2017 
Final Application Deadline: January 15, 2018

The Botany Program waives the $80 admissions application fee and the $200 admissions deposit fee. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to request the application fee waiver code. 


To apply online, visit:


It is strongly recommended that prospective students communicate directly with prospective faculty advisors whose research best fits their own interests. Owing to the small size of our program, "fit" is a key component of admission.

For more information about applying to Claremont Graduate University, part of the seven-college Claremont consortium, visit the CGU webpage designed for prospective students. Applications should be sent directly to the CGU Admissions Office. The CGU Botany faculty at RSABG evaluate all applications and make decisions regarding admission and financial aid.

Financial Aid 

Students in the Botany Program receive tuition waivers from CGU except under unusual circumstances. Full-time students are also eligible to apply for additional financial aid in the form of research and teaching assistantships. Research assistants work with RSABG faculty on a specific project over the course of a semester. Teaching assistants are apprenticed to one of the graduate courses and usually have responsibility for laboratory exercises. Students in good standing are also eligible for research support in the form of small grants. These are intended to enable students to launch their research projects and to collect the preliminary data required to successfully compete for funding from outside sources.

Degree Programs

Programs of study and research leading to both master's and doctoral degrees are offered. Masters students normally have 2.5 years (5 semesters) to complete and defend the thesis; Ph.D. students are expected to complete their degrees within five years.

Graduate Program History

From the beginning, scientific research has been an integral component of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden’s activities. Willis Lynn Jepson, of the University of California at Berkeley and one of Susanna Bixby Bryant’s principal advisors, strongly recommended a scientific director for the Garden. This recommendation became a reality with the appointment of Dr. Philip A. Munz as director of the Garden in 1946.

The Graduate Program

Under Munz’s leadership, the Garden was moved from its Orange County site to Claremont in 1951, and shortly thereafter a Ph.D. program in botany was added at the Claremont Graduate School (now Claremont Graduate University). The research botanists at RSABG are the teaching faculty for this graduate program and hold faculty appointments at CGU. Masters degrees in botany have been offered since 1927 through CGU. Prior to the arrival of RSABG in Claremont, professors at Pomona College were the teaching faculty for this program, which was later augmented with RSABG scientists. Until a decade ago, Pomona College shared teaching responsibilities, but with the retirement of Dr. Sherwin Carlquist of RSABG and the departure of a Pomona botany faculty member, the entire responsibility for all graduate studies currently rests with RSABG.

Our graduate program is a unique partnership with CGU, which is accredited to grant degrees, and RSABG, a private institution, which provides the teaching faculty, curriculum, offices, facilities and financial support for graduate students.

Our graduate students pursue M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in systematic botany, evolutionary botany, and floristics. Systematic botany, sometimes called plant taxonomy, is the study of the relationships between plants and how plants may be grouped or classified. In essence, it is the “genealogy” of plants which botanists call phylogeny. Evolutionary botany is the study of how plants have changed or adapted over a period of time. These changes can be reflected in the genetic makeup of the plant (DNA), in morphological or anatomical differences (changes in shape, internal structure), in physiology (how the plant “works” inside), and in its responses to external environmental changes. Floristics is the collection and inventory of plant species for a given area. Thesis research leading to degrees may be carried out in the fields of anatomy (study of structure), conservation biology, floristics, molecular evolution, morphology (study of form), phylogenetics, population genetics and reproductive biology.

For Current Students

In consultation with his/her temporary advisor, new students plan coursework and research activities for their first academic year. Progress and plans for coursework and research for the second year will be reviewed by the faculty at the student’s annual meeting at which time the student should have selected a permanent advisor. More advanced students are expected to meet regularly with their advisor and must meet with their advisory committee annually to evaluate progress toward completion of degree requirements. Students on academic probation must schedule these meetings each semester until they return to good standing.

