Oklahoma Fieldwork

Fieldwork in the Wichitas and Arbuckles

The Botany meeting was in Fort Worth this year (post on that to follow), and in advance of the meeting, James Beck organized fieldwork in the Wichita and Arbuckle Mountains, Oklahoma. Over the course of the week we found 27 species of ferns and lycophytes (I think that was our final tally), which seems quite respectable to me! Our team included James from Wichita State, me (Carl), Forrest, and Ingrid from UC Berkeley, George Yatskievych from UT Austin, and Layne Huiet, Wei-Ting, and Tzu-Tong Kao from Duke. Good times and chiggers were had by all.

Forrest, Layne, Ingrid, James, on top of Elk Mountain, in the Wichita Mountains. Look at that parasol Ingrid’s sporting!
Ingrid being a keener and field-pressing her plants.
Happy Myriopteris gracilis on a limestone “mountain” not far from the Wichitas.
And the highlight of said limestone mountain–Astrolepis integerrima! I think it gave James flashbacks.
Wichita Mountains, special use area: plotting our next steps. The staff biologists were absolutely fantastic, and extremely generous with their time.
An exceptionally lovely Centurea sp. specimen.
Ingrid: a study in the perils of underestimating the muck. But she really wanted that Potamogeton
Quartz Mountain, near the Wichitas. Surprisingly, rather lacking in quartz. But boasting an abundance of Notholaena standleyi and some Myriopteris wootonii!
Quartz Mountain Myriopteris rufa.
And the infamous Desert Star Cloakfern, Notholaena standleyi! Such a cracker. Just look at those farina!
Back in the Wichitas proper, and against all odds, Myriopteris lindheimeri in the “Juniper Plantation.” This is maybe Oklahoma’s only site for this species? (There’s also Myriopteris rufa hiding there–the greener ones).
Wichitas Woodsia (obtusa). Question–is the plant at the top the same as the one on the bottom?
Some visitors came to help with the plant pressing.
James and Ingrid were particularly excited about the Cherry Coke “Tall Boys”.
Took a much needed dip at the Turner Falls Park.
Then off to the Pontotoc Ridge Nature Preserve (thank you Nature Conservancy!), where there were some very cute angiosperms.
The Pontotoc Ridge wet meadows were past their prime, but still gorgeous.
There be Isoetes butleri along that drainage! (At Pontonoc Ridge).

 

At the fieldhouse we had a very small very fiesty visitor (a Copperhead?).  No botanists or snakes were injured in the recording of this video.

 

Another great victory of “twitching” for plants–this cliff was full of Cystopteris tennesseensis (Bois D’Arc Creek).
Such swanky digs for our plant pressing!
Couldn’t say it better myself.
Also very true.

 

 

A Shocker in Berkeley

A Shocker in Berkeley

The Wichita State Shockers–truly a legend among college mascots.

The Rothfels lab was blessed with a visit from a proud shocker, the legendary Dr. James Beck, of Wichita State. “Shocker” — one who harvests wheat into shocks? Or, in this case, an animated shock itself:

 

 

 

 

 

James was here for a labwork blitz, refining a protocol for generating genome-scale data from herbarium specimens using double-digest RAD sequencing (ddRAD). Over the course of a week, he and Ingrid ground through two plates of samples, from beginning to end. Very excited to see how this works out!

This is what labwork looks like in the Rothfels lab. Personally, I think they’re having too much fun.
The delicate work of helping ethanol evaporate. Valuable use of time!!

In between pipetting and bead clean-ups, James squeezed in some spore counting from apomictic Myriopteris gracilis (32 spores/sporangium = apomict; 64 spores/sporangium = sexual). In a flurry of glycerol and microscopy, he was able to count his 600th specimen–look for the results soon in a journal near you.

27, 28, 29, …

James’ visit also provided us with an excuse to get outside and look for some lycophytes! Over the course of some happy tromping in Marin Co. we found both Isoetes howellii and Isoetes nuttallii, as well as a nice smattering of ferns.

Forrest working on his Isoetes nuttallii sampling.

 

 

Jepson Prairie!

AKA, in Which Carl has a Lifer Fern Family.

And two lifer fern genera.

Photo: Will Freyman

We had a fantastic pseudo-Rothfels lab expedition to the Jepson Prairie Reserve this past weekend. This site is part of the UC reserve system, a fantastic suite of protected natural areas dedicated to research, education, and conservation. The Jepson Prairie, for example, is a rare remaining remnant of California’s vernal pool habitats, and with the rain this year, it was in its glory, even though we visited well past the prime bloom.

Vernal pool annuals edging around Olcott Lake. Photo: Will Freyman

 

Mostly Lasthenia

 

Mostly Navarretia. (N. leucocephala subsp. bakeri)

Our intrepid team consisted of me (Carl), Forrest, Cathy Rushworth, Seema Sheth, Will Freyman, and Adam Schneider, and we spent a delightful several hours crouching low, muttering about the distinguishing features of, e.g., various species of Downingia.

