2016 PA Botany Symposium Speaker Abstracts

James Bissell
Thirty Years of Change Within Lake Erie Wetlands. Lake Erie estuarine marshes were surveyed by the Museum Botany Department during the last 30 years from Sandusky Bay, 80 miles west of Cleveland to Presque Isle State Park, 100 miles east of Cleveland. Voucher specimens were collected from all emergent wetlands through the 30-year period. When the museum began its inventory of Lake Erie Coastal wetlands in northern Ohio and northwestern Pennsylvania 30 years ago, nearly all estuarine wetlands along the Lake Erie shoreline east of Cleveland in Lake and Ashtabula County and the 3,000-acre Presque Isle Peninsula were covered with native emergent marsh, dominated by greater bur-reed (Sparganium eurycarpum) and soft-stem bulrush (Schoenoplectus tabernaemontanae). In strong contrast to the greater bur-reed dominated wetlands within coastal marshes east of Cleveland and Presque Isle, most of the wetlands west of Cleveland, especially the 10,000 acres of wetlands within Sandusky Bay, were dominated by narrowleaf cattail (Typha angustifolia), non-native phragmites (Phragmites australis australis) and purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria). The former presence of greater bur-reed within the Sandusky Bay marshes is substantiated by emergence of greater bur-reed from the seed bank during low water years such as 1988, 1992 and 1999 through 2001.

Jason Cantley
Lessons from Hawai‘i — the Endangered Species Capital of the World. The biota of Hawai‘i is often described as the endangered species capital of the world. For plants alone, there are over 400 species that are in danger of blinking out of existence within the next few decades. Nearly half of all endangered species have less than 50 individuals in total — alive or in cultivation. A number of human initiated issues caused this remarkable loss in biodiversity within the last century. This talk will explore the dire situation of native plant species in Hawai‘i — from how species were formed on an isolated island archipelago mid-ocean, to the arrival of human destruction, and finally to end with (hopefully) inspiring stories of successful conservation practices, which have helped to re-establish populations of species teetering on the brink of extinction. These success stories can be shared and modified to work with mainland conservation problems. Hopefully, this talk will be a source of inspiration for the future of Pennsylvanian botany and speak to the universal need to conserve our local, regional, and global ecosystems.

Dwayne Estes
Riverscours: the Last Frontier in the Heavily Botanized Eastern U.S. Riverscour habitats are communities of rocky riverbanks in dissected landscapes. They extend from PA to AL west to OK and TX and are best developed in the Appalachians of TN, KY, WV, where they are entrenched in river gorges and difficult to survey. Riverscours are maintained by floods that prevent the growth and establishment of trees. The flora of scours is dominated by stunted trees, shrubs, and perennial grasses and herbs. Species composition includes a mix of upland, riparian, and wetland species. Many species are considered characteristic of grasslands, savannas, or open woodlands. In 2013, Estes and his graduate students began a 3-year effort to survey four rivers from KY to AL. To date, this study has resulted in the discovery of hundreds of plant species, eight putatively undescribed taxa, several state records and rare plant records, and numerous undescribed vegetation associations. Species richness within riverscours can be high, with >90 species found within a single 100-m2 plot. Their work highlights the fact that riverscour flora and vegetation are quite different from one stream to the next and may lead to revised hypotheses about the evolution of the flora and plant communities of the eastern U.S.

Barre Hellquist
Nymphaeaceae and Nelumbonaceae: the Beautiful Plants of the Water World. The family Nymphaeaceae includes approximately 70 species in the genera Nymphaea, Nuphar, Victoria, Euryale, and Barclaya. Nymphaea consists of six subgenera, one hardy three tropical day-bloomers, and two night bloomers. In North America six species of native hardy waterlilies and three tropical species, two day-bloomers and one night-bloomer. Tropical day-blooming species occur in South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia. The most spectacular day-bloomers are in two subgenera occurring in tropical Australia. Night blooming species in two subgenera from the tropics of the world. Natural hybridization occurs between many species. The lotus family Nelumbonaceae consists of only two species: Nelumbo lutea from North America and Nelumbo nucifera from Asia and Australia. Some species of waterlilies and both lotus may become invasive.

