Jennifer Ackerfield, Herbarium Curator in the Biology Department, shows off specimens in the CSU collection. May 12, 2015. Image via J. Ackerfield.
Guest post from Colorado State University Herbarium Collections Manager Jennifer Ackerfield. She literally wrote the book on Colorado flora.
Botany is not dead, but this plant is: The importance of herbaria in the 21st century and beyond
Herbarium. For many, this one word invokes images of a dark, dusty place, a mortuary for plants you might say. But for me, it invokes images of carefully examining plant specimens for taxonomic studies, lively scientific debate, group collaborative efforts to key out difficult plants, and students talking and working and most of all learning.
See what I did there? Image via Wikimedia Commons.
Our friend the mesquite seems to pop up in the most unlikely of places. Mesquite, a genus which includes thorny desert shrubs/trees from various parts of the Americas, perhaps most clearly demonstrates the importance of context. It’s not that a species is inherently bad because it’s invasive. Or, to go as far as some naysayers, that to want to prevent or remove invasive species is a sign of xenophobia. What that argument glosses over, is that context is key. For example, mangos are delicious… unless you are allergic.
Like this, only it last for a few days… Image from Emergency Brake from Wikimedia Commons.
There is still time to contribute to the science of science communication! See the bottom of this post to do so AND also win prizes. Survey closes Nov 20, 2015.
This may, perhaps, be more than you needed to know. But I am allergic to poison ivy. No big deal, you might think. You’re a botanist. Surely you know what it looks like! Just avoid it.
Hi cats and kittens.
Next month I’m starting a postdoc position at Colorado State University working on a whole new weedy plant! (Don’t worry, knapweed, I still love-hate you.) I’m planning some (hopefully) fun sci-comm gems related to this project, perhaps even a small citizen science project that YOU could help me out on. We’ll see how it goes. For now, let’s say I’m getting just a *tad* closer to my childhood dream of being Indiana Jones.
But no need for YOU to wait, YOU can help science now. Continue, dear Reader!
Help us do science! I’ve teamed up with researcher Paige Brown Jarreau to create a survey of AlienPlantation readers. By participating, you’ll be helping me improve AlienPlantation and contributing to SCIENCE on blog readership. You will also get FREE science art from Paige’s Photography for participating, as well as a chance to win a t-shirt and a $50.00 Amazon.com gift card! It should only take 10-15 minutes to complete. You can find the survey here: http://bit.ly/mysciblogreaders.
Over the course of my PhD work (published here, and most recently here), I have found evidence for evolved differences in phenotype (in other words, in their morphology, development, phenology, stress responses) between native and invasive populations of diffuse knapweed. Why is that interesting? Well the invasive populations didn’t even exist until barely 100 years ago. And something about them has let them succeed and spread over vast areas of their new habitat. Perhaps what has made them so successful can be revealed by comparing the invasive diffuse knapweed populations to their closest relatives, the native diffuse knapweed populations.
Knapweed in the greenhouse, 2009.
Surely I’m not the only one that thinks of their study organism in terms of fictional criminal geniuses?
Wow, sorry folks, I’ve been slacking, and that whole PhD thing is a sorry excuse! Let me tell you a little natural history about a plant called diffuse knapweed (Centaurea diffusa), the Dr. Moriarty to my Sherlock Holmes.
Starting in September, I will be resuming my TAing duties for the UBC class BIOL 343: Plants and People, this time co-taught by Profs. Shona Ellis and Kathryn Zeiler. Hopefully that means more juicy ethnobotany nuggets on the horizon, gentle reader.