A widely popular botanist known for his series of funny, informative and profoundly interesting social media videos on plant ecology will host an online, four-part lecture series billed as “Blue-Collar Botany” next month in partnership with the Kneeland-based field guide publisher Backcountry Press.
Backcountry Press co-owner Allison Poklemba told the Outpost that she and her husband Michael Kauffmann have known the featured host — Joey Santore — for more than a decade.
“He first got his start with botany by being interested in conifers,” Poklemba said. “My husband wrote books about conifers and they really hit it off connecting as colleagues about 15 years ago. We’ve kept in touch with him throughout the years and when he comes up here to visit, we help him with plant exploration tips.”
Santore in Humboldt County.
Santore is a self-taught botanist who recently quit his day job driving diesel trains along the West Coast to travel the world and pursue his passion for studying plant life. He began documenting his travels on social media in 2017, sharing what he’s learned through his accentuated Chicago dialect and crass sense of humor.
Partly thanks to a video that went viral on Reddit in 2019, his videos have become wildly popular and now receive hundreds of thousands of views from people all over the world. Poklemba said this global audience has followed him to the Backcountry Press.
“It’s exciting to offer this virtual experience,” she said. “People have signed up for this class from Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, Austria, the UK, every random state you can think of. It’s pretty cool that people can come together in this temporary online community to be part of a class like this.”
Despite his international appeal, the Backcountry Press is warning those unfamiliar with Santore’s educational style that these classes will not be “G-rated.” Santore describes his content as an attempt “to inject an awareness of the botanical world and the ecological and evolutionary context in which it occurs into the mind of every single human being on Planet Earth, via art, educational videos and podcasts, with a mild mix of smart-assed humor, as channeled through the ugly mug of a loud and obnoxious Chicago Italian.”
An example of Santore’s comedic and informative teaching style.
Tickets for all four two-hour lectures, which will be spread out over the course of two weeks in May, are available through the Backcountry press website.
“The first class will cover flower morphology for identification purposes,” Santore wrote on social media. “The second will cover taxonomy, naming, and what you can learn about a plant’s evolution from a scientific name. The last two classes will cover plant ecology and evolution, and how things like plate tectonics and a change in ocean currents can cause new species of plants to evolve and why certain plants grow where they do.”
The price of all four lectures is $49. More than 100 people have already signed up for the class and Poklemba said that they will likely cap the event at 1,000 tickets sold. Those who sign up today will receive a $10 discount.
“There will be crass jokes and lots of shouting (to make sure you’re paying attention),” Santore said. “Each class will end with a question and answer session that will go on as long people have time for.”