Field of Science

The Reski Laboratory on Twitter

I just discovered that the Reski Laboratory is on twitter. They study the moss Physcomitrella patens at the University of Freiburg in Germany.

I am tossing around the idea of using twitter when I don't have time for longer blog postings. I signed up for an account to check it out and you can link to it here (Not that I have twittered anything yet). I am trying to wrap my mind around how I would use it and how it might add to the blogging. We shall see. It is another experiment!

Feel free to leave a comment about this new experiment to use twitter in association with this blog for communicating science and all that is mossy to a broader audience.
What do you think?
Yes, twitter is great and it will add to the blog.
No, twitter is evil and focusing on more blog posts would be time better spent.

Berry Go Round #22

The latest edition of the plant carnival Berry Go Round has been posted at Seeds Aside. One of my posts from this past month has been included in the lineup! Link through to checkout all the interesting botanical topics from November 2009. 

P.S. Be sure to note that the banner heading at Seeds Aside features some great looking plants.

For more about blog carnivals and my posts about the earlier editions of Berry Go Round, click here.

Some Birds Like the Moss

One of the ornithologists in my department forwarded along this article about Australian woodland bird conservation that mentions mosses.

R.M. Montague-Drake, D.B. Lindenmayer and R.B. Cunningham. 2009. Factors affecting site occupancy by woodland bird species of conservation concern. Biological Conservation Volume 142, Issue 12, Pages 2896-2903.

They focused on  patches of woodland and studied which aspects of the woodland affect the presence of 13 different bird species. One of the factors they measured was the % of the ground or rocks that was covered by mosses and lichens.

They found that 5 of the bird species were more likely to be found in woodlands with high percentages of moss and lichen cover. They lichen-ed them! (Teaching Bryology and Lichenology there were so many bad lichen jokes during the laboratory period, but I still found them totally funny.) 

The authors mention that often in other studies they do not distinguish between 'bare ground' and 'moss and lichen covered'. I would have to agree that there is a big difference between the two. Moss layers hold moisture, prevent soil erosion, and serve as housing for invertebrates and other small critters.

It is great to read that some species of birds thoroughly appreciate their moss and lichen neighbors!

Not the Model of Monophyly

Physcomitrella patens is our little model organism moss. It has recently had all of its DNA sequenced. Think the human genome project, but for mosses. The speed at which scientific information is transmitted has been greatly increased by the internet. Some scientific journals even publish papers online before they even come out in print. One of these articles in the journal Evolution focuses on the genus Physcomitrella and some of its closest relatives.

Mosses were collected and identified as a particular species by their morphology (their outward appearance to the eye). Using similarities in appearance as an initial hypothesis for species relationships is often where scientists start. These hypotheses were then tested using DNA data to examine relationships among the moss species.

The Bottom Line - All moss populations that are identified as members of the genus  Physcomitrella were not found to be each others closest relatives using DNA information.

Thus the genus does not descend from a single common ancestor. Species or genera that do descend from a single common ancestor are said to be monophyletic or to demonstrate monophyly. Often this is a rule that is used when determining the names of organisms. Think of a genealogy. If you traced back to your grandmother and then you diagrammed all of her children and their children and their children, everyone who is descendant from her by blood, not marriage, you would have a monophyletic group. It works the same way in plants and in the same genus all the members hopefully form a monophyletic group.    

Since the genus Physcomitrella is not monophyletic, name changes are in order with some of these species needing to me moved into a different genus. Their data also show that some of the species are forming hybrids. Crossing a horse with a donkey to get a mule would be an example of a hybrid you might know. However unlike a mule, which cannot reproduce, some of these hybrid species are able to make offspring and continue their reproductive lines.

Their paper explores a basic question that I am very interested in: Are plants that look the same morphologically actually each other's closest relatives? Or have plants that look the same evolved from different ancestors?

Darwin's not that Cool

Charles Darwin's work On the Origin of Species is celebrating its 15oth birthday/publication-day today. A lot of news outlets are talking about the influence of this book on our scientific thinking about evolution. Checkout NPR, BBC and NYTimes for more info. I really don't have much more to add to that information-wise about Darwin. I've read parts of On the Origin and as a thinker he was way ahead of his time with some really great thoughts.

But honestly, just between you, me, and the blogosphere he is not my favorite historic (aka. dead) scientist. Beating him out by a long shot is Wilhelm Hofmeister. Ok, so you have probably never heard of Hofmeister. His position as an unknown underdog is one of the reasons I like him and his scientific discoveries. I study mosses. I tend to like the underdogs and migrate toward championing them.

