Field of Science

March 2015 Desktop Calendar

Some mosses in the genus Bryum from my travels to Chile. Happy March! 


1 - Single click on the image to open it up in a new window. (If you use the image directly from the blog post you will lose a lot of resolution.)

2 - Right-click (or ctrl-click) on the image, and chose the option that says, "Set as Desktop Background" or "Use Image as Desktop Picture" or "Save Image As...". The wording may vary. (If saving the image to your computer is the only option, then locate it on your computer and choose the "Set as Desktop Background" or "Use Image as Desktop Picture" option from there.)

3 - If the image does not fit your desktop neatly, you may have to adjust the image (Mac: System Preferences - Desktop and Screen Saver - Desktop; Windows: Control Panel - Display - Desktop) and choose "Fill screen" as the display mode of your background image.

More Mossy Magnification


Everyone knows about my love of magnification, including my family. This Christmas I got this great lens for my cell phone camera from my sister. Last year I wrote about a similar magnification lens that sticks to your cell phone camera allowing you to take magnified photos. It worked pretty well, but I like this one even better. The rubber band holds the lens snugly in place and it is large enough that I wasn't afraid of it falling of or loosing it. I also like that it loads up on a little card that can be easily tucked in a wallet or pocket. It makes the whole setup pretty handy. 












You can purchase your own at this website. 












Overall I think that the lens takes good photos. The images are sharp and the focal area is good. The only issue is one I have mentioned before with lenses mounted directly onto a cell phone. Without a mount/stand it is hard to hold the phone steady enough to keep the plants in focus. For these photos I balanced one corner of the phone on the ground to hold it steady, which worked pretty well. 






February 2015 Desktop Calendar

Happy belated February! This past month was a whirlwind of science and adventures for me. I spent the past month in Chile attending the International Association of Bryologists conference and then I went backpacking for a few weeks. I have hundreds of bryophyte photos and many fun stories to tell. As soon as I get settled in my plan is to share many of them with you all here. 

So stay tuned for tales from Chile. In the meantime enjoy the Tetraplodon pictured below. We saw it while walking around in a Sphagnum-dominated peat bog barefoot! 



1 - Single click on the image to open it up in a new window. (If you use the image directly from the blog post you will lose a lot of resolution.)

2 - Right-click (or ctrl-click) on the image, and chose the option that says, "Set as Desktop Background" or "Use Image as Desktop Picture" or "Save Image As...". The wording may vary. (If saving the image to your computer is the only option, then locate it on your computer and choose the "Set as Desktop Background" or "Use Image as Desktop Picture" option from there.)

3 - If the image does not fit your desktop neatly, you may have to adjust the image (Mac: System Preferences - Desktop and Screen Saver - Desktop; Windows: Control Panel - Display - Desktop) and choose "Fill screen" as the display mode of your background image.

January 2015 Desktop Calendar

I spent the holidays visiting family in Cincinnati, Ohio and got some nice shots of mosses peaking through the cracks in my mom's back patio. I took two photos that I thought would make a nice January calendar. 

The moss shown in the photos doesn't look like Bryum argenteum (the silver sidewalk moss). I saw some of that nearby and the leaves were smaller and more closely appressed at the top. No moss books with me here, so a final identification may have to wait until I am back in California. 

 Happy New Year!




1 - Single click on the image to open it up in a new window. (If you use the image directly from the blog post you will lose a lot of resolution.)

2 - Right-click (or ctrl-click) on the image, and chose the option that says, "Set as Desktop Background" or "Use Image as Desktop Picture" or "Save Image As...". The wording may vary. (If saving the image to your computer is the only option, then locate it on your computer and choose the "Set as Desktop Background" or "Use Image as Desktop Picture" option from there.)

3 - If the image does not fit your desktop neatly, you may have to adjust the image (Mac: System Preferences - Desktop and Screen Saver - Desktop; Windows: Control Panel - Display - Desktop) and choose "Fill screen" as the display mode of your background image.

My New Magnets

There are two other issues that I see with
the scientific name.
Can anyone else find them?
Add your thoughts in the comments section. 
This was part of my birthday present from a friend who lives in Portland. They are magnets made from clay to resemble moss- covered stones. Right now they are still attached to the paper hanging on my refrigerator. I just can't bring myself to separate them from their great background packaging. 

The only improvement they could use for scientific accuracy is the name. For plants, a species name is only a binomial, whereas trinomials are regularly used for animals. If a level below species is needed for plants, an abbreviation before the last name is used. For plants, the levels below species include: var. = variety, subsp. = subspecies, and f. = form. 

Botanists vary widely on their use of the levels below species. Some never use them and even think that no one should use them. My undergraduate mentor's comment about levels below species was that they were for scientists who didn't have the gumption to call them different species. (In my memory this phrase is said with a south Boston accent and the word in italics was significantly more colorful.Other scientists use levels below species regularly. The ranks below species can be used to describe populations within a species that are geographically or ecologically distinct or a plants with a distinct morphology.

