Barbara Schaal is a nationally recognized plant evolutionary biologist who uses DNA sequences to understand evolutionary processes such as gene flow, geographical differentiation, and the domestication of crop species.
Barbara Schaal was among the first plant scientists to use molecular biology-based approaches to understand evolutionary processes in plants, and she has worked to advance understanding of plant molecular systematics and population genetics. Most recently, her work has focused on the evolutionary genomics of rice.
Schaal has been president of the Botanical Society of America, the Society for the Study of Evolution, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and U.S. National Academy of Sciences, where she served as Vice President for 8 years. She was appointed as a U.S. science envoy by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Schaal has served as chair of the Division on Earth and Life Studies at the National Research Council and was a member of President Obama’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology from 2009–17. In 2019, she received the National Science Board’s Public Service Medal and joined the board of directors of the Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation.
From 2013–20, Schaal served as dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences. As dean, she oversaw all academic, financial, and administration aspects of Arts & Sciences.