Archive for April, 2014

From the Field: Bill Buck in Cape Horn 2014, Part 10

Posted in Travelogue on April 28th, 2014 by Bill Buck – Be the first to comment

William R. Buck, Ph.D., is the Mary Flagler Cary Curator of Botany at The New York Botanical Garden. Every January for the last three years, Dr. Buck, a moss specialist, and a team of colleagues have journeyed to the Cape Horn region at the southern tip of South America to document the area’s rich diversity of mosses and search for new species.


January 22, 2014; Fondeadero Hyde, Isla Wollaston, Chile (55°44’S, 67°27.5’W)

Isla Deceit

The dramatic rock outcroppings of Isla Deceit

Yesterday, the weather was surprisingly good—no rain the entire day. The problem was that it allowed us to hit three sites, meaning we fell behind on our work in the drying room. The ship started up at 4 a.m. for a bright and early arrival at our island du jour: Isla Deceit. I had never collected there, meaning I needed to collect every species of moss that I came across to document distribution.
read more »

Exploring the Mountains of Eastern Cuba, Part I

Posted in Travelogue on April 24th, 2014 by Fabian Michelangeli – 2 Comments

Fabian A. Michelangeli, Ph.D., is an Associate Curator of the Institute of Systematic Botany at The New York Botanical Garden. His research focuses in part on the evolution, identification, and classification of neotropical plants.


Cuba-Nov-2013-11-of-14

A rainbow appears near a family farm near Moa in the province of Holguin

A recent expedition to eastern Cuba took three Cuban colleagues and me from the coast to the cloud forests in search of rare and locally restricted species in the plant family known as princess flower or meadow beauty. The species in this family (whose scientific name is Melastomataceae) are an especially diverse group in Cuba.

Joining me were Dr. Eldis Becquer from the Jardin Botanico Nacional (National Botanical Garden) in Havana; Wilder Carmenate, director of the Holguin Botanical Garden; and Jose Luis Gomez, a researcher at the Holguin garden and a graduate student at the University of Havana. Becquer, Carmenate and I are studying the Melastomataceae while Gomez and Carmenate took advantage of this expedition to document invasive species—part of ongoing research projects developed by Carmenate to study threats to the flora of Cuba.

The first area we targeted was the Turquino National Park in the Sierra Maestra Mountains of southeastern Cuba. This park contains some of the best-preserved cloud forests in the Caribbean, as well as the Pico Turquino, the tallest mountain on the island at almost 6,500 feet. During five days spent in the area, we reached the summit of three of the highest points in Cuba—Picos Turquino, Joaquin, and Regino—and we collected plants on both the southern, Caribbean-facing slope and the northern, inland-facing slope of the Sierra Maestra. This allowed us to contrast different exposures to rain and sun, as well as different soil types and vegetation.
read more »

Earth Day Everyday: Citizen Scientists Making Plant Research Available to All

Posted in Applied Science on April 21st, 2014 by Barbara Thiers – Be the first to comment

Barbara M. Thiers, Ph.D., is the Patricia K. Holmgren Director of the William and Lynda Steere Herbarium and Vice President for Science Administration at The New York Botanical Garden.


Notes from Nature

Every year around Earth Day, many people wonder if there is anything they can do that will make a difference in the effort to understand and preserve our environment. Of course there is! There are all kinds of volunteer projects for all sorts of interests. Here at The New York Botanical Garden, for instance, volunteers are helping us make a critical part of our scientific collection available online so researchers everywhere can have easy access to the information.

The William and Lynda Steere Herbarium is taking part in a citizen-scientist transcription project called Notes from Nature, which enlists volunteers to help make the contents of the world’s biological collections accessible to the public through the Internet. Notes from Nature is part of Zooniverse, which has enlisted volunteers to look for new planets and transcribe climate data from ships’ logs. Notes from Nature is celebrating its first anniversary this week and also an important milestone: its volunteers have completed a half million transcriptions!
read more »

From the Field: Bill Buck in Cape Horn 2014, Part 9

Posted in Travelogue on April 18th, 2014 by Bill Buck – Be the first to comment

William R. Buck, Ph.D., is the Mary Flagler Cary Curator of Botany at The New York Botanical Garden. Every January for the last three years, Dr. Buck, a moss specialist, and a team of colleagues have journeyed to the Cape Horn region at the southern tip of South America to document the area’s rich diversity of mosses and search for new species.