Wes Knapp
Vascular Plant Extinction in North America North of Mexico; What Have We Lost and What Can We Learn? As we progress through the Anthropocene the extinction rates of plants and animals are expected to increase. Though speculation is common about increased extinction rates in the future, we have yet to quantify the current extinction rates of plants. Taxonomic opinion can vary widely among experts. To address this we developed an Index of Taxonomic Uncertainty (ITU). The ITU scale ranges from A to F, with an A rank indicating unanimous taxonomic recognition and an F rank indicating taxonomic recognition by a single author. The ITU allowed us to evaluate extinction rates under standardized taxonomic considerations. Approximately 120 plants are globally historic or extinct from North America, north of Mexico, since European settlement. Eighty-four plants are from western North America and 35 are from eastern North America. The majority of extinct plants were single site endemics and occurred in areas not recognized as a biodiversity hot-spot. This fact has significant implications for current conservation efforts. If limited conservation resources focus only on biodiversity hotspots, it is likely that extinction of single site endemics will continue. We recommend further research, particularly taxonomic and field, on single site endemics to ensure their protection into the future.

Chris Martine
#SciComm, Media Relations, and a Botanist on Mars: How to get more than 20 strangers to hear about your latest research when it’s not published in Nature or Science.
It has never been easier to share one’s work with a broad audience; but it has also never been easier to feel overwhelmed by the options for doing so. Should you make a video? Write a press release? Post a blog? Or just Tweet about it? Using case studies based on recent attempts to promote new findings through multiple types/tiers of media, this talk will suggest a strategy that every academic might employ when hoping to spread the word on their research outcomes. While taking on the job of promoting your own work might seem like a daunting (or even painful) task, the payoffs ideally include: a) Increased reads and citations; b) Advantages in seeking jobs, tenure, or promotion; c) Expanding the reach and impact of your science; and d) Telling the world about plants!

Richard McCourt
Jefferson’s Botanists: Lewis & Clark Discover the Plants of the West and Bring Them to Philadelphia. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led their Corps of Discovery Expedition in 1804-06, traversing America’s western territories in boats, on foot and on horseback. The primary charge by President Thomas Jefferson, the man who envisioned the expedition, was to gather and record scientific information about western animals, plants, and geography. The adventurers filled journals with observations of new species and landscapes, and they brought back a number of scientifically important specimens. The most numerous of the collections surviving are the plant specimens, collected mainly by Meriwether Lewis. This talk explains how Meriwether Lewis prepared for the botanical tasks he conducted on the 4,000 mile journey, the collections he made and challenges he overcame to bring back the specimens, the story of how they were almost lost to science, and the fate of the collection after Lewis returned to the east coast. Spoiler alert: The Academy safely houses more than 200 specimens, and they are being used still by scientists in ways that Jefferson, Lewis, and Clark could never have imagined.

Peggy Olwell
Botany and Botanists: More Relevant Than Ever! Considering unusual weather events in the East such as Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Matthew, the serious drought conditions and altered fire regimes across the country, and the fast spread of invasive species nationwide, land managers need to be able to recognize and respond to landscape-scale ecological changes with appropriate restoration resources for all land ownerships across the United States. The “plant blindness” in this country has affected our botanical resources and native plant communities in a very detrimental way. While plants constitute over 50% of the species listed under the Endangered Species Act, they receive less than 5% of the funds to recover them. On a larger, more disturbing scale, the United States spends less than 2% of the biological research dollars on plant research, which includes both agricultural and ecological research. We have set ourselves up to be unprepared for the future. We botanists need to communicate about our work in a very different way than we have historically.

The National Seed Strategy provides a platform for botanists to rally around. The Strategy outlines a plan that will help coordinate and focus diverse efforts toward achieving four major goals: (1) Conduct a national assessment, (2) Identify and conduct research, (3) Develop decision tools for land managers, and (4) Communicate need. The Strategy is a call to arms for botanists to work together to provide the solution!

Kelly Sitch
A New Plant Conservation Initiative for Pennsylvania