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.
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.
Feed me Seymour! Audrey2. Image from Wikimedia Commons by KaiMartin.
This man-eating penultimate edition of Students of Ethnobotany comes from the fascinated Yvette Beesley.
When I was in my teens my parent were large supporters of the Arts and took me to this play called “The Little Shop of Horrors”. It was amazing, with a singing and dancing plant called Audrey2 that needed blood to survive.
I had a nail. @rOpenSci had the hammer. Photo by Zorro.
The helpful folks over at rOpenSci have come up with exactly the tool I needed, exactly when I needed it.
So many baby starlings! Photo from Wikimedia Commons by Eileen Coles.
It is the favorite past time of every invasion biologist since H. G. Baker in the 1960s to make lists of traits which distinguish invaders. We’ve been doing it for at least 50 years, and yet, no list ever seems to satisfy. There are always exceptions – a majority of cases seem to be exceptions, really. And maybe that’s because we need to think about it in more dimensions.
Common question: Why should we worry about species moving around, anyway, haven’t they always done that? A forest is a just a forest and a grassland is just a grassland after all. What are you getting so worked up about? Aren’t humans the worst invasives?
Answer: Yeah, humans are the worst invasives, but I can’t really justify mass extirpations for humans. Not yet, anyway. Though limiting birth rates probably isn’t a terrible idea.
Oops! I’ve been so busy preparing for my talk at the Ecological Society of America’s annual conference that I missed my post deadline. Sorry about that. However, it’s a pretty exciting opportunity. I’ll be part of an organized session that involves some really great speakers called “Contemporary Evolution Amid the Human Enterprise: New Insights Into the Fates of Populations and Communities.” If that doesn’t describe the the evolution of invasiveness, I’m not sure what does.
Here’s my abstract. If you are at ESA, come see my talk and we can nerd out over invasives!
Experimental plant, Centaurea diffusa, Montpellier, France, June 2011