Lab News

  • Abby & McConehenge (6/17/2019)


    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 (5/9/2019)

    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! (3/19/2019)

    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. –

    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




  • The Subalpine Marshmarigolds of California (3/4/2019)

    The Subalpine Marshmarigolds of California

    I was recently invited to write an article for the Friends of the Regional Parks Botanic Garden, and chose to write about a group of plants I studied for my doctoral dissertation, the subalpine marshmarigolds of western North America. For this article I focused on the two species that occur in California, the hexaploid Caltha biflora and the allododecaploid C. leptosepala. While the hexaploid is widespread in the mountains of California, the allododecaploid is apparently very rare in California, and restricted to the Warner Mountains and High Sierra. It was fun to write in a different style than usual, and hopefully the article will reach an audience beyond the academic community!

  • FERNS at Black Pine Circle School Science Slam! (2/20/2019)

    Ferns were on full display at this year’s Science Slam at Black Pine Circle School, a K-8 private school in Berkeley, California. Graduate student Mick Song participated alongside several scientists and science educators in kicking off a week of science for the middle schoolers. Showcasing several exciting ferns and lycophytes from Costa Rica and telling them about the exciting Azolla event, Mick introduced several students to the world of pteridology. However, there were several intrepid students who already were pressing plants at home! The youth are alright!

  • Paleo Valentines (2/14/2019)

    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! (2/14/2019)

    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.


  • Article on San Diego State University Field Stations Program website (2/2/2019)

    Article on San Diego State University Field Stations Program website

    Pentagramma triangularis, just chillin’ trailside

    Our recent fieldwork at Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve (in Riverside and San Diego Counties near Temecula, CA) resulted in on online article on the San Diego State University Field Stations Program new website!

    This spot was absolutely luscious, with lots of topographic diversity, rain, mud, flowering plants, ferns, lycophytes, fungi, and liverworts. We (Forrest and Keir) found the first Pentagramma triangularis of the trip here, which rounded out our other fern and lycophyte collections of the morning nicely. I’m so grateful that this Reserve exists, and that the SDSU Field Stations make this biodiverse region so accessible for research. See previous post for more luscious photos of SMER!






  • January Fieldwork in S California (1/30/2019)

    January Fieldwork in S California

    In mid-January, two researchers from the Rothfels Lab, Keir Wefferling, focusing on Pentagramma (the goldback and silverback ferns in Pteridaceae) and Forrest Freund, with a focus on the lycophyte genus Isoëtes, (quillworts, in Isoëtaceae) visited three SDSU and UCNRS Ecological Reserves and a number of National Wildlife Refuge sites in San Diego, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties. Their fieldwork took place amidst some magnificent rains, wind, and sun!

    Pentagramma glanduloviscida; looking a little P. viscosa-esque with those +/- entire proximal basiscopic pinnules of the basal pinnae.
    Pentagramma glanduloviscida

    The collection trip was focused on the pteridaceous fern genus Pentagramma, and they managed to find 3.5 species: the goldback fern P. triangularis and the more or less silverback ferns P. maxoniiP. glanduloviscida, and a likely cross (allopolyploid?) between P. glanduloviscida and P. viscosaPentagramma currently has six recognized diploid species and an unknown number of polyploids (mostly triploids and tetraploids) formed through natural hybridization among the diploids. In order to get a better grasp of the morphological, genetic, and chromosome number variation among different populations of Pentagramma, Keir has been sampling from across the range of the genus, incorporating material from herbarium specimens and from the field. Fresh and living material collected on this trip will be particularly useful as it provides high quality DNA and RNA for sequencing work, is ideal for genome size analysis using flow cytometry, and may yield meiotically active cells suitable for chromosome counting work!

    Isoëtes orcuttii and Selaginella cinerascens, N San Miguel Mtn., San Diego NWR


    Eriogonum fasciculatum, Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve


    Forrest scouting ferns and lycophytes in the field after some serious rains, Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve


    Keir feeling good about Myriopteris newberryi, Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve


    Myriopteris newberryi


    Oasis de Los Osos, UCNRS; westernmost Sonoran Desert, with Pentagramma maxonii!


    Pellaea andromedifolia


    Primula (Dodecatheon) clevelandii, Elliott Chaparral Reserve, UCNRS


  • (Secret) Santa visits the lab (1/17/2019)

    We were all good this year, apparently.

    Especially Sonia, who was rewarded with an absolutely gorgeous Syntrichia.

    And how better to celebrate Santa’s largess, than with BUFFET.


    An outtake, this one featuring Jonathan.