Field of Science

More Mossy Poetry

My favorite type of poem are those that rhyme. This one could use a little more rhyming for my taste, but I think that it is a good little poem all the same. If you know of any other moss poetry that I have yet to post on this blog or have written your own moss poem let me know. I would be happy to read it and post it up.

Dirty Little Moss
By Dan Paquette

Dirty little moss
on the cottonwood trunk,
my spray bottle
washes away the debris.

Your stem snuggles close
to your siblings, green
unbrushed curls
of sun-loving leaves.

Your generation lies
criss-crossed above

tired wet scaffolding
twisted remnants
of your first borne branches
and some great, great
uncles and aunts
in mucous, brown

intertwined stems, leaves??
limp banners
of whom
they once were??

One day, your skin
will be coal pudding
for some thermal bacteria

long after you and I

A Mossy Poem

There was a discussion on Bryonet last week about moss poetry. Several poems that I was not aware of were sent out. Enjoy!

From Twenty Lessons on British Mosses (1846)

by William Gardiner (1808-1852)
O! Let us love the silken moss
That clothes the time-worn wall
For great its Mighty Author is,
Although the plant be small.
The God who made the glorious sun
That shines so clear and bright,
And silver moon, and sparkling stars,
That gem the brow of night-
Did also give the sweet green moss
Its little form so fair;
And, though so tiny in all its parts,
Is not beneath His care.
When wandering in the fragrant wood,
Where pale primroses grow
To hear the tender ring-dove coo,
And happy small birds sing,
We tread a fresh and downy floor,
By soft green mosses made ;
And, when we rest by woodland stream,
Our couch with them is spread.
In valley deep, on mountain high-
The mosses still are there :
The dear delightful little things-
We meet them everywhere!
And when we mark them in our walks,
So beautiful, though small,
Our grateful hearts should glow with love
To Him who made them all.
(P.S. As I said in my earlier post I am out exploring Okazaki this weekend. Blogger has a new feature where you can schedule a post and it will be posted at a later time. I used this feature to send out this poetry for the weekend. )

Moss at the Kannon Nature Museum

We had a home stay with a Japanese family this past weekend. The family lived in the city of Yokosuka, south of Tokyo. Since the other graduate student and I staying with the same family were both biologists they took us to a local park near their home and to a nature museum.

The park was very nice. We saw a variety of animals: koi, turtles, dragonflies, white-eyed warbler, and a variety of other cool insects. My favorite were these shiny little insects!

There were a number of mosses hiding under bushes and between blades of grass. However as we were walking along my host mother translated one of the signs on the side of the path and it read dangerous snake. I am not a fan of snakes, especially the dangerous kind. Hence there is no picture of the mosses from the park, because after reading that sign I stopped poking around in the brush and stuck to the path.

After visiting the park we were off to the Kannon Nature Museum it sit directly on the coast of Tokyo Bay. The day we visited it was quite foggy over the bay obscuring our view. The museum itself was fantastic and much more than I expected. They had vases full of a large number of native plants that were collected from the area and on display. Of course being near the ocean there were all manner of pickled sea creatures, including fish, mollusks, urchins and octopus.

Unfortunately the most poorly curated display was that of the mosses and ferns. There was a small shelf, pictured here that had about six different types of ferns. Most of them were labeled with their Japanese names and some with their scientific names. However the poor lonely mosses on the bottom shelf did not have any labels at all. Poor things. The two containers on the end are filled with Polytrichum and the middle container has some Dicranum and Polytrichum. I know that I saw more types of mosses in the area than just these two. What happened? No love for the mosses?

I do not have a key or guide to the mosses of Japan, so I am not sure what species in particular they had on display. Many species of moss have world wide distributions, so these could be the same species as those we have in Connecticut.

My plan is to talk to the researchers here in Dr. Hasebe's Lab to find out if they know of an English guide to the mosses. I learned a little Japanese before coming, but I do not think that it is nearly enough to use a field guide.

I am off to explore the town of Okazaki this weekend. As of now my main transportation is on foot, but I have a map and I might give the bus system a try. I really wish that I brought my GPS unit or a compass just in case I get lost. Wish me luck!

My First Japanese Bryophyte

Well here I am half way around the world and 13 hours ahead of EST in Connecticut. The flight was incredibly long but the travel went smoothly overall. We are currently staying at the Graduate University of SOKENDAI having a week of orientation where we are taking Japanese language classes and learning about Japanese culture.

I decided to poke around the bushes outside of the university buildings to see if I could find any bryophytes. What I found were some super tiny hornworts with sporophytes. The cluster here is about the size of my fingernail. There are three main groups of plants that are typically called bryophytes: mosses, liverworts and hornworts.

Hornworts have a flat thallus that grows pressed close to the ground. They do not have stems and leaves as mosses do. Many of the features that set hornworts apart from other bryophytes relate to the sporophytes. They have long, skinny sporophytes that produce spores inside for the entire length. They do not have a swollen capsule as in mosses and liverworts. Pictured here are some very young sporophytes peeking out from the wavy edged hornwort.