Master's degree students are expected to have identified a thesis topic and chosen a permanent advisor by the end of their second semester such that substantial research can be accomplished over the summer months. In consultation with the advisor, s/he should also form the Advisory Committee by the end of the second semester. The student’s first annual meeting will constitute a vetting of research plans and protocols in addition to evaluation of progress to date. Master's degree projects should be of a scale to require no more than two field seasons of work. Students are expected to defend the thesis by the end of the fifth semester.

Doctoral students should form the Advisory Committee as soon as their research plans solidify and no later than the end of the second year. The Advisory Committee must include at least three members, two of whom must be core faculty in the CGU Botany Program. Coursework is usually completed or nearly so by the end of the fourth semester and students should plan to advance to candidacy by taking the Qualifying Exam during the fifth semester. Students are expected to complete their degree requirements within five years.

Academic Standards

All graduate students in the CGU Botany Program are expected to maintain the highest standards of academic excellence and personal and professional ethics. Satisfactory progress toward degree requirements will be assessed during annual (or more frequent) meetings with the student’s Advisory Committee. This assessment will not only include objective measures, such as cumulative grade point average and completion of preliminary examinations, but also assessment of a student’s progress in research and potential. Continuation in the program requires satisfactory progress in all of these elements as determined by the CGU Botany Program faculty.

Satisfactory progress toward degree requirements is defined as:

(1) Maintenance of at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA in graduate coursework;

(2) Adequate progress toward completion of research toward the degree, as determined by the Advisory Committee;

(3) Participation in all aspects of the Botany Program community, including participation in the seminar series;

(4) For those students with research or teaching assistantships, satisfactory completion of RA or TA requirements within one month of the end of the semester. No student will be eligible to receive continued RA / TA support until previous assistantship commitments are fulfilled.

(5) Maintenance of the highest standards of personal and professional ethics, including, but not limited to, adherence to CGU policies on academic honesty and the standards of personal behavior established by Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.

Students who do not meet the standards for satisfactory progress will be placed on academic probation for one semester. Students on academic probation are normally not eligible for assistantships or research support. Probationary status will be evaluated at the end of the probationary semester, and removed if the student has met requirements for satisfactory progress. Two continuous semesters on academic probation constitute unsatisfactory progress and will be grounds for dismissal from the program.

Students are advised also to consult the academic regulations and other policies of Claremont Graduate University.

Sarah De Groot

My research interests are generally related to plant taxonomy and biogeography.

  1. Eriastrum (Polemoniacae) taxonomy and biogeography - This project started as a simple revision of the genus with the aim of producing a workable key to the species. However, as often happens, upon a closer look at the forms that occur in nature, it became apparent that the group was not so simple, but rather is in the process of some pretty wild local differentiation or adaptation.
  2. Botanical ‘black holes’, particularly in the Southern California deserts - You might think that Southern California is pretty well explored botanically. After all, it has had several floras written for it, not to mention there have been multiple floras written for the state. However, while the plants along roads and trails are quite well documented, those that occur away from roads and trails are, well, we don’t really know what occurs away from roads and trails. That’s what I’m hoping to find out.
  3. Dr. Robert F. Thorne specimen backlog - I am also working to make labels for Dr. Thorne’s unprocessed plant specimens. This has been an interesting project in that I have seen plants from parts of the world to which I have not been. In the process, I have also learned a great deal of world geography, gained some insights into plant collecting in the late 1950’s, discovered numerous techniques for sleuthing specimen collection information, and realized that the value of other herbarium collections can never be underappreciated.

Selected publications

De Groot, Sarah J. 2011. Spatial analysis of morphology in Eriastrum eremicum (Polemoniaceae). Systematic Botany 36(2): 449–464.

De Groot, Sarah. 2011. Botanical exploration on the north slope of the Whipple Mountains (southeast San Bernardino County, California), with notes and revisions to the flora. Crossosoma 36(1): 21–28.