Hofmeister's major discovery was to observe and outline the alternation of generations in many different kinds of plants from bryophytes to flowering plants. Basically he figured out how different parts of the plant life cycle go from gametophyte to sporophyte and then back again. He was the first scientist to figure out and discribe this important plant phenomenon.

He only had a basic education equivelent to trade school through age 15 and was entirely a self-taught botanist. Also he was very near-sighted. So much so that he sometimes did not recognize people walking down the street. However this sort of turned his eyes into magnifying lenses enabling him to see tiny plant parts and mini mosses.

Check out this scientific journal article to read more about Hofmeister and his scientific contributions.
The Genius of Wilhelm Hofmeister: The Origin of Causal-Analytical Research in Plant Development. Donald R. Kaplan and Todd J. Cooke. American Journal of Botany, Vol. 83, No. 12 (Dec., 1996), pp. 1647-1660.

Hofmeister also has a well-referenced wiki entry that appears to be accurate considering its wiki-ness.

A Mossy Embrace

A fellow graduate student forwarded along this link to a BBC news page reporting on the results of a photo competition. The photo that won the student category is a pair of moss sporophytes sticking out of the snow. (#13 in the series.) The photo is entitled Embrace. It is a great picture with nice imaginative imagery in the quote from the photographer. Some of the terms that she uses in the caption are not entirely bryologically accurate or maybe they are just not the terms that I would use. However I am trying to not be such a scientist, so I am not going to critique them here. I encourage you to suspend reality and any terminology hangups that you might have and to enjoy the beauty of these snowy sporophytes.

An additional news source that reported on the competition is the Guardian News. Click here for the link to another version of the moss image and its associated caption. (Photo #7)

(We are reading the book Don't Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style in the Science Communication seminar I am taking. Thus I am trying to relax into my science communication and not be so picky about terms especially when the above photo is art. We shall see how it works.)

Moving and Mossing

A couple of weekends ago I helped one of my grad student pals move into his new house. I arrived a little early and explored the moss diversity on the property. There was an old well behind the house that was covered by mosses. It has a nice bit of species diversity. I have included some of the photos below.

I was on a photo spree and did not do any collecting to identify the specific species. I think that I will have to visit again to do a more through survey.

Blogging Pause

October has been a busy month for me with a trip to Virginia and juggling a number of projects here in the lab. All the balls are still in the air and I am feeling pretty good about that. However as you can see the blogging has suffered, with my last post being over a month ago. I have been amassing ideas for new posts over the month and am planning to write some of those during the upcoming weekend.

For now...

- The latest edition of the plant blog carnival Berry Go Round is up at Beetles In The Bush (#21) for your perusal. My favorite article of the bunch was the post at The Natural Capital about wild grapes. It is a well written post with a good hook at the beginning. Then great facts on identifying wild grapes and tips on avoiding other fruiting plants that you might mistake for grapes.

- The trip to Virginia was to see a friend and former Grad Student from my department who now lives in Virginia. I left the shutter-bugging to the other gals so I don't have any pictures of our outing to the Shenandoah National Park. It was a great autumn day and there were tons of mosses to be seen! If you would like to see some photos and the tale of hiking adventures with four botanists you can check out Em's blog post here.

Berry Go Round #20

The latest edition of the plant carnival Berry Go Round has been posted at Further Thoughts. Stop by to check out this month's plant posts from the blogosphere!

For more about blog carnivals and my posts about the earlier editions of Berry Go Round, click here.

2009 Andrew's Foray Continued

One of the sites we visited on the foray was a Cat Den Swamp. There really weren't any areas of open water and the area was dominated by Sphagnum (peat moss). Thus I would have characterized it as a bog rather than a swamp. Bogs are really great habitats to visit. Boots are definitely a necessity or you could go for a pair of bare feet during the summer. I have been to some bogs that are like walking on a water-bed. This one was not that type. It was on full of slurpy sounds that almost pulled my boots off at times.

Above it can be seen that there are many shrubs in this area.

In addition to a lot of peat moss. They ranged in color from light green (above) to a burnt red (below). I didn't collect any Sphagnum mosses, nor did I try to identify them to species. I appreciate and enjoy peat moss much more on an larger ecological scale. They are cool to walk among but I'd rather not key them out to species under the microscope.

Mosses on The Colbert Report

I saw an episode of the Colbert Report last night and moss landscaping/gardening was featured in one of the jokes. You know that things are becoming more popular when they reach the late night comedy shows.