Personally I lean away from ranks below species, except when they are viewed as an evolutionary hypothesis in need of testing with additional data. Then I see them as a interesting question just waiting to be answered. 

For a thorough analysis of these ranks below species, check out this publication. 

December 2014 Desktop Calendar

Apologies for the blogging silence. October and November were busy months and finding time to blog has been a challenge. I was out in downtown Davis today and spotted this moss growing in between the cobblestones. It is probably Bryum argenteum, the silver sidewalk moss. It doesn't look very silver in this photo, but I am not sure what conditions bring out the shiny hues. 

We have had a lot of rain over the past two weeks in the central valley and the mosses are bursting forth in full force on many exposed soil areas in town. Hopefully we will have a rainy winter to help combat the drought we have been experiencing in California. I know that the mosses would enjoy more rain too!


1 - Single click on the image to open it up in a new window. (If you use the image directly from the blog post you will lose a lot of resolution.)

2 - Right-click (or ctrl-click) on the image, and chose the option that says, "Set as Desktop Background" or "Use Image as Desktop Picture" or "Save Image As...". The wording may vary. (If saving the image to your computer is the only option, then locate it on your computer and choose the "Set as Desktop Background" or "Use Image as Desktop Picture" option from there.)

3 - If the image does not fit your desktop neatly, you may have to adjust the image (Mac: System Preferences - Desktop and Screen Saver - Desktop; Windows: Control Panel - Display - Desktop) and choose "Fill screen" as the display mode of your background image.

October 2014 Desktop Calendar

Another moss from my August vacation to New York and Connecticut. This one is Atrichum crispum. Unlike other Atrichum species, this one does not have lamellae running down the midrib. It has relatively large translucent leaves and teeth on the edges. The leaf blade is smooth but slightly folded into a V when wet. It is a bit challenging to tell this one from a Miniaceae without capsules. The capsules of Atrichum release spores via a salt-shaker mechanism, whereas the Miniaceae have peristome teeth that move in response to changes in humidity.

Fortunately I had my handy Common Mosses of the Northeast and Appalachians field guide with me to help with this identification.  


1 - Single click on the image to open it up in a new window. (If you use the image directly from the blog post you will lose a lot of resolution.)

2 - Right-click (or ctrl-click) on the image, and chose the option that says, "Set as Desktop Background" or "Use Image as Desktop Picture" or "Save Image As...". The wording may vary. (If saving the image to your computer is the only option, then locate it on your computer and choose the "Set as Desktop Background" or "Use Image as Desktop Picture" option from there.)

3 - If the image does not fit your desktop neatly, you may have to adjust the image (Mac: System Preferences - Desktop and Screen Saver - Desktop; Windows: Control Panel - Display - Desktop) and choose "Fill screen" as the display mode of your background image.

More than just Mosses


My life as postdoctoral research fellow at the University of California, Davis is more than just mosses. I am also an active member of my postdoctoral union. The union has a number of roles such as giving postdocs a voice to maintain good pay rates and healthcare benefits, facilitating professional development with panel discussions and computer programming workshops, and creating a social network through mixers and BBQs

Yes, it does cost some money to be a union member. For me it is about $30 in fair-share fees and $10 in membership dues per month, but I think my contributions are going to good use. Besides helping UC postdocs to get a pay raise this year, I am happy to say that my contributions have helped to support the graduate students at the University of Connecticut to unionize. I earned my PhD in 2011 studying bryophytes in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at UConn and thus I am particularly invested in the university maintaining a strong graduate program that continues to produce amazing science and great researchers.

Having competitive wages relative to the cost of living and good benefits were some of the factors that drew me to the University of Connecticut for graduate school. I was also considering and accepted at UC Berkeley, but at the time they were paying less than UConn and had a much higher cost of living.

I hope that the University of Connecticut will move forward with contract negotiations with the graduate students. From the latest updates, it sounds like the process is being delayed and dragging on longer than necessary. The graduate students and the university have better places to spend their time and resources than on prolonged negotiations. 

I hope that the University of Connecticut will value and compensate graduate students fairly for all the significant contributions that they make to teaching and research at the university. Graduate students teach many of the laboratory and discussion sections, as well as designing and carrying out research that results in top notch publications. Just check out graduate student Lily Lewis's publication on bird dispersal of bryophyte diaspores or Manette Sandor's research studying the influence of remnant trees on tropical forest regeneration. Lily and Manette are both great scientists and their continued success is as graduate students is dependent upon the university agreeing to a contract that establishes standards for fair pay and benefits. 

Add your support to the graduate students at the University of Connecticut by signing this petition. Click here for a link to the petition. 

