Monday, April 23, 2012

Smithsonian Botanical Symposium

Last weekend I attended the Smithsonian Botanical Symposium. I greatly enjoyed the talks and meeting the people organizing and attending the event. This year's theme was "Transforming 21st Century Comparative Biology using Evolutionary Trees," which made the conference particularly relevant to my interests. There was a good mix of talks, from ones that were almost purely methodological to ones that were focused on the evolutionary history of a particular group of organisms.

It was also great to be at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Having been born in D.C. and raised in the area, I spent my childhood visiting the NMNH. I even recall a class trip downtown when we had to break into two groups, one of which would go to the Air and Space Museum and the other of which would go to the NMNH; I was the only one who chose the latter (I was never one to conform). It holds a special place in my heart, and it was great to attend a symposium there!

The NMNH mascot.

- Brendan

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Turtles of the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain

Over the course of the fieldwork for this grant, we have (so far) rescued four turtles from the road.  Amazingly, they all seemed to be different species.  Here is a photograph of me rescuing a snapping turtle, which was easily the most ferocious of all the turtles that we encountered.  Since they are often aggressive and have long necks that can reach ~3/4 of the way across their backs, the only safe way to move a snapping turtle is to pick it up by its tail.  Their tails are very tough and leathery, so there is little risk of hurting the turtle that way.  It's just very important to keep the turtle a sufficient distance from your body when transporting it!

- Brendan

Friday, April 13, 2012

Dismal Swamp

This week marks the first major field expedition under the recent NSF award entitled "Lichen biodiversity in the threatened Middle Atlantic Coastal Plain of North America: Improving classification, conservation, and communication" [DEB-1145511]. I am collecting lichens in Virginia and North Carolina with James Lendemer, Jessi Allen, and Dick Harris, all of the New York Botanical Garden. Today we went to the Great Dismal Swamp. We had two separate bear encounters, which were very exciting! We are also finding a lot of great lichens, and despite being almost all wetlands, the Great Dismal Swamp has proven to be an extremely diverse and heterogeneous area!