In part of the sketch he mentions turning a backyard koi pond into a peat bog. This statement is actually not impossible. Sphagnum sp. (peat moss) has the ability to change the acidity (pH) of the water in which it lives. It makes the water more acidic, which is better for the moss and usually worse for many of the other plants. Colbert did forget to mention that turning a koi pond into a bog will probably also kill all the koi.

If you are interested in cutting directly to the mossy reference it starts around 3:50min.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Atone Phone - Emmy Awards
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2009 Andrews Foray

I had a great time at the foray this past weekend! There were approximately 20 amateurs and professionals who came to study the lichens and mosses of northeastern Connecticut. I ran into an old friend who I hadn’t seen in years and I met some new folks who I hope to see in the future.

Over the course of the weekend we explored three different sites: Boston Hollow in the Yale Meyer’s Forest near Westford, Cat Den Swamp in the Natchaug State Forest near Eastford, and an area of the Windham Bog. (I didn’t make it to the last site due to a previous commitment, but that is where they said they were going.) The weekend weather was perfect! A little cool with the snap of the coming fall in the air and crisp blue skies overhead.

The first site was identified by the lichenologists as a talus slope with a wet seepy area near the road. I had to ask for the definition of talus and was told that it is a fancy word for a pile of rocks at the base of a cliff or slope. They were pretty big rocks and I probably would have called them boulders, but tallus works well too. Being out in the field with bryologists who can identify more plants than I can was a little intimidating, but it also resulted in my learning to recognize a number of new species in the field.

I spent most of my time acting as a sponge absorbing information and only took a few photos. Unfortunately when I went back to pick some to put up with this post I was disappointed to find some really fuzzy photos and only a couple that are even close to in focus. Despite that I will post a few up here for a splash of green and give you some description of them below.

Above center is some Mniaceae. (the 'M' is silent in the pronunciation) The leaves are whirled into a splash cup that is filled with male sex organs (antheridia). To the above-right is a very small moss whose spore filled capsules are not elevated on a stalk. Thus they appear to be sitting directly on the soil. This is a member of the genus Diphyscium. The above-left is a common genus that I often see in Connecticut forests, but a new species for me. It is Thuidium minutulum. I love the name. It means the miniature Thuidium and that is just what it looks like. A very small slender version of the robust Thuidium that I often see covering rocks or soil in Connecticut.

A special thanks goes out to Juan Sanchez who organized the trip and lodging.

I will have another story about the foray later this week or next. Stay tuned for more mosses...

Moss Poetry

I have recently corresponded with Ruth Hill the author of the poem "The Tundra Terrarium" that I posted about back on April 30th of this year. We had a really great exchange and she had this to share about the poem,
"The subtitle, "May Day," of course refers to Spring; but the second "May Day" is a distress call from the environment. The unusual format, with the words thrown off to the side, is supposed to be reminiscent of the surprising way some Bryophytes "throw" their spores far and wide for reproduction, as if they are "Spring-loaded!" (Pun intended.) The words of the poem are "thrown off" like spores. I like to invite people to get off their duff and get out into the duff, so to speak." - Ruth Hill;
I think that insights into a poem or other literature directly from the author is great! It can really alter how you see and feel the written word. If you know of anyone who is writing bryo-poetry feel free to pass their name along. I would be happy to help share their work with a wider audience via this blog.

Mosses Featured at United States National Parks

I did a search recently because I was interested to see how many of our National Parks discuss or feature the mosses that live in the parks. Here are a few of the interesting pages that I found and my comments on them. (They are not arranged in any particular order.)

Mt Ranier National Park - Washington
In 1939 Dr. E. T. Bodenberg wrote a moss flora about this park. It has a really thorough introduction that covers everything from the moss life cycle to how particular features of the park affect the mosses growing there. A checklist of the mosses in the park and a key to their identification is also included. Also interesting to note is that samples of all of the species included in this flora have been collected and placed in the park's herbarium. A herbarium is a collection of dried plant samples associated with location information that acts as a natural history record of the plants from a particular area.

Denali National Park and Preserve - Alaska
This park has a very animated and detailed section about the mosses. They also include an informative list of reasons for bryophytes being so broadly distributed across the globe.

Arches National Park - Utah
This park has a really great page discussing desert mosses and their ability to survive long dry periods (aka. desiccation).

Cape Krusenstern National Monuemant - Alaska
Sphagnum sp. (peat moss) is mentioned as a major player in the tundra habitat that is dominant at this location.

