About Me


jmcneal7After spending my formative years about 30 miles west of Cleveland, Ohio, I received my bachelor's degree from Vanderbilt University. I first dabbled in plant research there by doing work-study in the lab of Dr. David McCauley. My first plant taxonomy course, taught by renowned southeastern botanist Dr. Robert Kral, got me permanently hooked on field botany and inspired me to study plant systematics as a career. Dr. Claude dePamphilis first introduced me to the world of parasitic plants, and I went on to get my Ph.D. in his lab at Penn State in 2005 (right photo: graduate field work in South America, 2003). After postdoc stints in the lab of Dr. Sarah Mathews at Harvard University and Dr. Jim Leebens-Mack at University of Georgia, I started as an assistant professor at Kennesaw State University in fall of 2011.

I've been an enthusiatic birdwatcher for over 25 years and serve as the Georgia moderator for eBird, a joint project of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society which serves as a database of sightings from hundreds of thousands of citizen-science birdwatchers around the world. I also serve as secretary of the Georgia Ornithological Society Checklist and Records Commitee, which reviews rare bird sightings from around the state. Plants are also much more than just a research interest for me, as searching for interesting native plants is second only to birding among my favorite hobbies. I'm interested in just about anything having to do with nature, from rocks to frogs to butterflies to snakes to mushrooms, and I usually have my camera with me in the field to document some of the more interesting things I come across. See my photo webpage for more.