Paleo Valentines

How to express enduring love?

With paleo valentines! These gems (and their captions) are courtesy of Allie Weill — thank you Allie!! If you’re impressed, you get more Allie content on instagram (@al.m.weill) and the twitter (@Al_R_Wallace).

This valentine features Lepidodendron, a big fossil tree that could grow to 100 feet tall. Lepidodendron is classified in division Lycopodiophyta, the group that includes modern day club mosses and quillworts, one of the earliest branching off groups off vascular plants. Lycopods were much more diverse in the Carboniferous, when Lepidodendron lived, forming vast forests. The background of the valentine shows the distinctive leaf scars that covered the bark of these trees, while we see an illustration of what the full tree may have looked like in the foreground.

 

This valentine features a pith cast (infill of the center of the stem) of Calamites, a Carboniferous tree-sized relative of modern horsetails. Like the lycopods, the sphenopsids (horsetails and their relatives) were much more diverse historically than they are today, with sphenopsid trees common in Carboniferous forests.

 

This valentine features a close up of the structure and an illustration of Prototaxites, one of the most mysterious of fossils. It formed huge trunk-like structures and lived mostly in the Devonian period (~420-360 mya). Because of hyphae-like structures in the fossil, as well as isotopic evidence, it is widely considered to be an enormous fungus, perhaps even a lichen, but there are other theories.

 

This valentine features the stele (the primary vascular tissue and supporting pith) of an ancient fern called Ankyropteris, which lived in the Carboniferous period (~360-300 mya). During this time we get exceptional preservation of cellular structure in coal balls, a type of fossilization enabled by the coal swamps of the era. Many plants of this time can be identified by the unique shapes of their steles, and ferns have some strange ones, like this H-shaped stele.

 

 

Jonathan Brings the Polystichum to PLANTS!

munitum, imbricans, dudleyi, and californicum, oh my

Jonathan took the reins for last week’s PLANTS! seminar and gave a compelling tour of the glory and mystery of reticulating Polystichum. Killer synapomorphies for Polystichum imbricans subspecies curtum remain elusive, however.

 

My study organisms are huge!

 

Just look at how much fun ferns are. Polystichum in particular.

 

Rothfels lab poet laureate

Ode to a Fern Foray

While botanists sit at home and reckon,
Far-flung Fijian forests beckon.
From far-afield a Fern man came,
Despite some age he still was Game.

With Sarah’s help rare ferns he sought,
About their Latin names he taught.
Up muddy paths, down streams they walked,
Of family and genus talked.

On highest peak, by every creek,
New species did they ever seek.
Ferns, lycophytes, more did abound,
With rarest ones still yet unfound.

Bright dragonflies did also gleam
in forest glades, by every stream.
Good natured Milen these did chase,
He cast his net with every pace.

Deep focus on the task at hand,
And bonding with the happy band,
Pushed cares away and made for play
On every happy ferny day.

If distant age brings feelings sad,
Fern memories may yet be glad,
And now far islands call us back,
To seek those ferns that yet we lack.

When long from now our time has been,
Ferns shall remain forever green –
And if one day the world should warm,
Bright ferns will weather every storm.

 

  —John Game, December 2018.

 

Lab photo fall 2018

Look’n Good in 2018

Time for the annual Rothfels lab photo! Rothfels lab-photo? Rothfels-lab photo? Rothfels lab lab photo?

This is us! Fall 2018. Late October is totally fall. From L to R: Keir Wefferling, Jonathan Qu, Forrest Freund, Carrie Tribble, Abby Jackson-Gain, Athyrium filix-femina, Mick Song, Sonia Nosratinia, Carl Rothfels, Dori Contreras, Maryam Sedaghatpour, and Joyce Chery. Missing (also L to R): Alan Smith, John Game, and Sraavya Sambara.

 

This is also us, looking modestly more serious.

 

 

 

Be a Scientist!

Be a Scientist

A special edition Keir Wefferling guest post

I have been really enjoying working with “my” 7th-graders over the last few weeks as we explore what it means to be a scientist! The “Be A Scientist” program is organized by Berkeley-based Community Resources for Science, who partner with Berkeley Public Schools to bring local volunteer scientists (students, postdocs, faculty) to the classroom for a 6-week start-to-finish science project. We guide the 7th-graders in formulating their questions and hypotheses, designing experiments, collecting data, and interpreting and presenting their results. This has been an amazing and fast-paced experience to see how the different students each approach questions and problems. They are incredibly quick to adapt to changing plans and to accept unforeseen results. I am learning a lot, both about what gets them excited and about how they ask questions about the world around them. Slimy, gooey science!
Working in a public school in Berkeley is exciting on many levels; it brings me out of my specialized sub-field (plant cytology, biogeography, and systematics) and gives me the opportunity to communicate about the scientific process to a diverse group of citizens in their formative years. My hope is that my enthusiasm for my research with plants—and for science more broadly—will make a lasting impression on the students and show them that science (as well as math, careful planning, researching an idea and following through with the investigative process…) can be fun and satisfying. Of course, the scientific process can be messy at times, and a “failed” experiment will often teach us more than we expect. I am very grateful for this experience that is bringing me in contact with some interesting and bright young people. Their curiosity, insightful questions, and flexibility has certainly made an impression on me!
I am looking rather amazed by a coil of pipe-cleaner presented by J., as A. prepares her wicks for growing salt crystals. Photo by Tyler Chuck, CRS.
Darlene, Project Coordinator for Community Resources for Science, has been in the classroom every week, helping students set up their experiments and providing support for the mentors. Photo by Tyler Chuck, CRS.

 

Pteridophyte Collections Consortium

Introducing the Pteridophyte Collections Consortium

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.

 

PCC at the iDigBio Summit

Bringing the PCC to Gainesville

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!

Carl presenting the PCC introductory lecture at the iDigBio summit.

 

Look at all those digitizers! Plus that oak is probably full of Pleopeltis.