De Groot, Sarah J. 2011 [October 2009 and January 2010]. Walking in Alice Eastwood’s footsteps: Eriastrum sparsiflorum in Kings Canyon. Fremontia 37(4)/38(1): 44-46.

De Groot, Sarah J. 2009. A Conservation Plan for Berberis harrisoniana Kearney and Peebles (Berberidaceae); Kofa Mountain Barberry. Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden Occasional Publications No. 9.

De Groot, Sarah J. 2009 [Spring-Summer 2008]. Preliminary morphometric analysis of Eriastrum densifolium (Polemoniaceae) populations from Lytle Creek and La Cadena Avenue, Santa Ana River watershed. Crossosoma 34(1): 1–18.

De Groot, Sarah J. 2009. Arizona plants in California. The Plant Press 33(2): 13–14.

De Groot, Sarah J. 2009 [Spring-Summer 2008]. Meet Harwood’s Woolly-Star (Eriastrum harwoodii). Fremontia 36(4): 15–17.

De Groot, Sarah J. 2007. Vascular Plants of the Whipple Mountains. Aliso 24: 63–96.

De Groot, Sarah J. 2007. The “Nose” of California: an important part of the state’s plant diversity. Fremontia 35: 2–6.

Friar, Elizabeth A., Linda M. Prince, Eric H. Roalson, Mitchell E. McGlaughlin, Jennifer M. Cruse-Sanders, Sarah J. De Groot, and J. Mark Porter. 2006. Ecological speciation in the east Maui-endemic Dubautia (Asteraceae) species. Evolution 60(9): 1777–1792.

Daisie Huang

I've been interested in plants throughout my life. How could I not, with parents who love plants enough to have given me two floral names? I fell in love with California's native flora while working for the California Institute for Biodiversity during my college years. I earned a bachelor's degree in plant genetics at UC Berkeley, and while Donald Kaplan's plant morphology course was my favorite class there, it didn't occur to me until much later to pursue a career in botany.

After graduating from UC Berkeley with degrees in plant genetics and computer science, I spent four years working as a software engineer at Apple Computer. While I've since left the software world for the exciting world of botany, it turns out computers are very useful for botanical research as well. I find myself writing a lot of scripts to aid my research, and I maintain an interest in programming as it relates to botany. I've fallen in love with Filemaker Pro; it helps me to sift through the massive amounts of data generated by both herbaria and by molecular research.

However, my current interests lie more in systematics and population genetics. For my dissertation research, I am investigating speciation patterns in the rapidly evolving species complexes of perennial Lupinus in California. Lupinus albifrons and Lupinus excubitus, while separated geographically, are difficult to differentiate in the field. In addition, there are interesting morphologically distinct subspecies of L. excubitus in the Transverse Ranges. I plan to characterize the relationships of these subspecies to the two main species, as well as investigate speciation processes involved in the evolution of closely related endemic taxa.

Awards and Honors

  • California Native Plant Society: G. Ledyard Stebbins Award for research in evolutionary botany, 2006.
  • Southern California Botanists: SCB Annual Grant, 2007.
  • CNPS Bristlecone Chapter: Mary DeDecker Botanical Grant, 2007.
  • Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden: Goldhamer Scholarship, 2006-2007.


  • Huang, Daisie, and Elizabeth A. Friar (2007). Phylogenetics in three groups of perennial Lupinus in California. Presented at Botany and Plant Biology Joint Congress, Chicago, IL.
  • Huang, Daisie, Lucinda A. McDade, and Elizabeth A. Friar (2007). Chloroplast inheritance in Lupinus. Poster presented at Botany and Plant Biology Joint Congress, Chicago, IL.
  • Cruse-Sanders, Jennifer, Elizabeth A. Friar, Kathy Parker, Daisie Huang, and Alejandro Casas (2007). Geographically based analysis of genetic diversity in wild, managed and cultivated populations of the columnar cactus Stenocereus stellatus in Central Mexico. Poster presented at Botany and Plant Biology Joint Congress, Chicago, IL.