Botany 2012 Symposia and Colloquia


Ephedra pollination and other gnetalean oddities

Catarina Rydin, Stockholm University (, Stefanie Ickert-Bond, University of Alaska

The gymnospermous Gnetales are well-known and of general interest to botanists because they are pivotal to a better understanding of an important, yet still unresolved question in plant biology: seed plant phylogeny. The Gnetales are considered odd and have repeatedly been described as “enigmatic” and “the lure and despair of the morphologist”. A possible reason for this struggle is that extant species comprise only a small fraction of the historical diversity of the group. In recent years, the understanding of diversity, morphology and evolution in the Gnetales has expanded dramatically. Many new fossils have been described, and these fossils have inspired new studies also on extant representatives. Integrative work and contributions from different fields have thus increased understanding of evolutionary patterns, historical events as well as recent adaptations. In Ephedra (Gnetales), integrative studies of fossils and living plants have shown that although the group as a whole and the evolution of some diagnostic traits are of Cretaceous origin, extant diversity is the result of a comparatively recent re-radiation, which began about 30million years ago. Interestingly, this second radiation seems not associated with any obvious key morphological innovations or dramatic changes in latitudinal habitat preferences, i.e., tolerated climatic conditions. There are, however, some still unconfirmed indications that the re-radiation in Ephedra coincided in time with a change in character(s) relevant for pollination. Is it possible that the group escaped from extinction by a shift from biotic to abiotic pollination? Testing this hypothesis involves a number of new investigations, which are currently in progress. Field studies document insect interactions (if any) and the mode of pollination in key species of Ephedra. Properties and function of pollen vectors (wind, insects), and of the pollination droplets produced by Ephedra cones, are investigated using new analytical approaches. Preliminary results of these studies have highlighted the need for additional studies of anatomy and morphology of reproductive and vegetative structures. Further, newly described fossils add to the knowledge of former diversity in the Gnetales. The proposed symposium on ephedran pollination and gnetalean evolution in time and space will include talks by senior scientists, postdocs and graduate students from the United States, Canada, Mexico and Europe. It is truly inter-disciplinary; neobotanical systematics meets ecology and entomology, physiology, and palaeobotany.

Building a High-Resolution, Specimen-Based Picture of Life: Possibilities and Challenges

Austin R Mast, Florida State University (, Pamela Soltis

U.S. biological research collections hold perhaps as many as 1 billion specimens. These specimens were typically sampled for narrowly focused, but exhaustively deep, biological studies. New efforts by large, coordinated groups in the collections community have the breathtakingly broad focus of building a high-resolution, specimen-based picture of life on Earth via the digitization (databasing and, sometimes, imaging) of those billion specimens. This will serve not only as a critical map of what we know about species, but it will also delineate more clearly where new work needs to be done.

As a first step, the US National Science Foundation is funding thematic networks of specimen digitization efforts at non-federal institutions, supported by iDigBio, the National Resource for Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections.  Similar coordination of federal collections is occurring via the BISON coordinating group.

Both efforts, at non-federal and federal collections, are very new, and not widely familiar to attendees of the Botany meetings.  We propose a symposium that combines presentations from iDigBio and BISON (each 30 minutes), from two relatively mature thematic collections network projects (each 30 minutes), and four projects using cross-collection data to address fundamental questions in ecology and evolution (each 15 minutes).  Ideas for the last will be solicited from the leadership of the more mature taxon- and range-focused networks, including VertNet and the Consortium of California Herbaria. 

From Canonical to New Model Systems: The Future of Plant Development

Arunika Gunawardena (, Christian Lacroix

In plant development research, Arabidopsis thaliana has been the genetic model of choice for many years. Its relatively short life cycle, small and sequenced genome, ability to transform, as well as optimized and standard protocols make Arabidopsis a popular tool for understanding the cell and molecular biology of plants. However, there are many other non-model species with great potential to complement our knowledge of developmental processes in model organisms. The available standard protocols for model species and current techniques make it feasible to exploit the unique potential of other systems such as lace plant, Norway spruce, water milfoil, soybean to broaden our understanding of the developmental mechanisms at work.

This proposed symposium will provide a valuable opportunity for researchers to present recent findings in plant development using model and non-model species. This symposium will be organized around different areas (e.g programmed cell death, epigenetics, and reproductive biology) that collectively, will identify approaches and methodologies used in plant development research. At the end, participants will be invited to share and discuss how model (as well as non-model species) can be used to further our understanding of plant development.

We propose Dr. Peter Bozhkov, a known expert in the area of programmed cell death, as the keynote speaker. We will invite five other experts from different disciplines of plant development as speakers. We also propose to have two student speakers selected on the merit of their submitted abstracts. Collectively, these speakers will provide a variety of perspectives to this proposed symposium.

