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.


Operation Desert Fern* III (*& Selaginella, Arctostaphylos, Grimmia, et al.). Sheet 1 of 3.

Operation Desert Fern* III. Santa Catalinas.

Holy moly, Operation Desert Fern* III was an amazing, hot, exhausting, and successful trip to the mountains of southern Arizona at the end of July. While some would consider us crazy botanists for attempting such a trip in the pre-monsoon Desert Southwest, I would consider us crazy and happy botanists.

Santa Catalina Mountains.
Gold morph of Notholaena standleyi, first fern of the trip. Look at those marginal sporangia!
Notholaena standleyi.

Our first stop (after a rather sweaty and sleepless first night camping west of the Santa Catalinas) was Finger Rock Canyon in the Santa Catalinas, just north of Tucson. This was our hottest field day, but in some ways the most exciting, as we met so many new ferns and were thrilled to discover that things were not as shriveled as expected! Apparently the canyon had received some early monsoon rains, so at least some of the plants were looking lively. That first day we saw Notholaena standleyi, Astrolepis sinuata, A. windhamii, Pellaea truncata, Myriopteris wrightii, M. lindheimeri, M. yavapensis, Selaginella arizonica, S. rupincola, and finally, at about 1136m in the afternoon, Pentagramma maxonii. Yahoo!

Carl and Shirley and a gorgeous stand of Astrolepis sinuata in the Santa Catalinas N of Tucson, AZ.
Astrolepis sinuata in the Sta. Catalinas. Holy moly, look at those stellate adaxial scales!

This view of an angiosperm cost my legs and pants some brutalities.
Selaginella arizonica, looking fine.
Our fearless leader, wandering off into the desert. Oh, and I spy Finger Rock, top R horizon!
The spot where Keir nearly fell to his spiky doom. And where we saw a rattlesnake enjoying a meal in the shade. And some lovely Myriopteris wrightii!



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.



Mexico! Abby and Ixchel in the field

Operation All The Astrolepis

I recently returned from a 10 day trip to Mexico to collect Astrolepis for my senior thesis project. I am studying the evolutionary origins of the allopolyploid complex, Astrolepis integerrima, which occurs in the southwestern United States and the deserts of Mexico. I started in Mexico City where I met up with Ixchel González Ramírez of the Mishler lab. I stayed with her and her family for a night there and then we headed off to Querétaro. Ixchel and I collected Astrolepis in Querétaro with one of her colleagues, Moni Queijeiro-Bolaños, a professor at the Universidad Autonoma de Querétaro. We collected in three localities surrounding the city.

from left to right: Oscar, Moni, Ixchel, and Abby. First day of fieldwork complete!
Astrolepis sinuata growing on a volcanic outcrop. Rock hammer for scale.

Ixchel and I then went to Peña de Bernal, Ixmiquilpan, and Tolantongao in Queretaro and Hidalgo, collecting any Astrolepis we saw along the way. We also found some hotsprings in Tolantongo!

Peña de Bernal
The first A. integerrima found!
Ixchel collecting some Gaga we spotted
plant press & silica. Also note the Botany 2018 water bottle
a relaxing evening exploring the hot springs and grottoes in Tolantongo
mmmm… delicious barbacoa breakfast on our way back to Mexico City

After the 5 day road trip, Ixchel and I returned to Mexico City. The next day, I took a bus to Puebla to meet up with former Specht lab post doc and current BAUP professor, Etelvina Gándara. Etel, one of her undergraduate students, Koni, her dog, Milla (named after Milla biflora), and I went on a two day roadtrip through Puebla and Veracruz, looking for Astrolepis at several localities.

from left to right: Abby, Etel, and Koni in front of caldera lake Atexcac
field dog Milla strutting in front of the lake
volcanic roadcut equals prime Astrolepis habitat

We collected Astrolepis near three different beautiful caldera lakes and spent the night in Coatepec, Veracruz, which is in a cloud forest. Because we were in one of the coffee producing regions of Mexico, I had to get some coffee for the Rothfels lab!

A waterfall in the cloud forest near Xico, Veracruz
The choice was ours to make…

I then headed back to Mexico City to spend two days at the MEXU herbarium, sampling tissue from their collections of Astrolepis. I spotted some collections made by someone familiar…

hmm.. something familiar here?
within the collections! So many Astrolepis!

It was an amazing trip and would not have been possible without the help of many people (Ixchel, Carl, Carrie, and new friends) as well as the fellowships I received from the IB and EPS departments. I’m about to study abroad in Santiago de Chile for all of Fall 2019 semester but I can’t wait to come back to my specimens in January to start uncovering a part of the the mystery of the morphologically variable Astrolepis integerrima!



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!