January 20, 2014; Puerto Maxwell, Isla Hermite, Chile (55°48’S, 67°32’W)

Cape Horn 2014

Last night we stayed at Caleta de Los Ríos on the south coast of Isla Wollaston (55°47.5’S, 67°20.5’W). To sea novices like us, it didn’t appear any better than Caleta St. Martin, which we had just left behind. This is why we hire an experienced crew. By the time we reached port, the wind had picked up considerably. We tied up next to another fishing boat that was already in the harbor. The ships’ crews knew each other and promptly went visiting.

The wind continued. I couldn’t be sure without an anemometer, but from growing up in Florida I believed we were experiencing hurricane-force winds of over 75 mph. Then the rain started, blowing in horizontal sheets. I was mesmerized by the force of it all, and despite dropping temperatures I couldn’t bring myself to go inside.
read more »

Thinking Outside the Box about Weeds, Wildmeat, and More

Posted in Travelogue on April 17th, 2014 by Ina Vandebroek – Be the first to comment

Ina Vandebroek, Ph.D., is an ethnomedical research specialist at The New York Botanical Garden‘s Institute of Economic Botany. One of her research interests is studying how immigrant populations in New York City use traditional plant-based remedies in their health care.


From left to right: Dr. Thiago Araujo (BR), Dr. Ina Vandebroek (USA), Dr. Ulysses Albuquerque (BR), Dr. Ana Ladio (AR), Dr. Romulo Alves (BR)

From left to right: Dr. Thiago Araujo (BR), Dr. Ina Vandebroek (USA), Dr. Ulysses Albuquerque (BR), Dr. Ana Ladio (AR), Dr. Romulo Alves (BR)

The science of ethnobiology studies the relationships among peoples, nature, and culture. It is a multidisciplinary field that uses methods from the social and natural sciences, including botany, ecology, agriculture, medicine, zoology, anthropology, archaeology and others. Ethnobiologists have diverse research interests, and an international conference presents a great opportunity to learn from specialists.
read more »

Ackerman’s Orchids: Studying—and Sometimes Growing—Some Stars of the Plant World

Posted in Personalities in Science on April 15th, 2014 by Stevenson Swanson – Be the first to comment

Stevenson Swanson is The New York Botanical Garden’s Science Media Manager.


JDA in SabaFrom the crowds that attend The New York Botanical Garden’s annual orchid exhibition, it’s clear that this family of flowering plants exerts a fascination on gardeners and plant lovers almost without equal in the horticultural world.

Count Prof. James D. Ackerman among the devotees. From his days as a graduate student in northern California, he’s devoted his scientific career to the study of Orchidaceae. Prof. Ackerman, who teaches biology at the University of Puerto Rico, is the lead author of Orchid Flora of the Greater Antilles, recently published by NYBG Press.

With full scientific treatments of 594 orchid species, the book covers the largest islands in the West Indies, including Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and Hispaniola, the island that comprises the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

I had a chance to chat with Prof. Ackerman during his recent visit to the Botanical Garden, where he gave a talk about his time in the field cataloging the orchids of the Greater Antilles. He was also planning to see The Orchid Show: Key West Contemporary, which closes next Monday, April 21.

read more »

From the Field: Bill Buck in Cape Horn 2014, Part 8

Posted in Travelogue on April 11th, 2014 by Bill Buck – Be the first to comment

William R. Buck, Ph.D., is the Mary Flagler Cary Curator of Botany at The New York Botanical Garden. Every January for the last three years, Dr. Buck, a moss specialist, and a team of colleagues have journeyed to the Cape Horn region at the southern tip of South America to document the area’s rich diversity of mosses and search for new species.


January 19, 2014; Caleta Saint Martin, Isla Hermite, Chile (55°51.5’S, 67°34’W)

Exploring Isla Hermite

Exploring Isla Hermite

Yesterday evening, as we navigated along the Beagle Channel, the clear southeastern sky gave me hope that we would reach our target area unhindered. The engines started at 4 a.m., and everyone hurried to use the bathroom, having been warned of rough seas. However, my Pollyanna premonition seems to have been correct as we never saw bad waves.

