Field of Science

Bryo Course

This is an announcement for a field course that came out on Bryonet a couple of weeks back. I just wanted to share it with anyone who might be interested. 

Intermediate Field Bryology  
March 21-23, 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Klamath Hall, University of Oregon

Class size is limited. Fee: $300.To reserve a space, send $25 deposit (non-refundable processing fee). The balance is due ten days before the workshop. Invoices can be provided on request. Checks or money orders are preferable; make out to "Northwest Botanical Institute" and send to my PO Box. Credit cards can be processed only through PayPal (submit payment to

Class will be held all day for three days, 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. 
Emphasis in this workshop is on using contemporary keys for identifying mosses, liverworts, and hornworts. Dissecting and compound microscopes will be on hand for observing the features necessary for using technical keys. Students with microscopes are urged to bring them. Methods of handling specimens and making preparations will be provided with ample practice material.

This is a very intensive workshop intended to give competence working with keys. All laboratory supplies needed for this class will be provided except specimen packets. Students should purchase the Keys to California mosses and liverworts prior to arrival. A list of recommended "Things to Bring" is below.

Travel, food and lodging for Introductory Field Bryology are the responsibility of the participants.  Participants should bring brown bag lunches each day; otherwise eateries are close by to the class site.

Additional information can be found below the fold.

I'll provide slides and cover slips for use in the workshop. If you have good pair of fine pointed forceps, bring them along. If you want to get some ahead of time, a good source for these is BioQuip (I recommend their 4523 or 4524.):

 Otherwise, I can loan some for the workshop.

10X hand lens required (a good quality one is nice; I use a Bausch & Lomb with Hastings triplet lenses). We use this in lab and field. A 20X is also useful as a second lens; it takes much light and practice to use well and should be a back up to your 10X lens.

Dissecting microscope, optional but desirable. Compound microscope, optional but desirable. If you have your own instruments, please bring them as it is best to work with your regular equipment. I will help you calibrate them for optimal clarity. We will have good instruments available for use in the class.

50 paper specimen packets to start; more than 50 will be needed by the end of the workshop. These are for your personal reference set. You will use them to hold material I distribute in class and that which you will gather on the field trip. Ordinary copy or recycled/reusable paper is fine for this class; I will demonstrate how to make archival packets suitable for institutional herbarium use. 

Writing paper, pens and pencils 
Drawing paper or unlined paper notebooks for drawings 

Primary textbook for mosses: "Contributions to a Bryoflora of California: II. A Key to the Mosses of California" by Norris and Shevock, Madroño vol. 51 No 2. If you don't have a copy, I have a few I'll provide at cost. 

For liverworts: "Contributions Toward a Bryoflora of California: III. Keys and annotated species catalog for liverworts and hornworts" by Doyle and Stotler. Madroño vol. 53 No 2. I have some copies of these, too, available at cost. 

Please try to get these before hand to study; the basic ordering protocol is: send check for $15 for each, $30 for both(payable to "California Botanical Society") to: 

California Botanical Society 
Jepson Herbarium 
1001 VSLB #2465 
University of California 
Berkeley, CA 94720-2465 
The secondary text for liverworts is the "HTML Guide to Oregon Liverworts" by David Wagner. This is a work in progress; each participant will receive a personal copy on CD at the workshop. 
Other useful books: 
"CALIFORNIA MOSSES" by Bill and Nancy Malcolm, Jim Shevock, and Dan Norris
Reviewed in GYROTHYRA 6 (ask if you haven't gotten this). Superb adjunct to the Madroño keys.  $68 each, plus $6.50 shipping (only $1.00 each for shipping additional copies)  and CA sales tax for California residents.

To order, visit the CNPS store:
"Some Common Mosses of British Columbia" by Wilf Schofield.  Best to get this directly from the Royal British Columbia Provincial Museum:  250-356-0505.  Have your credit card handy.  To get it through a book dealer in the U.S. will cost you MUCH more. (May be out of print.)

Flora of North America, volume 27, published 2007. Expensive but extremely valuable. If you can afford it, get from Oxford University Press. I have one copy to sell for a friend, new in box,at subscription cost ( about $85).

PLACES TO STAY. The following motels are within walking distance of campus:
Best Western Greentree Inn. 1759 Franklin Blvd. 541-485-2727; 800-937-8376
Best Western New Oregon Motel. 1655 Franklin Blvd. 541-683-3669; 800-937-8376
Days Inn, 1859 Franklin Blvd.  541-342-6383; 800-444-6383
Holiday Inn. 2117 Franklin Blvd. 541-342-1243; 800-456-6487
Phoenix Inn. 850 Franklin Blvd. 541-344-0001; 800-344-0131
University Inn. 1847 Franklin Blvd. 541-342-4804; 800-424-5213
Travelers Inn. 540 E Broadway. 541-342-1109; 800-432-5213

For other possibilities and info about Eugene, here's the visitor center site:

David H. Wagner, Ph.D.
Northwest Botanical Institute
P.O. Box 30064
Eugene, OR 97403-1064

Moss Video

Another post recommended by Juan Carlos. (If he keeps coming up with fodder for the blog I might just have to make him a co-author on the blog and have him write the posts too. ) Thanks for sharing the link!

This is a video from the California Academy of Sciences in which Jim Shevock discusses mosses. He covers their reproduction, water requirements and dessication tolerance. There are also a number of great shots of mosses in the field. It is a nice video I think to introduce folks to mosses and to simulate some excitement about them.

Berry Go Round #36

The January edition of the plant carnival Berry Go Round has been posted at Seeds Aside.  The selection ranges this month from GMOs and a Fern rap to parasites and taxonomy. Enjoy the selection of posts!

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

A Field Trip to Chile

One of my advisors, Dr. Bernard Goffinet, arrived back in Connecticut from a field trip to southern Chile to study mosses and lichens. Another scientict on the expedition, Dr. Bill Buck, a researcher at the New York Botanical Garden, wrote several blog posts about this trip. They are posted at The New York Botanical Garden's blog Plant Talk.

The posts are a travel log that covers the challenges of field work in the midst of the protests in Punta Arenas, Chile. Fortunately everyone made it back to the states safely.

Thanks Juan Carlos for the link! 

Update 27 Jan 2011: Several of the researchers including Dr. Bill Buck are still in Chile doing fieldwork. He will be sending more blog posts from the field in the upcoming days.  

Camouflaged Critters

Here is an article about animals with amazing powers of camouflage! One of them included in the lineup is a leaf-tailed gecko that is hiding on a moss and liverwort covered tree trunk. Here is the link to the article and photos. 

When hunting for mosses I am often focused on a very specific search image. Crawling along the ground or kneeling in the moss I am usually very focused on the plants and often miss seeing the surrounding animals. My biggest fear when hunting for mosses is that I will run into a snake resulting in starting and scaring us both. I have run into snakes now and again when doing fieldwork. Fortunately I have always seen them with enough time and distance to avoid a dramatic meeting. 

A Peat Moss Conquering America

Sphagnum peat moss made the news over at BBC Earth News last week. The title of the paper tells it all "One haploid parent contributes 100% of the gene pool for a widespread species in northwest North America". I could go on to try and give my own take on this research, but I think that the BBC article does a good job of hitting the highlights. All the other mentions of this research seem to point back to this BBC article. Way to go BBC mentioning some cutting edge bryo-research!

Here is a link to the abstract for the journal article. To access the full publication you may need to have a subscription through your library. 

Thanks to my pal Kathryn for forwarding me this article!

Moss Witch

My winter break reading included a book of science fiction short stories, entitled "When it Changed: Science into Fiction". I heard about this book through an article in Field Bryology from the British Bryological Society. I can't seem to locate the exact article, but as soon as I find it I will post it up.

This anthology piqued my interest due to the interaction between scientists and story writers. For each of the 16 short stories, a writer was paired with a scientist. Through a series of interviews the research and scientific interests of the scientist were discussed and woven into the science fiction story of the authors. Each short story is followed by an afterword from the scientist commenting on the story.

Of special interest for me was the story by Sara Maitland, "Moss Witch". She collaborated with Dr. Jennifer Rowntree, currently a researcher at the University of Manchester. The story made the 'short list' for the 2009 BBC National Short Story Award. The full story was read on air by Hannah Gordon, but the full audio seems to be no longer accessible on the web.

The story has also been made into a stop action film. It struck me that a lot of the greenery used in the scenes are not actually mosses. They are lichens some of which look to have been painted. I understand that live mosses are typically pretty wet and that might result in a lot of smearing and wetting of the painted background. However the fact that they didn't use mosses seems a little counter to the goal of integrating accurate science into science fiction.  

Overall think that it is a really vivid and interesting story. However being highly steeped in the scientific world of mosses, all of the mossy science details were distracting to my fact checking sensibilities. I was able to fully immerse myself in the adventures of the other stories in the anthology. I think that those of you with a love for but less immersion in mosses will find the story quite enjoyable. If anyone finds a full link to the audio or video for the story it would be great to hear about it in the comments. 

     Happy New Year!

Berry Go Round #35

The December edition of the plant carnival Berry Go Round has been posted at An Accidental Botanist.  Enjoy all the holiday plant posts!

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