Transplantations and Relocation of Species at Risk: Learning from the Past to Plan for the Future

Liette Vasseur, Brock University (, Art Fredeen

Human activities such as urban development, agriculture, forestry, large infrastructures, have threatened plant diversity for decades. With climate change and globalization, these threats are even greater. Many plant species are now at risk due to environmental degradation, overexploitation or displacement for large projects. With changes in current geographic ranges, efforts to safeguard plant diversity, especially species that are at risk of extinction need to be defined or strengthened. One of the strategies for safeguarding plant species have been the use of relocation/transplantation from the threatened location to a new one.  This strategy has encountered opposition in the past and remains controversial because of various reasons such as preservation of ecological systems, loss of genetic variability, etc. The present symposium aims to examine through presentations of case studies and experimental results what are the lessons learned from the past that can be used to define best practices and future research in this field.

For the CBA, the rationale for this symposium is that in the 1980s a position paper regarding transplantation of species at risk was developed. Since researchers, NGOs and governmental agencies have continued to examine this strategy as a possible way to avoid species extinction or extirpation. At a round table discussion in June 2010, the CBA decided that it was time to review the position paper. Given that people from various sectors are transplanting (recovery teams, industry, municipalities, etc.), it is time to examine in depth this issue.  It is apparent that regardless of the reason for transplanting, the conditions to help ensure success may be similar- the involvement of experts in the ecology of the species/natural area , land security, and  ongoing management, monitoring and enforcement.  Participants believe that the BSA and CBA, for example, could become an information source for organizations involved in transplanting, for expertise and guidance. This symposium can be followed by an informal group discussion would be important to first receive information and lessons learned from the past and then prepare best practices or criteria that should be looked as well as future research needed for this strategy. Since the many members of the BSA and CBA had expertise in this area, we believe that a joint symposium on this topic would be an effective way to collaborate and possibly develop a new joint position paper.

Water transport in plants at multiple scales: A physiological, ecological, and evolutionary appraisal

Peter J Melcher, Ithaca College (, Brandon Pratt

This symposium topic and speakers will provide insight on plant water relations that spans across the whole plant, from the cellular to organismal levels, from basal lycophytes to derived angiosperms, and from physiological, ecological, and evolutionary approaches. This will provide an integrated view of whole plant water relations. In this area of research, there have been many recent advances in our understanding of long-distance sap transport at the cellular, tissue, organ and whole plant level.  These include a finer understanding of the role of proteins that can trigger cascade responses within living cells at the root, stem and leaf-level resulting in altered properties of the dead xylem through unexpected mechanisms.  For example, the ion-mediated regulation of xylem hydraulic resistance that may provide plants with a mechanism to control water distribution throughout their bodies. The potential role of xylem-phloem interactions, where sugar-loading may provide the necessary water potential gradient required to re-fill embolised conduits during times when negative tissue water potentials exist.  Ecological strategies of plants to tolerate changes in seasonal water stress, assessed atthe whole plant level, will also be discussed and this will provide insight to understanding how plants alter root, stem and leaf-level traits that result in enhanced fitness across changes in water availability.  Also, water distribution regulation mechanisms measured at the leaf level, from stomatal response, to changes in leaf-levelhydraulic resistance, and how altered leaf form across individuals, and varied plant forms will be discussed.  Lastly, a macroevolutionary analysis of vascular transport will consider vascular function from lycophytes to conifers, which will provide a broad evolutionary context for the evolution of vascular structure and function.

Ecological Interactions Affecting the Evolution of Plant Mating Systems: Current Research and Future Directions

Rupesh R Kariyat, Pennsylvania State University (, Jordan Sinclair

Self fertilization versus outcrossing among conspecific individuals is believed to be a major contributor to the evolution of plant mating systems. Due to the immobility and subsequent inability to control their growing environment, plant reproduction is influenced by a variety of factors:  vectors for pollen transfer, population density and dispersion of conspecific individuals, spatial and temporal variation in gamete deployment, fruit and seed dispersal, and the ability to undergo selfing for reproductive assurance. Since Darwin, scientists have been trying to understand the effects of ecological factors that influence the evolution of plant mating systems using tools and techniques derived from plant reproductive ecology, pollination biology, herbivory, phylogenetic analyses of species distribution and evolution of reproductive traits, and biochemical and molecular analysis of fitness traits. Individually, these fields have evolved and made excellent progress towards addressing various aspects of mating system evolution. Although multiple stress factors work simultaneously, they are often addressed independently within a study system. A symposium which brings together leaders across various disciplines in the area of ecological interactions and plant reproductive biology would result in a synthesis of knowledge, and a more concrete understanding of the different aspects of plant mating system evolution which interact to produce the myriad of reproductive adaptations that are  observed in nature.