Canyonlands National Park - Utah
This site pretty much reuses the same information and photo as those at Arches National Park. I think that it is all still applicable since the habitat in the two locations is probably very similar. However more bryophyte details specific to the park would have been appreciated.

Grand Teton National Park - Wyoming
This park has a really great page that highlights the mosses and liverworts and the role that they play in this park.

Shenandoah National Park - Virginia

This park quotes the number of bryophytes that they have growing at the park = 208 species of moss and 58 species of liverwort. They also list some references and website links for more bryophyte information. The websites look to have good information and are associated with major universities. I think that their liverwort book selection is good, while their moss recommendation is a 2 volume set that costs ~$300. I would recommend a library if you are interested in checking out this thorough work on mosses.
(Pet Peeve: Below the photo it describes the mosses as 'fruiting'. That term is commonly used but biologically incorrect. Bryophytes do not form flowers, seeds or fruits! But fruiting is an easier term to use than sporing, which is not a technical or even real term. It could just be said that they are reproducing.)

ParkWise - Educational Resources for Alaskan National Parks
Mosses are included as part of this exercise about successional plants.

Redwood National & State Parks - California

Bandelier National Monument - New Mexico
Both of these parks mention moss being used by birds as nesting material.

National Battlefield Park - Virginia
This park has a page with a nice photo that features the mosses and liverworts.

I hope that you enjoy these webpages about mosses and liverworts living at our National parks, preserves, and monuments. If you have any stories about the bryophytes at your local parks feel free to share them in the comments section.

New Bryophyte Guide

I think that there is really a void when it comes to bryophyte field guides for amateurs. I have sent emails to both the Peterson's Field Guide company and the Finder guides suggesting that a guide to the moss genera of North America is desperately needed. Unfortunately there was no reply from either company. I guess they don't think that there is a market for this type of guide. I think that there is, considering that I am asked about what field guide I would recommend quite often.

The first guide that I purchased was Conrad and Redfearn's "How to know the mosses and liverworts". This guide is ok, but the dichotomous key at the beginning is really long and painful. You have to really want to learn about mosses to pull the information that you desire out of this book. Also some of the characteristics they have you look for are microscopic and really cannot be seen with a 10X handlens.

An announcement came out on Bryonet a while back about a new bryophyte guide. It is entitled "A Trailside Guide to Mosses and Liverworts of the Cherokee National Forest" by Paul G. Davison with contributions from Mark J. Pistrang. If you have never visited the Cherokee National Forest, it is a fabulous place. I carried out some of my undergraduate research there and participated in the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory in the Smoky Mountains. Fortunately many of the genera in this area overlap with other eastern deciduous forest regions of the United States, and thus could be used outside of the region.

I have purchased a copy and I think that this book is great. There are multiple color photographs per genus. The text includes a description about the genus; notes on habitat, size, distinguishing characteristics and reproduction; the number of species in the genus that live in the Southern Appalachian Mountains; the distribution of the genus within Eastern North America. The book covers 52 genera and focuses on larger scale photographs. Thus a microscope is not needed, which is critical for making field identifications.

The specific species that are covered may not be found in your area, but I think that identifications of mosses and liverworts to genus are just fine. When I lead moss walks and teach people local plants we only talk about them in terms of the genus identification. Really to identify these plants to species you need a microscope. However there are a lot of genera to be learned with ~12,000 different moss species worldwide.

Salt-Shaker Spore Dispersal

Mosses in the Polytrichaceae spread their spores in a really neat way. Shown here are Atrichum sporophytes. Another member of the family that I have blogged about is Polytrichum, which also shares this dispersal mechanism.

Atrichum's manner of spores dispersal has been described as a salt shaker mechanism. And as you can see on the up-close shot below, it is a pretty good analogy. The mouth of the capsule is surrounded by a ring of short, immovable teeth that attach to a disc covering the opening to the capsule. The disc keeps rain from entering the capsule so that the spores do not start to grow before they have exited the capsule. When a breeze or a passing animal jostles the capsule the spores sift out from between the teeth. This mechanism also keeps the spores from coming out in a single mass, which would pretty much defeat the ability of these spores to spread on the wind.

If you are ever out in the woods and see some Artichum (or Polytrichum) sporophytes, give them a tap. You may be rewarded by a poof of spores emanating from the top of the capsule.

Fun Fact: Spores are so small and light that they can disperse very long distances. Researchers carried out a study (I am not sure of the reference off the top of my head, but I will check.) where they attached sticky microscope slides to the wings of a plane that flew high into the air. What do you know, they found moss spores all the way up in the the jet-stream. Pretty cool that they are able to travel that far up and then far away!

