39th Annual Southern California Botanists Symposium: Origin and Relationships of the California Flora: Was Raven Ravin’? Program PDF link here. Thanks very much to the Southern California Botanists for their incredible generosity for the invitation and for hosting me. They took care of everything, and organized a truly delightful weekend.
Slides [abbreviated and annotated] from my talk titled ‘The problem of being common (Phacelia sect. Ramosissimae)’. The order of slides starts at the top of this post and scrolls down. These are low res jpgs for web viewing, so high res pdfs are available also by request. Any questions about methods or details please contact me.
I read a lot of biographies of women botanists in California and just reread the transcripts of the oral histories from the Bancroft, again. I keep referring back to the archival images of these epic scientists and wondering how. There are these specific details in my head that keep bouncing around – Alice Eastwood’s flower hats, Ella Dales Cantelow’s boots, Annetta Carter’s sweater. I keep circling back to this question of how fashion can structure opportunity in the field and lab. Botany uniforms. I am trying to imagine what being a woman botanist would have been like at different time periods in California. If I can’t understand how, personally, practically, logistically, plants were collected and studied in California in 1913 how can I expect my collections for 2013 to be comparable? I feel like I am leaping over a giant gap on the basic scientific method on how to collect plants, which hasn’t been uniform across time [see any field note book, ever]. Are species concepts the same across time for a given landscape with dramatic historical shifts and changes in protocol?
So to think about this I have been playing around with paper dolls. I am fascinated by Alice Eastwood’s bustle dress. How did Alice Eastwood carry her plant press tied up inside of her bustle? And ride a horse with this ensemble? I am guessing that the plant press was small field size – but specifically what size, before or after the Brandegee standardized herbarium sheet, and made out of what? What is the actual weight of an empty versus a full plant press? How did this work attached inside of a functional hiking and riding dress? And she also hiked ahead of the menfolk to cook dinner, and then stayed behind to clean up? Were her boots made of magical leather – and did she wash her socks every evening? What was her budget for clothes? How did access on foot, and by train, and then car change botany and the experience of women botanists in California? How did new technologies, innovations, and socio-economic expectations impact women botanists, and what are the effects on specimen collections?
The images are taken from the CAS Alice Eastwood archives, CalPhotos or Petersen’s magazine, all badly adobe’d. I want to have a full suite of outfits, with accessories [including plants described by botanists]. I know it is a weird idea but it is how I am starting to think about this. Also WILSON, C. G. 1955. Alice Eastwood’s wonderland; the adventures of a botanist. San Francisco, California Academy of Sciences.
I was going through some recent trips to upload to CalPhotos, because I was a little bummed as one of the populations of Phacelia californica in Mendocino was completely blasted and totally past bloom, so I was trying to salvage some shots. I did get photos Phacelia malvifolia – which was growing all over the hillside. Win. I never have good photos of the perennial phacelias. I want to. I do. The plants just always seem to be on undercut rubbly slopes, or “disturbed roadsides”, in poison oak, or at the end of a long day.
And yet once I am comfortable running analyses in computerland I think that it would have been so much better to have had the camera, dermatitis and cut glass be damned. I have my tetanus booster. But then I saw the super happy cultivated plants at Golden Gate Park, and all was well.
I have been thinking about these Mendocino populations since a plant tax field trip, when I was working out how to learn and key the multiplicities of plant variation across distributions – but so have a lot of other people. Heckard noted the variation in plant populations in his monograph [HECKARD, L. R. 1960. Taxonomic studies in the Phacelia magellanica polyploid complex, with special reference to the California members. University of California Publications in Botany 32:1-126.], and odd specimens are listed on the Jepson eFlora page for Phacelia californica.
Admittedly, plants look different depending on where and when you come across them. I am partial to the coastal forms of Phacelia californica, but sometimes the basal rosette approaches Phacelia argentea with mostly entire leaves and causes look-alike difficulties. And Phacelia californica can also have white or cream corollas. Ack. Inland populations have an entirely different set of issues with intergradation with Phacelia imbricata and looking a lot like Phacelia nemoralis var. nemoralis. Ack again.
The first session of the Sawyer Seminar on Speciesism was fantastic. First, selfishly, it was a great review in preparation for the qualifying exam. Second, it was an example of exceptional discussion on some incredibly nuanced topics, and thoughtful positions on all sides of the debate. The presentations were by Dr. Craig Moritz and Dr. Brent Mishler, and the discussions were by Dr. Roberta Millstein, Dr. Robert Proctor and Dr. David Wake. AMAZING.