Tromping through the dying stalks of invasive grasses (and the occasional Golden Nugget) on our way to the playa. (Forrest, Cathy, Adam, Seema, Carl.) Photo: Will Freyman

 

This is what we looked like most of the time.

 

Really getting into the plant identification action.

 

Forrest’s keen ability to differentiate among very small grass-like plants led to my first honest-to-goodness Pilularia americana, in Marsileaceae! This heterosporous beauty was devilishly difficult to pick out among all the Juncus, etc. that invariably surrounded it.

There be Pilularia!!!!! Making woolly marbles (ha!) look large.

 

Somewhat of a close-up. (Ignore the Plantago.) Photo: Will Freyman

 

In case you don’t believe me (well, really, don’t believe Forrest), here’s a photo from back in the lab showing the characteristic sporocarps.

 

And here’s a close-up of said sporocarps. They were unexpectedly tightly arranged along the rhizome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And that’s not all! Forrest also pointed out a colony of Marsilea vestita, one of the “water clovers”, for a clean sweep of North American Marsileaceae genera.

Marsilea leaves happily bobbing in the saline waters of Olcott Lake.

 

Collecting Marsilea was moderately involved, and refreshing. Photo: Cathy Rushworth

 

And, of course, no trip with Forrest would be complete without the most inconspicuous of inconspicuous plants–Isoetes! In this case, the California floristic province vernal pool specialist, Isoetes orcuttii.

Isoetes orcuttii towering over Carl’s finger.

 

Jepson Prairie was all about heterospory–the Pilularia, Marsilea, and Isoetes exhausted the local supply of seed-free vascular plants (although Azolla, also heterosporous, has been reported from the site). We were, however, able to delight in members of that third evolution of heterospory, in the form of crazy vernal pool annual angiosperms.

 

Calochortus luteus, Gold Nuggets, with a native pollinator. Photo: Seema Sheth

 

Probably Downingia concolor, the Fringed Downingia (the Downingias became a little overwhelming, and started to all blur together). Photo: Cathy Rushworth

 

Downingia insignis, the Cupped Downingia. Photo: Seema Sheth

 

Downingia pusilla, Dwarf Downingia, rather the odd one out among its congeners. Photo: Seema Sheth

 

Close-up of Downingia insignis. Photo: Seema Sheth

 

Castilleja campestris, Field Owl’s Clover, fraternizing with Navarretia, Downingia, etc. Photo: Will Freyman

 

Achyrachaena mollis, Blow Wives. Photo: Will Freyman

 

And finally, we even saw some non-plants! Loggerhead Shrikes put on a good show, Seema found a fence lizard, there were lots of tadpole shrimp exoskeletons scattered around the margin of the playa, and American Avocets took noisy exception to our presence.

Stay away from my playa! Photo: Forrest Freund

 

Pacific Chorus Frogs were very common around the playa. Photo: Seema Sheth

 

 

 

Candidate Forrest!

 

Forrest passed his quals!

Forrest makes history by becoming the first Rothfels lab PhD candidate–congratulations Forrest, and well deserved!!

Forrest relishes his advancement to candidacy with a rare glass of champagne. You know Forrest is happy when! Note also the life-size Isoetes illustration.

 

Forrest accepting his Ceremonial Candidacy Fern Boa. He wore it well.

 

And his ceremonial hot sauce gift. Unsurprisingly, he was already familiar with “the original hottest sauce in the universe”– I believe he described it as “actually pretty hot.”

 

 

Rothfels Lab April 2017

 

Our first lab photo! And already out of date, since Maryam will be joining our lab shortly (and maybe Carrie and Joyce!). I’ll be more diligent in future, and update our lab photo more regularly. This version can be archived here for posterity so that Forrest and Mick, as they approach graduation and beyond, can look back upon their youth…

The Rothfels lab and associates, circa April 2017. Standing, L to R: John Game, Alan Smith, Paco Perfectti, Forrest Freund, Ingrid Jordon-Thaden; crouching (tigers): Gahun Boo, Carl Rothfels, Mick Song. Forrest is excited about having his photo taken, and Mick–those boots! Amazing. (Note the artfully arranged Athyrium).

 

 

 

OTS Fern Course 50th Anniversary

Lab members Forrest and Mick return from Costa Rica where they participated in the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) Tropical Fern and Lycophyte Course.

Lead by Robbin Moran and co-instructed by Carl Taylor and Jarmila Pittermann, the two intrepid Rothfels lab members spent two weeks in Costa Rica visiting Las Cruces, Las Alturas, and La Selva. The course focused on the identification of ferns and over the course of the trip they encountered all of the tropical fern families and learned over 80 genera!

This was the 50th anniversary of the famous course that Carl took in 2008. Our very own Alan Smith took the first course in 1967!

1967! Where’s Alan? (photo courtesy of Robbin Moran)
2008. Look up, Carl! (photo courtesy of Robbin Moran)
2017. 50 years of frondship! (photo courtesy of Robbin Moran)