Growing Mosses

I have received a number of emails over the past couple of months with questions about gardening with mosses outdoors. Most of my personal moss growing experience focuses on the plants that I grow in the laboratory. I have little terrariums (culture containers) from Fisher Scientific that work great in the lab.

As for moss gardening outside here are a few resources to get you started.

- The British Bryological Society has a publication entitled "The Moss Grower's Handbook", that you can link to here. This book discusses both liverworts and mosses. It is a really nice read and goes into detail about specific growing conditions for particular species.

- Researchers at Glacier National Park have published an article about moss propagation for re-vegetation projects in the park. A link for the article and a pdf version can be found here. They illustrate a nice setup for growing mosses indoors to be planted outside after they are established.

- Schenk, G. 1997. Moss Gardening: including lichens, liverworts and other miniatures. Timber Press: Portland, Oregon.
A good reference book for landscaping/gardening with mosses that is filled with
nice color photos. It also covers growing specifics for particular species. My only critique of the book is that it could use a little more focus on issues of conservation.

- Cullina, William. 2008. Native Ferns, Moss, and Grasses: From Emerald Carpet to Amber Wave, Serene and Sensuous Plants for the Garden. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
This book has been on my wish-list for a while, but I have yet to purchase/read it. So I am not sure how helpful it is, but it does have an entire section on gardening with mosses.
If anyone has read this book and has an opinion on its utility for moss gardening, feel free to let me know.

Thanks for all the moss gardening questions and I hope that my answers were helpful. If you have any other suggestions for good moss gardening resources please drop a note in the comments section.

Berry Go Round #19

The latest edition of the plant carnival Berry Go Round has been posted at Quiche Moraine. Stop by to check out this month's plant posts from the blogosphere!

For more about blog carnivals and my posts about the earlier editions of Berry Go Round, click here.

Mosses on Science Friday

While doing some lab work today I was listening to a podcast of Science Friday from NPR. They mentioned a new web-video that had been posted about moss landscaping. I have posted it below or you can click here to check out the video at the SciFri website.

It is a nice video and has some good information if you are interested in encouraging mosses to grow in your yard. I especially like the hand drawn graphics that illustrate moss rhizoids. All of the science they discussed sounded solid. I think that they did their fact-checking well, which is always nice to see.

Typically when I meet people and tell them that I study mosses people respond with, "Oh, I have moss growing in my yard. Do you know how I can get rid of it? " I could start to outline all the ways in which mosses are fabulous and why you would never want to eliminate them. However this usually does not sway people. Instead I say, " Yes I know what you will need to do. 1) You need to change the pH of the soil by adding lime, but it is hard to do that for any large area and you might then need a lot of lime. 2) You probably have a wet area with poor drainage, which you need to fix to make the soil drier. And 3) you should cut down all the trees in your yard. The mosses will not be able to handle the sunlight and the grass will grow better. " This last statement usually results in a jaw-dropping reaction from most people and a statement that they could not possibly cut down their trees. Then they are much more open to learning to love, like or tolerate the mosses. I then go on to tell them that moss landscaping is becoming more and more popular and they should join the trend.

They also make the same the three points in the video. That pH, water, and sunlight are the main things to consider when trying to convert your lawn into a moss covered area. I also second their point about the low-maintenance nature of a moss lawn. By not requiring a weekly mow a lot of fossil fuel energy can be saved. What do you think, is a moss lawn in your future?

Berry Go Round #18

The latest edition of the plant carnival Berry Go Round has been posted at Foothills Fancies. This month's carnival focuses on both edible and un-edible plants!

As the base of the food chain plants are the source of all of our fabulous foods. Bryophytes however are not often eaten. They do make sugars via photosynthesis. However their cell walls are not easily broken into to release these compounds. Also they can have secondary compound inside their cells that make them un-palatable and quite icky tasting. So when in a pinch I would not recommend trying to eat bryophytes.

For more about blog carnivals and my posts about the earlier editions of Berry Go Round, click here.

The Bug Mosses - Buxbaumia sp.

This was one of the interesting mosses that we saw on the Bioblitz a couple of weeks ago. It is a member of the genus Buxbaumia and is most likely Buxbaumia aphylla. There are 4 species in this genus that can be found in North America and this is the only species one of the four that has been found in Connecticut. If you are hiking just a little further north in Massachusetts you might run into both B. aphylla and B. minakatae. The way to tell these two apart are by the following sporophyte features, which are mature in the springtime.

