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Office Space: AnaLu MacVean (Instructor, Environmental Horticulture)

May 17, 2022
AnaLu MacVean in her office

The way a person decorates can say a lot about them. In the Office Space series, we go beyond the résumé and get to know York College faculty and staff members through the objects they like to keep close.

AnaLu MacVean is an Instructor in the Environmental Horticulture program at York College of Pennsylvania. She grew up in Guatemala, where she studied botany at Universidad del Valle de Guatemala. She teaches courses in plant science, plant taxonomy, and economic botany—and if you have the chance to look around her office, you’ll see that her love of the natural world runs deep.

1. Mayan Figurine

Mayan Figurine Depicting Ixmucané, the “Grand Mother of the World,” this Mayan figurine represents the legend about humans being created from corn. “Ixmucané (depicted in the figurine) along with Ixpiyacoc (Grand Father) brought the Earth from beneath the waters and created a beautiful world with animals and plants, but there were no humans to enjoy and give thanks,” explains MacVean. “The animals showed Ixmucané a place with fruit and corn. She cooked the corn, prepared dough, and with her hands, created four human beings. They were the Maya, the children of Ixmucané, known as ‘hombres de maíz’ (humans of maize).”

2. Plant Press

“As a nerd plant taxonomist, I always want to be prepared to preserve a plant as fresh as possible to then be able to make a fine dry specimen,” she says. “I always have a plant press (and some garden clippers) with me wherever I go.” MacVean is working with colleagues to start a small teaching herbarium that will house a collection of preserved plants.

3. Agua Volcano and Lake Amatilán-Guatemala Photo

Guatemala Picture MacVean grew up surrounded by beautiful forests, volcanoes, and lakes in Guatemala. “Every single day I would get to see three to four volcanoes on my commute to work,” she says. “Even though Pennsylvania mountains are lovely, I miss the ever-changing scenery of active volcanoes, so I have had a picture of volcanoes at home and in my office since moving to the U.S.”

4. Passifloraceae Family Poster

Since she was a child, one of MacVean’s favorite families of plants has been one that includes intricate passionflowers. “Neotropical environments have a high diversity of Passifloraceae,” she says. “Because of my interest, a colleague and I published a revision of all species present in Guatemala. Since then, we found a new species [to add] to science and are about to publish an article on it!”

5. Italian Pinocchio FiguringPinocchio Figurine

An Italian colleague gave MacVean this Pinocchio figurine as a reminder to discourage students from behaving like Pinocchio. “I hope that I never have to point out Pinocchio to any of my YCP students!” she laughs.

6. Marble

MacVean had a fellowship at the Natural History Museum. The Assistant Director of Collections at the Smithsonian Institute gave her a small present, a marble. “I asked what was the reason for such an intriguing and unusual gift.” The Assistant Director replied,  “ ‘If someone asks you, have you lost your marbles? You can answer, ‘No. At least, I have one!’ ”

AnaLu MacVean has worked for over 20 years teaching at liberal arts colleges both in Pennsylvania and abroad. She has done extensive research on the flora of Central America and has published four different field guides about the useful plants of many regions in Mesoamerica. She is a member of the International Association of Plant Taxonomists as well as the Pennsylvania Native Plant Society. Her interests include tropical research, sustainable development, sustainability, artistic expression photography, and Spanish-English and English-Spanish translation services both scientific and freelance