Professor of Biology and Curator
Brett Serviss believes he was “hard wired” to be a biologist.
“I’ve been interested in nature and biology since I can remember – not just plants, but insects and critters of any kind,” he said.
“If I could catch it, I would bring it in to play with it. I drove my parents nuts.”
Serviss said he was always out looking for “things” in the yard and in fields, whether they were plants or animals.
His love for biology continued through high school, even though he admits to not being a “very good” student.
It wasn’t until he went to college that Serviss started focusing on plants more than animals.
“I took a plant taxonomy course and the professor showed an interest in me, and I was hooked,” he said. “I have been mainly interested in plants ever since. Through my professor’s help and through a lot of self-teaching, I learned how to identify plants and learned field botany.”
Serviss also became interested in teaching. “I knew early on that I wanted to teach at the collegiate level,” he said. “I got to know some of my professors pretty well and liked what they did and how they did it. I thought ‘that’s what I wanted to do.’”
When he’s not teaching, Serviss still does a “fair amount” of fieldwork, especially if he’s teaching plant-based field identification courses.
He has worked with James Peck, a retired UALR professor. Together, they have many state records, meaning they were the first to discover certain wild plants in Arkansas. They also have some new national records.
“Discovering the first occurrence of a plant in the wild is a rush,” Serviss said.
His passion for plants has propelled Serviss to “expert” status. He is often asked to identify plants, whether by someone in the community, by professionals, or maybe representatives from the Game & Fish Commission or state plant board.
How does Serviss spark an interest in plants in the classroom?
“A lot of times, students won’t know much about plants or have the wrong ideas. They think plants are boring,” he said. “Then they’ll take one of my courses and they’ll find that plants are pretty amazing and dynamic organisms.”
A degree in plant-based biology can lead to a variety of careers, Serviss said.
“Biology is such a diverse area, and there are careers based in each field. It just depends on what you want to do,” he said. “With field botany, you could work for the USDA, forestry commission, game & fish, Natural Heritage Commission or the Nature Conservancy, just to name a few.”
Department of Biology
Degree and School:
Ph.D., Mississippi State University
Biology of Non-Native Plants
I've been at Henderson since: