Field of Science

Tripods for BryoPhotography

I got an email a few weeks back asking about what types of tripods I would recommend for taking pictures of bryophytes.  I am not sure what other folks use, but I have two different tripods that I like pretty well. I have a GorillaPod Original and a Canon Mini Tripod 7. I use them both with my Canon PowerShot A710 IS, which is the camera that I have been using for the past 4 years for the images on this blog.

I have used them both in the field and laboratory, but find that I more often use the GorillaPod in the field and the Canon in the lab. The GorillaPod deals better with uneven surfaces and gets me closer to the ground, while the Canon is better for flat and stable tabletops where I can adjust the height of the mosses I am photographing. Though honestly for many of my photos in the field I sprawl on the ground and make a human tripod with my elbows and both hands on the camera, while holding my breath. However, my knees are starting to protest this method, so I will probably be relying on the GorillaPod more often.

GorillaPod Original with a little demonstration of the its grappling abilities as it clings to the arm of my office chair.

Canon Mini Tripod 7 

Moss Feet

Did you know that mosses have feet? No joke they do. But they don't use them to walk or run around. And thank goodness, because I am glad that I don't have to go chasing them when I go plant collecting.

Ok, bryophyte feet. At the bottom of the bryophyte sporophyte is the foot. It is the region where the un-branched sporophyte is physically attached to the leafy gametophyte. The foot functions in the transfer of nutrients from the maternal, leafy gametophyte to the sporophyte. These are a couple of good reviews about this region in mosses and across land plants.

Ligrone, R. and Gambardella, R. (1988) The sporophyte-gametophyte junction in bryophytes. Advances in Bryology 3: 225-274. (book)

Ligrone, R., Duckett, J. G. and Renzaglia, K. S. (1993) The gametophyte-sporophyte junction in land plants. Advances in Botanical Research 19: 231-317.

My thinking about bryophyte feet was stimulated by a question from a colleague in my department. They were teaching the students about mosses in the Introductory Biology class and were discussing why in old, mainly brown sporophytes of Polytrichum the foot remains green. Early in development the entire sporophyte is green and photosynthetic. Later in development the capsule and stalk turn brown/red and dry out.

Here are some reasons why I think that the foot may remain green long after the rest is no longer photosynthetic. These are just my hypotheses/ideas. I don't have any data or citations to back them up. (1) It is protected from desiccation by the surrounding leafy gametophyte and thus does not dry out. Resulting in it remaining green and hydrated for longer. AND/OR (2) Since it is involved in nutrient transfer from the leafy gametophyte to the sporophyte, it may remain metabolically active and functioning in nutrient transfer until late in sporophyte development. Being able to function in nutrient transfer would require that this tissue is still alive and maybe also photosynthetic = green.

You can see the foot of a moss sporophyte by gently pulling the sporophyte out of the gametophyte that it is attached to. I honestly only remember trying this on Polytrichum when teaching intro bio. I am definitely going to have to take a look at the feet of other species of mosses to see if they also remain green long after the sporophytes have become brown. on Kickstarter - Taking Peer Review to the Internet

I heard about this project over at Uncommon Ground. I think that sounds like a pretty interesting idea for evaluating information that is posted on the web. Check it out and see what you think.

Poop - Where Bryologists and Ornithologists Overlap

We read a paper last week in lab group about goose poop. Yes this is still a blog about about bryophytes and I am going to write about poop today.

In this paper, the goal was to optimize a methodology for extracting bryophyte DNA from the poop/faeces of the barnacle goose. Then they use the DNA to identify the different bryophyte species that the birds had eaten. It is pretty amazing that they were able to identify the mosses from the goose poop using DNA. I think that this sounds much better than digging through the poop trying to identify the bryohytes from small pieces of leaves.

I ran into a bunch of the ornithologists (the folks who study birds) who work in my department and we had a fun discussion about all the possibilities for studying bird poop and the plant contents of the poop. 

It made me think about the Science Communication seminar that I have taken and the book Don't be Such a Scientist that we read a couple of years back. One of the ideas in the book is that that there are several ways to appeal to an audience when communicating science. Intellect - Feeling - Humor - Sex. I think that bodily functions, including poop, could be added in too. Poop is definitely a topic for communicating science that appeals to everyone. Ok maybe appeals is the wrong word. But it is definitely a process everyone can relate to, whereas studying mosses can at times be a little esoteric.

I thought that it was a really fun paper and good science too!