Buxbaumia aphylla
- Capsule glossy/shiny
- Capsule with a ridge separating
the Upper side from the Lower

Buxbaumia minakatae
- Capsule dull

- No ridge. Upper and Lower sides gradually merge.

The shiny capsule can be better seen on the second photo. It looks pretty dull in the first, but I think that is just the lighting. Both of the photos show the lighter upper side of the capsule that is bordered by a ridge that separates it from the lower side.

The common name for mosses in the genus Buxbaumia is the bug moss. This name refers to the off-kilter (asymmetrical) sporophyte capsule that kind of resembles a bug.

Another fact of note about members of Buxbaumia is that they have a very reduced gametophyte. They never form a leafy plant. Instead they have persistent protonema, which consists of thin filaments that may remind you of algae, if only you could see them. These protonema do produce sex organs (antheridia and archegonia). Add a little water to the mix and a sporophyte is produced via sexual reproduction. Since there is no leafy gametophyte for Buxbaumia the sporophytes appear to be sticking out of the bare soil as you can see in the photo below. Most mosses have a persistent gametophyte that is large and the sporophyte stays attached to it through its life. Since it lacks this feature this makes Buxbaumia a bit of an odd-ball.

If you have ever seen insects displayed in a natural history collection or museum they are mounted on pins stuck through their body and then poked into the bottom of a lined box. That is what I think the Buxbaumia sporophytes resemble. Specifically, they remind me of stink bugs, which one of my former office-mates studied for his dissertation. Keep your eyes peeled for this cool moss the next time you are out walking. They are a nice little find.

Corticolous Mosses at Bioblitz 2009

The Bioblitz a couple of weeks ago went well. I think that we counted about 40 bryophyte species and 40 lichen species in the survey area. We were in both Keney Park in Hartford, CT and in a floodplain area of the Connecticut River. I got some good shots of some pretty cool corticolous mosses. A moss that is corticolous grows on tree bark. Many of them had sporophytes peeking out from amongst the green, as you can see from the photos below.

In the floodplain area that we visited there were tons, I mean tons, of mosquitoes and poison ivy. I have encountered worse mosquitoes before. When I went on a field course to the Bahamas as an undergraduate I was eaten alive by mosquitoes over the two week course. I counted and had hundreds of bites on one leg. However the poison ivy on this Bioblitz excursion was more than I have ever seen before. Knee and hip high patches galore. Vines climbing almost every tree. I often went to bush a branch out of my way only to realize that it was not coming from the tree but from the poison ivy attached to it.

Here is a photo of me hiding from the mosquitoes in my rain jacket. Can you spot all the poison ivy in the background?

The poison ivy is above my head and to the right.

Thanks to Dr. Emmanuël Sérusiaux for taking this photo.

British Bryological Society Publications

I recently became a member of the British Bryological Society. They publish the peer-reviewed scientific journal called the Journal of Bryology. They also have another publication called Field Bryology, which includes a variety of articles. There are articles about new species, moss poems, notes on conservation concerns, book reviews, and much more. You can download some of the articles from this publication at the BBS website.

I think that the Field Bryology's colorful photographs and accessible writing style makes this a great publication for interested amateur bryologists. Their website has a large number of other resources. I would highly recommend checking it out if you are in search of additional bryophyte information on the web. They also list the many field-trips that they have to look at bryophytes across the English countryside. The community appears to be really active and I think that it is great that they get out into the field so much.

Speaking of field trips, we will be out in the field this weekend for the Bioblitz 2009 in Hartford, Connecticut. For more information check out the link at the side bar or drop me an email ( if you are interesed in joining us. All are welcome.

Berry Go Round #17

The latest edition of the plant carnival Berry Go Round has been posted at Gravity's Rainbow. Enjoy the latest from the plant blogosphere!

For more about blog carnivals and my posts about the earlier editions of Berry Go Round, click here.

Bryology Outdoors

I have decided to add an additional heading to the left side of this blog entitled "Bryology Outdoors". I realized that I know about a number of outdoor field-trips and workshops that focus on bryophytes. A few of them are local here in Connecticut, which I will be attending. Others are further afield, such as the SO BE FREE 15 in New Mexico, which I may want to attend, but may be a little far for my travel budget this year.

Here is a list of the outdoor events that I have posted thus far. If you know of any others to add to the list please let me know.

What: Mysterious Mosses - Moss Walks
When: May 30, 2009 10am-12noon or 1:30-3:30pm
Where: West Redding, Connecticut, New Pond Farm (non-profit environmental education center)
Who: I am leading this program.
Fees: $20 per NPF member, $30 per non-member

More Details: Contact the staff at New Pond Farm (203-938-2117) for reservations or click here for more information on their website.