You can also follow the UConn grad student union @GEUUAW or through their website http://www.uconngradunion.org/.

September 2014 Desktop Calendar

We are off on vacation this week visiting friends and family in New York and Connecticut. On one of our hikes we came across this great patch of Leucobryum. I couldn't decide which shot I liked better for the calendar so I put it together for both. Enjoy!

September Desktop Calendar - Option #1

September Desktop Calendar - Option #2

1 - Single click on the image to open it up in a new window. (If you use the image directly from the blog post you will lose a lot of resolution.)

2 - Right-click (or ctrl-click) on the image, and chose the option that says, "Set as Desktop Background" or "Use as Desktop Picture". The wording may vary.

3 - If the image does not fit your desktop neatly, you may have to adjust the image (Mac: System Preferences - Desktop and Screen Saver - Desktop; Windows: Control Panel - Display - Desktop) and choose "Fill screen" as the display mode of your background image.

Bryology Logo Competition

Want to combine your artistic skills and your love of bryophytes? 
Design the new logo for the International Association of Bryologists

Information about the logo competition is below.


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dear colleagues and friends of the International Association of Bryologists (IAB),

In this digital age, we feel it is an opportunistic time to update our logo to one that keeps pace with the contemporary age but also reflects the mission and history of the association. The that both of us might not be talented enough.

Thus, the International Association of Bryologists (IAB) is therefore excited to announce an open competition for a new logo of IAB.

Please send your proposals by Dec. 1st to the acting president of IAB (quandt@uni-bonn.de) or the treasurer (mkonrat@fieldmuseum.org). Proposals are welcome from IAB members as well as non-members. The IAB council will judge the proposals and the winner will be announced during the world conference of Bryology in Chile 2015. The winner will be awarded 300 USD. The second place winner will receive a five-year IAB membership.

The council is looking forward to your contributions!
Please help the society!
Your impact is highly desired, appreciated and important  for a vital association!

On behalf of the council
Dietmar Quandt & Matt von Konrat
Acting President         Treasurer

A Science Communication Activity on Birds and Bryophytes

Have you ever played the telephone game? In this game a phrase is whispered from one person to another with the players trying to repeat the phrase exactly the same. By the time the phrase makes it to the other end of the line it is often altered, sometimes dramatically so. The same can also happen to research as it is transmitted from a peer-reviewed scientific article to the popular media, such as a magazine or newspaper. One explanation for alterations to the research story is that scientists use language with lots of jargon and scientists often use many words that are qualifiers. Qualifiers are words that limit or enhance the meaning of another word. Most often when scientists use them it is to explain the scope and limits of their findings. All-in-all the language of science is significantly different from the language the news media uses to communicate with the public and the weight that is given to different terms and phrases varies between the two.

I think that science communication is an important concept for students who are training to be scientists to both ponder and explore. Thus I developed a team-based learning activity to walk students through the exploration of a scientific research article and the news media reporting on the findings. The main learning objectives of this exercise are for students to: 
-   Analyze the transmission of information from scientific publication to news media.
-   Identify absolute versus qualified statements.
-   Differentiate different organisms from bryophytes.

An additional goal of this exercise was to introduce students, potentially for the first time, to a scientific research article. Reading peer-reviewed research from beginning to end can be intimidating for science students. This activity has students explore the research article for information to compare to the news articles, resulting in students both learning how to find information in scientific papers and how to ground-truth science that is reported in the media.  

If you are interested in trying out this activity with your students I posted the materials that you will need online, via Google DriveIncluded in the materials is a detailed lesson plan, as well as a pre- and post- assessment (with a key) to measure student learning from the activity. Alternatively this activity can be modified to focus on any scientific paper from your field that has been covered in multiple news articles. 


The article that I used for this exercise was a publication studying whether migrating birds may be responsible for moving pieces of bryophytes from northern arctic regions to the far southern reaches of South America. 


The research article can be downloaded for free at the link below. 

The news articles covering this research are at BBC Nature NewsAudubon MagazineScience MagazineUConn Today, and Alaska Dispatch News.

If you use this activity with your students, it would be great to hear your thoughts about the exercise in the comments section below the post!

Mosses and the American Dipper

Mosses around the edge of the nest
The American Dipper is an aquatic songbird that captures all of its food underwater in fast flowing streams. The other interesting thing about these birds is that they use mosses in their nest construction. Last week I got to see some of them along the Payette River in Idaho. Some nests have mosses around the edge with the main body made from twigs, whereas others are roofed nests completely made of mosses. 
A nest made completely of mosses
underneath a bridge.
when I was in Idaho last week. 

Below are some additional views from the American Bryological and Lichenological Society fieldtrip into the hills of Idaho. 
A view of the Idaho hills








The Payette River


An American Dipper nest was
spotted on this rock jutting out
into the river. I took a photo,
but couldn't spot from the shore.