Ynes Mexía

Ynes Mexía, Botanist Extraordinaire

The Google doodle today celebrates the famous Berkeley botanist Ynes Mexía, who collected ~150,000 specimens and did much of her fieldwork alone, which is all the more impressive given that she didn’t start her botanical careers until she was in her 50s!

See more about her here, and here, and if that piques your interest, we are lucky enough to have her archives here at UC/JEPS.


Dr. Dori, Curator

Dr. Dori, Curator. Of paleobotany, at the Perot Museum!

This has been a summer of good news for senior Rlabites, and I’ve been belated in sharing. First, congratulations to Dori for landing the position of Paleobotanist at the Perot Museum! Not only is this an amazing position in a super cool museum, but it’s back in Dori’s native Texas, close to family. She couldn’t be happier, and we couldn’t be prouder!

Dori in her new office.


And in case you weren’t sure exactly how Dori feels about this position, here she is contemplating the job offer. Or sneezing.


Not One but Two Graduates!

The extra-fancy important person standing up is Joyce.


Woooooo Jonathan and Joyce!!!!


The first Rothfels lab graduates!!!! One with Honors, and the other the commencement speaker. This is a high bar to set–very cruel, guys. Joyce’s speech was amazing–catch it starting around minute 38. Congratulations J’s!!

Dr. J! (Full disclosure: Joyce didn’t realize that there was an earlier Dr. J. LOL LOL LOL)


The future is bright!


Carl and the Cherys (everyone very proud!)


Blue ice!!


Joyce & Chelsea & the Campanile


Jonathan with one of his fine Polystichum


No caption needed





Spring Lab Picnic

Fun in the Richmond sun

Even by early May (when I should have gotten this post up), it’d been a momentous spring for the Rothfels lab with, among other excitements, Jonathan finishing his Honors Thesis and Joyce completing her PhD — the first Rothfels Lab graduates!! These events, of course, provide a great excuse for a picnic.

Jonathan and Keir, discussing the finer points of allopolyploidy
We look blurrier than we felt.

The smaller humans stole the show, as usual.



Abby & McConehenge


On March 11 (yes, I’m that far behind!) Abby took our lab meeting on the road and gave us a tour of her work on the geology interpretive displays at McCone Hall, including the infamous McConehenge (which, unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of — you’ll have to go to the “front yard” of McCone Hall and check it out for yourself). This has been a semester-long labor of love (and sweat) on Abby’s part (she worked with Nick Swanson-Hysell on this, of the Department of Earth and Planetary Science), and the results show it! Probably best lab meeting ever.


Abby by the core McCone Henge interpretive display–the stations described on the sign correspond to each of the boulders comprising the henge–see the map in the top-left corner.
There are also a series of indoor display cabinets with cool rocks and minerals, which Abby worked on.
Calcite colored by geothite.
Rhodochrosite and malachite with azurite.
Rosasite on geothite with calcite.
Calcite (paramorphic after aragonite).
Cool gypsums.
Benitoite with neptunite, in natrolite.
Tourmaline with rubellite.



Joyce’s Finishing Talk

Joyce and the Lianas, to a sold-out show!

Joyce gave her finishing talk, and, as expected, hit it out of the park. Congratulations Joyce!!! The rlab is very proud! A few photos follow, of the action and the subsequent celebrations. If you WANT TO SEE HER TALK FOR YOURSELF, it is HERE.

My valiant attempts to slightly embarrass Joyce in the introduction


Opening act over, let the show begin!


The cutest of acknowledgements (top right)


Carrie outdid herself again — look at that vascular cambial variant cake! And it was delicious.


Cutting the cake


Paul (or Paula?), Joyce’s new houseplant


Champagne, in all its slow-motion glory!




Taxonomist Appreciation Day!

Taxonomist appreciation, in verse

So apparently today is Taxonomist Appreciation Day, huzzah! And on this momentous occasion, the following verse crossed my edesk, courtesy of Fredrick Schueler:

If it wasn’t for the namers what would we do,
We wouldn’t have names both short and true,
We couldn’t specify a creature in a word or two,
If it wasn’t for the work of the namers.

If it wasn’t for the namers you’d just shrug
and call every crawling thing a bug.
Nothing makes a person a more perfect mug
than to disregard the work of the namers.*

If it wasn’t for the namers where would we be,
We wouldn’t have synonymy,
Each would use his favourite name and all would disagree,
If it wasn’t for the work of the namers.

If it wasn’t for the namers we wouldn’t know,
To regard Sorex as a Shrew,
We wouldn’t know cinereus from fumeus and you,
Would simply scream “A shrewmouse there, step on it!”

If it wasn’t for the namers where’d we begin
to know who was kith and kin?
There would be no way to know which clade we’re in
if it wasn’t for the work of the namers.*

If it wasn’t for the namers what would we do,
We wouldn’t have names both short and true,
We couldn’t specify a creature in a word or two,
If it wasn’t for the work of the namers.

*’d verses, June 2013, Gagetown bioblitz. – https://bioblitznb.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/a-poem-by-fred-schueler/comment-page-1/

On the way back from Wawa, Ontario (6 October 2000 – the day we drove for 20 hrs) – to the tune of “If it was na’for the wark o’ the weavers. – to the tune of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ix_fIy5zgv0&fbclid=IwAR0iiTXIRKe86TuJvpohFfNvKLkjQ15vsiX5llL2LLPl09omzY7lThnWaFU




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.