What: Connecticut Bioblitz - 24 hour biological survey of a Connecticut park with scientists, students and members of the public.
When: June 12 & 13, 2009
Goodwin College (Hartford, Connecticut) on Riverside Drive with parallel public events at Keney Park. We will be looking for wildlife along the Connecticut River corridor south to Wethersfield Cove and throughout the 693 acres of Keney Park and the Matianuck State Preserve.
Who: Sponsored by the Center for Conservation and Biodiversity and the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History at the University of Connecticut. My laboratory, headed up by Dr. Goffinet, will be surveying all of the bryophytes during the blitz.
More Details: Check out the Bioblitz website here. If you are interested in joining the bryophyte team for all or part of the bioblitz feel free to drop me an email ( We would be happy to have additional help with the collecting and identifying. I also have a PDF of a flyer for this event if you are interested in advertising in your area.

What: 34th Annual A. Leroy Andrews Foray, Exploring valleys and bogs of northeastern Connecticut.
When: September 18 - 20, 2009
Where: Woodstock, Connecticut, YMCA Camp Woodstock
Who: Contact person for the foray is
Juan Sanchez ( (I will also be attending, probably with other members of my lab.)
More Details: Additional information can be found here at the Goffinet Lab Website.

What: Spring Outing, Botanical Excursion, Foray, Retreat, and Escape into the Environment (SOBEFREE 15)

When: March 23 - 26, 2010

Where: Sacramento Mountains, southern New Mexico
Who: This event is sponsored annually by the Bryo Lab at the University of California Berkeley.
(I probably will not be in attendance as this event is quite a trek from Connecticut.)
More Details: Additional information about this event can be found by linking here to the BryoLab's website.

Back in the Swing of Things

Busyness has kept me away from the blogging in the past couple of weeks. The semester has wrapped up and I will not be teaching over the summer, which is a relief to my schedule. I took a week off to visit my family in Ohio. No mossy stories to report from there, but it was great to have a vacation!

I also heard back about the grants that I applied for back in March. I am thrilled to report that I received all four of the grants! Let me tell you that this was quite a surprise. Grants to fund research in the biological sciences are highly competitive. (For grant applications to the National Science Foundation ~15% of the grants are funded.) Often researchers apply multiple times before receiving funding for their research. Thus I am excited and honored to be awarded the funding from these national and international competitions. It is great to know that others in my field think that my research ideas are exciting and interesting. I am looking forward to a summer filled with research on my mosses that will entail a lot of electron microscopy.

Here is a list of the awards I received and links to the funding agencies.
Stanley Greene Award: International Association of Bryologists (1 of 3 awarded)
Graduate Student Research Award: Botanical Society of America (1 of 13 awarded)
Graduate Student Research Fellowship: American Microscopical Society (1 of 1 awarded)
Henry N. Andrews Endowment Fund: University of Connecticut Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Dept.

Also I will be giving a Moss Walk at New Pond Farm in West Redding Connecticut on Saturday May 30th. Check out their webpage here for more details.

Berry Go Round #16

The latest edition of the plant carnival Berry Go Round has been posted at Quiche Moraine. Stop by to check out all of the interesting plant related posts from the past month!

For more about blog carnivals and my posts about the earlier editions of Berry Go Round, click here.

Moss Poem

I came across this poem in the field journal of the British Bryology Society. I thought that it was appropriate timing to post as May Day is tomorrow. I think that it is a great poem of spring celebration! The warm weather is definitely upon us here in Connecticut. The layout in the original has several words spaced out and hanging out in space. I tried to have blogger space them out. However it kept sliding them back to the right no matter what I tried. Thus the dots (...) that I have added as place holders were not in the original version. I have added them to try to approximate the author's formatting as close as possible.

One more week of classes and then a week of final exams. Once the semester is over I am looking forward to getting outside to take some moss photos to post up and comment about on the blog. Until then enjoy the poetry of spring!

The Tundra Terrarium

(May Day, May Day)

My ............. sings! .................................... heart
These new things:
Pollen flings .............................................. first
Microscopic moss
Telescoping stems

Voluptuous, starburst moss

Little tinker-bell lilies
Spotted fawns
Spotted fawn lilies
Caribou antlers on caribou ferns,
Shed for the gentler season
Innocent inocybe
Cleopatra's Calyptrae
Sophocles' Sporophytes
My seen mycena tips its cap
Mushroom mycelium,
My ceiling
The forest is my floor
Earth Bursts

You! - concrete people!
You who live in the city
Have you no thirst?
This little bug
This pollywog .......................................... hand
This quenching,
Quenched land
Plant a plant that stretches
Up and up for the sun
Plant a plant that turns
Its back to darkness
Yearning for the light:

Your soul is suffering for lack of light
Come out, where souls take flight!

