Be a Scientist
A special edition Keir Wefferling guest post
UC Berkeley is the lead institution on a freshly funded TCN (Thematic Collections Network–part of NSF’s Advancing the Digitization of Biodiversity Collections [ADBC] program): The Pteridophyte Collections Consortium (PCC for short). Cindy Looy, Diane Erwin, and myself are the Berkeley PI team, aided and abetted by our Portal Manager Joyce Gross and our Project Manager Amy Kasameyer.
The focus of this grant, and of the PCC, is to digitize over 1.6 million extant and fossil pteridophyte specimens from 36 herbaria and museums throughout the U.S. For each specimen an image will be taken, and the collection data digitized–both images and the digital collection data will be available online through our Symbiota portal and data aggregator sites such as iDigBio, and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). The other main goal of the PCC is to help unite the paleontological and neontological pteridology communities (the people interested in fossil and living pteridophytes, respectively). Typically, these two communities tend to be in different university departments, go to different conferences, and their study collections are housed in different institutions (paleontology museums and herbaria). The PCC will bring these communities, and their collection data, together in a single location, and promote an integrated approach to the study and appreciate of pteridophytes from their origin ~420 million years ago to the present.
See here for a cringe-worth introduction to the PCC.
The Pteridophyte Collections Consortium (more posts on this soon!) represented at the 2018 ADBC (Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections)/iDigBio summit in Gainesville, Florida, in the first week of October. It was simultaneously overwhelming and inspiring–we have a lot of pteridophytes to digitize!
Definitely apple juice.
The original video is more epic–had to trim it down to make the size limits. Email me for the extended mix.
Humans have their genomes sequenced, there’s a lycophyte genome, a moss genome, a liverwort genome, shloads of angiosperm genomes… but until this week no fern genome had been sequenced. It was the last frontier! But we need wait no longer — with the publication earlier this week of “Fern genomes elucidate land plant evolution and cyanobacterial symbioses” we have not one, but two fern reference genomes: Azolla filiculoides and Salvinia cucullata. Special congratulations to lead author (and former Rothfels Labmate) Fay-Wei Li, by whose blood, sweat, and tears (mostly tears) this achievement was made possible.
And it got the cover! Who can blame them — look at this beauty (photo credit: Laura Dijkhuizen):
This paper has also received some cool press–Discover Magazine, Cosmos, Earth.com, Cornell Chronicle, BTI press release, and Nature Plants News & Views–it’s great to see people excited about ferns, and fern biology.
Twice a year, 220 guests come together at the Chabot Space and Science Center for “Dinner with a Scientist.” And on May 8th that scientist was…. Joyce!!!
The program includes a TED-talk style presentation from the keynote speaker (did I mention that that was Joyce?) describing their personal journey in science, group discussions, and science activities, with the goal of bringing together Oakland middle- and high-school teachers, their students, and local scientists.
Congratulations to Joyce for her work to inspire a current generation of educators and a future generation of scientists!
(I promised Joyce I wouldn’t mention the standing ovation she got. But my fingers were crossed: STANDING OVATION!)
The Rothfels lab outreach all star does it again! Joyce, bringing the weird world of wood to Nerd Nite East Bay (“be there and be square” — best slogan ever.) I wasn’t able to make it 🙁 , but a few well-placed spies reported back that she did a fantastic job! You might think it would be a tough sell, getting a non-scientific audience excited about the evolution of woody vines, but Joyce made it look easy. Second standing ovation for the month?
See the full talk here.(time 1:22:49)
On the entirely coincidental date of 4.20, Mick passed his quals! And with flying colours, by all accounts. Thanks to Ben, Brent, Britt, and Cindy for being on his committee, and to Carrie for organizing the celebrations. And congratulations to Mick!!!
Rothfels Lab grads are on an American Journal of Botany publication roll! The January issue featured Mick’s article on a previously “undiscovered” gene in the chloroplast genome of ferns, and included the the publication of the transcriptome and chloroplast genome sequence of Adiantum shastense, the Shasta Maidenhair. You know, no biggie.
And today come the announcement that Forrest’s study of the continued evolutionary morphological simplification of Isoetes is available online! This result is super cool–showing that the pattern of morphological reduction for their once large tree-like ancestors is continuing in Isoetes. However, I have a particularly soft spot of the methods: this paper demonstrates the power of reversible jump MCMC and Bayesian model averaging (and irreversible models of character evolution) for studying processes of morphological evolution. I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of this type of approach!