We were scheduled to reach our safe harbor at Isla Grevy by 8 a.m. Stepping out onto the deck, I found islands all around us, and relatively calm waters meant we were bypassing Isla Grevy and heading straight to Isla Hermite, one of our main targets. I could have jumped up and down in delight! It would be some time yet until we arrived, but after waiting weeks to reach this island, what was another few hours?
read more »

Life History: A Close Relative of Land Plants Sprouts and Grows Underwater

Posted in Videos and Lectures on April 10th, 2014 by Robert Stewart – Be the first to comment

Robert A. Stewart is a student at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. He recently studied at The New York Botanical Garden under the direction of Assistant Curator Kenneth G. Karol, Ph.D., a specialist in algae.


CharaSpecies of algae in the genus Chara are commonly called stoneworts or muskgrasses and belong to the freshwater green-algal family Characeae. Given that the Characeae are close relatives of land plants, it is very important to understand their life history if we want to understand the early evolution of land plants.

A life history is the series of growth and reproductive changes an organism undergoes throughout its life. A key difference between the life history of land plants and the Characeae is that alternation of generations is found in land plants but not in the Characeae, as far as we know.

I studied the life history of Chara rusbyana with my mentor at The New York Botanical Garden, Assistant Curator Kenneth G. Karol, Ph.D., by examining living cultures and consulting the botanical literature. Based on this project, I produced a short animated film about Chara rusbyana under the supervision of Professor Robin Starbuck of the Sarah Lawrence College film department.
read more »

A Unique and Lovely Little Fungal Collection

Posted in Nuggets from the Archives on April 7th, 2014 by Ellen Bloch – 1 Comment

Ellen Diane Bloch is the Collections Manager of the Cryptogamic Herbarium, part of the William and Lynda Steere Herbarium. The Cryptogamic Herbarium includes the fungi collection.


Eaton's Fungal Collection

The fungal collection of Elizabeth Eaton Morse

One of my favorite discoveries in the 30 years that I have worked in the William and Lynda Steere Herbarium is an odd and beautiful collection of fungi. Packed away in a charming box from Hink’s Department Store in Berkeley, California, is an assortment of nearly 40 specimens collected in Mount Desert Island, Maine, in 1935. How did these dried fungal specimens from Maine come to be placed in a box from a California retailer and then end up at The New York Botanical Garden?

To answer that question, it helps to know that the fungi were collected by Elizabeth Eaton Morse, who devoted much of her life to collecting and studying fungi. Born in Framingham, Massachusetts, in 1864, Morse taught elementary school for several years before entering Wellesley College, where she graduated with a diploma from the School of Art in 1891. After decades of teaching and supervising in Massachusetts and New York City schools, Morse returned to Wellesley College, receiving a B.A. with a major in botany in 1926.
read more »

From the Field: Bill Buck in Cape Horn 2014, Part 7

Posted in Travelogue on April 4th, 2014 by Bill Buck – Be the first to comment

William R. Buck, Ph.D., is the Mary Flagler Cary Curator of Botany at The New York Botanical Garden. Every January for the last three years, Dr. Buck, a moss specialist, and a team of colleagues have journeyed to the Cape Horn region at the southern tip of South America to document the area’s rich diversity of mosses and search for new species.


January 18, 2014; Puerto Toro, Isla Navarino, Chile (55°04’S, 67°04.5’W)

2014's expedition ship, the Dona Pilar, at dock

This year’s expedition ship, the Doña Pilar, at dock

Our time in Puerto Williams, an interruption in our fieldwork, raced by. We arrived at 8:30 a.m. on the 16th after a four-and-a-half-hour trip from a collecting site on the northwest coast of Navarino. We decided to have lunch and dinner at a local restaurant; the stable environment would be a welcome change after so many meals on the Doña Pilar.

After lunch, I skipped flan and headed back to the house where we were staying to be picked up for a public meeting with some politicians who had come to Puerto Williams for the occasion. I was scheduled to speak in support of creating a ministry of science for Chile. But due to a misunderstanding, I wasn’t the only one they wanted, so we swung by the restaurant to pick up more warm bodies. Barb Andreas, Barbara Murray, and John Brinda volunteered.
read more »