Prior to the event, we were encouraged to read four papers to prime the discussion, references included below.
ALVAREZ, W. 1991. The gentle art of scientific trespassing. GSA Today 1(2):29-34.
CLARIDGE, M. F. 2009. Species are Real Biological Entities. In Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Biology: Wiley-Blackwell.
HEY, J., R. S. WAPLES, M. L. ARNOLD, R. K. BUTLIN, and R. G. HARRISON. 2003. Understanding and confronting species uncertainty in biology and conservation. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 18(11):597-603.
MISHLER, B. D. 2009. Species are not Uniquely Real Biological Entities. In Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Biology: Wiley-Blackwell.
In general, as an overview text that follows the debate format [hence the title], this is a great read – WHEELER, Q., and R. MEIER. 2000. Species concepts and phylogenetic theory : a debate. New York, Columbia University Press.
Most of the species names that I wrote down in my notes were almost all Homo sapiens – although there was a monospecific plant [Gingko - naturally mentioned by Dr. Mishler]. Is that my bias? I will have to pay better attention the next time to the species names discussed. Common names were bandied about frequently [Chimpanzee, Barn owl, salamander, oak, orchid], and I didn’t know if this was a deliberate strategy for initiating the debate, or a result of establishing common points of reference across incredibly diverse disciplines represented. I was trying to remember what the tautonym for one of the owls was, and confused Bufo bufo with Bubo bubo. Dr. Kip Will recommended this great site for ‘Curious Scientific Names’ by Dr. Douglas Yanega [here].
I am definitely looking forward to the next session in May [general schedule available here].
Michael Eisen wrote a blog post last year noting a super amazing inclusion of the digitized lab notebooks as part of the supplemental materials [Lang and Botstein 2011]. My lab work has somewhat been on pause with classes [IS290 and IB200A] and studying for orals this semester, but come the end of April – I am going to do this with my lab notebooks as I progress through experiments in the Baldwin genomics lab and the MPL.
Along that vein, I will also put up my field notebooks from this year, probably the whole notebook at the end of the season, and additional notes from individual collection events posted as updates inside posts – this one includes the corolla dissections and sketches of ovules. And yes, after upload I realized that penciled drawings don’t scan as well as inked illustrations – so will keep that in mind for the future.
Posting my field notebooks serves as part organization, part transparency, part scholarship, part archival, part communication, part trying to be a better practitioner of science. I also believe that creating a clear link between the collection event and the accessioned specimen may motivate me to decrease the time between collection and accession, which can contribute to the lag time in species descriptions – not that I am collecting anything new [Bebber et al. 2010].
I benefit so much from reading the online digitized field notebooks of Willis Linn Jepson, Reid Moran and others [the Smithsonian has an entire Field Book Project - AMAZING, go look at it], and visiting archives to read field notebooks of the Cantelows and John Thomas Howell at California Academy of Sciences. Other archives I really would like to visit are those of Marcus E. Jones, because Parry stole my rose [Dorst 2010; Jones 1930].
The field season is slower this year due to drought and next year will be my big field year, but there are still opportunities to describe some of the field diversity in a group like the [mostly Californian] Ramosissimae, which includes Phacelia distans and Phacelia malvifolia. I have been really inspired by the amazing scientific illustrations that John Myers has been doing for the FNANM treatment, and Dr. Strother also encouraged me [in the words of Terry Allen] to practice drawing. I limned the basics from the Phacelia californica that I collected for the Jepson Manual 101 clinic, and pressed the voucher in my Herbarium Supply plant press. I am always interested in best practices for collecting specimens and making vouchers [see one of M.E.Jones writings on collecting here], and not just because it is part of the IS290 class project for the UC Berkeley Botanic Garden!
BEBBER, D. P., M. A. CARINE, J. R. I. WOOD, A. H. WORTLEY, D. J. HARRIS, G. T. PRANCE, G. DAVIDSE, J. PAIGE, T. D. PENNINGTON, N. K. B. ROBSON, and R. W. SCOTLAND. 2010. Herbaria are a major frontier for species discovery. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 107(51):22169-22171.
DORST, D. 2010. The surf guru: stories. New York, Riverhead Books.
JONES, M. E. 1930. Botanical reminiscences. Contributions to Western Botany 17:1-31.
LANG, G. I., and D. BOTSTEIN. 2011. A Test of the Coordinated Expression Hypothesis for the Origin and Maintenance of the GAL Cluster in Yeast. PLoS ONE 6(9):e25290.