Hill, Ruth. Feb 2009. Field Bryology. Bulletin of the British Bryological Society. No. 97, P.23.

Website All About Liverworts

I just heard about this new website entitled, "ELPT: Early Land Plants Today - Uniting Taxonomy, Nomenclature, & Geography". It is a web resource devoted to information on liverworts (Marchantiophyta), one of the three groups of bryophytes.

This webite has a really extensive literature list that includes 12,000 references about liverworts. There are also links to a few taxon pages with sketches of the species. Additionally there is an extensive list of liverwort checklists. A checklist has all the species in a particular group of interest, plant or animal, that occur in a specific region or area of the world. The area a particular checklist covers can be as small as a local park or as extensive as an entire country. They are a good resource for discovering what species occur in your neck of the woods.

Mosses Outside My Apartment

I was sitting in the park next to my apartment building a few days ago and took these photos.

What do you think?

1) The mosses grew like this on the fence bar.
2) They jumped up there to get a better look at the river.
3) People have fun arranging mosses in the park.

I vote for #3. I thought that it was pretty fun to think that someone arranged the mosses in a very decorative manner. But I wonder how many people have seen them and thought that they just grow on the fence like that naturally. I have seen mosses growing on a number of man-made items. However these ones have huge chunks of sand sticking to the bottom of each clump, which makes me think that they were relocated.

I will definitely be on the lookout for more moss relocation "art" in town.

Berry Go Round #15

The latest edition of the plant carnival Berry Go Round has been posted at A Neotropical Savanna. Stop by to check out all of the fabulous plant related posts!

For more about blog carnivals and my posts about the earlier editions of Berry Go Round, click here.

Mosses and the Money

March has been a busy writing month for me. I have written 4 grant proposals to try to get a hold of some money to fund my research. I applied to an internal granting competition through my department and outside grants through the Botanical Society of America, American Microscopical Society, and the International Association of Bryologists. They range in funding amounts from $500-$1500. Think good thoughts for me. I am hoping to be awarded some money to fund my moss research. My backup plan is to start regularly purchasing lottery tickets.

In other money news, the two undergrad students who are working with me, Leah and Melissa, both received awards to fund their research. Melissa was awarded $500 from UConn's Office of Undergraduate Research to fund her calyptra study. (A calyptra is a little cap of gametophytic tissue that covers the top of the moss sporophyte as it develops.) And Leah found out on Friday that she was awarded a Summer Undergraduate Research Fund (SURF) grant through the same office as Melissa's award. The SURF award includes $500 to fund her research and a $3000 stipend to cover living expenses. With the economy being down the competition was even tougher than previous years. I heard that they had over 100 applications and gave out ~30 awards. The competition is open to students from all disciplines across the university, so it is pretty exciting that she got this award! I am looking forward to having more time this summer to help in advising her on her project. She will be using DNA sequence data to examine the relationships between members of the moss genus Micromitrium.

I am hoping that this is a good omen and that I will have just as good of money/funding luck as the undergrad students I am advising! I will keep you all posted on the outcomes.

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Shamrocks and leprichauns are green just like mosses. To celebrate the day I dug through my digital photos and came up with some green mossy gems to share. Below is a photo of the moss species that I am working on for my dissertation research, Funaria hygrometrica.

This is another species in the Funariaceae, Physcomitrium pyriforme with sporophytes that have matured and are now brown.

All of these photos were taken a couple of years ago. I initially tried growing my mosses on soil in pots in the greenhouses we have on campus. Unfortunately the mist rooms kept them too moist and the mosses were overrun by cyanobacteria and algae. That is when I switched to growing them in little plastic terrariums on a light cart in my laboratory.

I am not sure which species is below. The leafy gametophytes of members of the Funariaceae all look very similar and I did not mark the photo.

There are a few more photos below the fold. Enjoy!

These are some hornworts that my labmate Juan Carlos had planted up in the greenhouse. From the almost readable label it looks like they might be in the genus Anthoceros.

An additional up close shot of the capsules and calyptra of Funaria hygrometrica.

In this batch of bryophyte images I also took a number of shots of the orchids that grow in our teaching greenhouses. Though they are gaudy angiosperms I thought that I would include a couple of them here.