The spores are released from these structures by a very interesting mechanism. The oldest and most mature spores are located at the tip of the sporophytes. When they are ready to be released there are 1 to 2 lines that open from the top downward like zippers releasing the spores. The sporophyte continues to grow from the bottom making more and more spores that are released as the opening moves toward the bottom.

This phenomenon is where the common name hornworts comes from. After the spores have been released the sporophyte tip which has been divided in half by the lines of dehiscence (aka. zippers) dries and curls. They look like two horns, thus the name Hornwort. These photos do not show this neat phenomenon since the sporophytes are really young. Hornworts occur around the world and we have them in Connecticut too.

Keep your eyes peeled for these curly tipped sporophytes which tell you that you have found a hornwort. It is a good feature to know about when searching for them.

Off to Study Mosses in Japan

Well this is my last day in Connecticut before heading off to Japan tomorrow. My laundry is done, the lab is tidy, and some of my fabulous fellow graduate students will be taking care of my mosses here in Connecticut while I am gone. I still have a full day ahead of me with packing and cleaning my apartment, but the anxiety about the trip is starting to fade away and I am finally getting excited about the whole adventure.

One of the items that is quite important when meeting people professionally in Japan are business cards. Thy are called meishi in Japan. There is a formal method of meishi exchange that includes bowing. Here is a link to the entire story regarding meishi exchange. Hopefully I will not completely botch the exchange process and I can avoid embarassment.

Of course the business cards that I ordered got tied up in the printing and shipping process and will not arrive before I leave. Hopefully I will be able to have them sent to me so that I can use them while I am there.

I have posted versions of my business card in english and the one the my Japanese research advisor translated into english. The translation is pretty rough. Looking up Japanese characters is not easy. It says Connecticut University Ecology and Evolutionary Biology on the first line. Doctoral University student on the second line. The third line is my name. The prevaling comment that I have gotten is that it is pretty fun that my name in Japanese has two smiley faces. : ) The following lines are my contact information at the National Institute for Basic Biology.

On the at home front, the moss walk this past Saturday went well. We had six participants who came on the walk. We didn't walk very far, which is usually the case when looking at mosses, but everyone had a good time. Since everyone on the walk was new to mosses I introduced several of the common genera that can be found in Connecticut.

Atrichum Hypnum Leucobryum Polytrichum Plagiomnium Sphagnum

Well that is all for now and I will next be posting from Japan. Wish me luck.

Japan, a Moss Walk, a New Website, and Busyness Galore!

Apologies for my recent lack of posting. I am currently in the throes of preparing for a trip to Japan. I was awarded a summer internship through the National Science Foundation's (NSF) East Asia Pacific Summer Institute (EAPSI). I will be spending 10-weeks in Japan working with Dr. Hasebe's lab group at the National Institute for Basic Biology in Okazaki. I will be working with some mutant strains of Physcomitrella patens and running experiments on them. Yes you heard it right, Mutant Mosses. Now I can truly become a mad scientist with a cackling laugh and messy hair! Not to worry though the mutants will not be leaving the lab and they would not try to take over and conquer the world even if they did manage to escape.

I will have internet access while I am in the lab, so I am hoping to keep up with blog posts from Japan. I am planning to visit the city of Kyoto where there are a number of temples that are surrounded by moss gardens. I am hoping to stretch my camera's legs/lens from its photo taking hiatus and get some pretty pictures to post on the blog. I will also be in a number of major cities and it is always fun to hunt for urban mosses. They can grow in some of the oddest nooks and crannies. Additionally, there will be a workshop all about cool lab techniques for Physcomitrella patens held at the lab I will be visiting while in Japan. It should be a great learning experience and put me in touch will many moss researchers across the country. Hopefully I will have fun stories about the mosses and the moss biologists that I meet over the summer.

Also I have updated my personal University Webpage and it has a whole new look. Check it out and let me know what you think. Any comments or critiques are welcome. I have to say a special thanks to my sister who is a graphic designer and gave me assistance/pointers when making the website.

Finally, before I leave I will be leading a short moss walk this upcoming Saturday (June 14th) 11am-12noon at the Goodwin Conservation Center in Hampton, Connecticut, located in the James L. Goodwin State Forest. This is the 4th year that I will be leading a walk at Goodwin, but the last year that I will be working with Emily Komiskey, one of the outdoor educators who is also a graduate student at UConn.
Goodwin just won't be the same without you Em! On Saturday the weather forecast is looking much more comfortable than today, partly cloudy skies and 79F for the high. Hope to see you there!

Berry Go Round #5

The fifth edition of Berry Go Round has been posted at A Neotropical Savanna. The topic for this edition is a celebration of Carl Linnaeus' birthday. He came up with the system for naming species that we currently use (binomial nomenclature). Prior to his idea of a two name system (Genus specific-epithet) a species could have a name with seven descriptive words or more. It was a mess! So here's to Linnaeus and his naming system that made it tons easier to discuss and keep track of species.

For more about blog carnivals and a link to the earlier editions of Berry Go Round, click here.