Avatar - L.A. Times talks with movie's botanical expert
So the plants on Pandora are based on real-life scientific speculation and the L.A. Times has interviewed plant physiologist Dr. Jodie Holt about her role in the production. Here is an excerpt.
[indent]How did you become involved in the film?

I was called by Nicole Pitesa, [producer] Jon Landau's assistant, in early 2007; she asked if I would be interested in advising an A-list actress in "Avatar" on how to be a credible botanist. The movie was in preproduction at that time. I later learned that Nicole had searched local universities for botany departments and found us at UC Riverside.

What type of advice did you lend them?

After being briefed on the plot and being shown early images of the plants on Pandora by Jon Landau, I met with Sigourney Weaver [who plays botanist Grace Augustine] and set designers to talk about how a field botanist would study and sample plants to learn about their physiology and biochemistry. We also talked about the idea of communication among plants, and between plants and the Na'vi, and how that might be explained. Subsequently, I worked with a set designer to ensure that his designs for the field and lab equipment were credible.

Can you give specific examples about the set?

I did not work on all the scientific sets and props by any means. What we talked about was the concept of plant communication, which is integral to the movie, and how this could be studied by Grace.

Since life on Pandora was intended to adhere to our known laws of physics and biology, it was not credible to me to suggest that the plants had any kind of nervous system. Instead, I suggested that communication among the plants could credibly be explained by signal transduction, an area of research that deals with how plants perceive a signal and respond to it. Since this process is still not well understood but is under active investigation, it made sense to use it as an explanation for Grace's more futuristic understanding of plants. Subsequently, the set designer and I exchanged many e-mails about how Grace might sample plants and study this process.[/indent]

Read the full interview here.
Curious that they'd feel the need to bring in a pro if it wasn't going to have an impact on production design. I mean, seriously, it's a great film, but I doubt if many real life botanists have the chance to act like Sigourney Weaver's character did. :bg:
Apparently it did have an impact on production design, though, as she helped make at least some of the designs "credible" (though I confess I have no idea of what that actually means).

I know what it's like to make suggestions to a film studio and then have to wonder when the movie comes out how much they followed my advice (actually, I know some of my advice was followed, but there were compromises, too).
You've consulted people for films? Very cool!
What film was it?
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"The Lord of the Rings".

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