This symposium would be geared towards accumulating the most recent advances in the ecological interactions that affect plant mating evolution with the objective that-communicating recent scientific advances and perspectives in this area will serve as a catapult for future research and development. This symposium has the potential to attract scientists from a variety of disciplines within the ecological section of the BSA due to the broad range of ecological interactions.

Building Bridges in Botanical Education

Melanie L Devore (, Donna Hazelwood, Carina Anttila Suarez

The Botanical Society of America is a strong advocate for plant science education from informal, through K-12 and undergraduate, to graduate education.   The proposed symposium will:  1) examine the availability of plant science education at the K-12 level; 2) formulate strategies for developing portals for incorporating plant science into new secondary institutions including, but not limited to, alternative schools, charter schools, early college programs and tribal schools;  3) identify ways to infuse plant science content into community college curricula;  and 4) recognize trends in general biology degree programs and discuss strategies for maintaining strong training in plant science within the undergraduate curriculum.   Asa society, BSA has been extremely successful in building strong connections between undergraduate and graduate training as demonstrated by the strong number of undergraduates and graduates participating in the annual Botany Meetings.  It is our goal to use the proposed symposium as a means for forging another bond between secondary and undergraduate training that will serve as a portal for increasing the flow of undergraduate students into advanced degree programs in the plant sciences.

Are We Having A Broader Impact?

Stokes S. Baker (, Santokh Singh, Phil Gibson

Over the past 30 years, science education has undergone significant transformations at many institutions. Lectures have become more interactive with greater emphasis on active learning. Likewise, laboratory sessions have shifted from predominantly demonstration and observation-based sessions to more inquiry-focused exercises.  Both accreditation agencies and funding agencies have placed a greater emphasis in demonstrating the broader impacts of curriculum on student learning. Educators and students alike report that curricular changes have enhanced student learning and improved the classroom and laboratory experience. However, identifying the individual effects of specific curricular changes and rigorously quantifying improvements in student learning presents a challenge to many scientists.  A large body of literature exists on effective assessment, but many scientists are not familiar with the well-established theory and procedures of education assessment. In this symposium, presenters will describe their efforts at science education reform and describe their experiences and approaches to assessment and evaluation. The symposium covers a breadth of topics from assessment of individual exercises to assessment of larger curricular efforts. The symposium will provide useful information to promote greater expectations for evaluating our effectiveness in science education.

Experimental Morphology and Morphogenesis Then and Now:  A Symposium in Memory of Elizabeth G. Cutter

Judy Jernstedt, University of California Davis ( )

A half-day (or evening) scientific symposium devoted to the work and interests of the late Prof. Elizabeth Cutter, focusing on her pioneering work, beginning as a student, in experimental morphology, subsequent contributions by her and her research students and post-docs to morphogenesis and developmental anatomy, and current approaches to and extensions of her work.  Topics to range from experimental approaches to conifer embryogenesis through growth dynamics of shoot apical meristems, to signaling pathways in meristems and differentiating cells and tissues.

Where is Plant Systematics Headed in the Next Ten Years?

Tod F. Stuessy, University of Vienna (, Vicki Funk

Every scientific discipline goes through incremental changes over the decades, and plant systematics is no exception.  During the 1960s philosophical introspection took place, instigated by the development of phenetics, which provided quantitative approaches to classification and emphasized use of computers.  In the 1970s and 1980s cladistics (phylogenetic systematics) helped put evolutionary content back into classification through explicit methods involving branching diagrams and further computer innovations.  From 1990 onward, DNA data have opened doors to new insights on relationships at all levels of the taxonomic hierarchy.  These data have eventually become a flood of information requiring new statistical approaches to deal with them effectively.  In view of these former influences, it is legitimate and timely to ask where we are today and where we are likely to be headed in the next decade.  What are the trends that can be seen on the horizon?  Is something missing that is fundamental for continued progress? How can we better position our field for societal relevance?  These questions form the basis for the proposed symposium.

Rhizosphere Interactions: The Root Microbiome

Darlene H Southworth, Southern Oregon University (, Ann Hirsch, Hugues Massicotte

Plants are never fully separate from other organisms. In addition to their diverse relationships  with fungi, plants also interact with bacteria and other organisms that alter the soil environment of roots and influence each other. How can we understand this “superorganism.” What approaches allow us to relate diversity with function and to model the interactions?

Growing the Next Generation in Plant Genomics

Ashley Egan, East Carolina State University (

This symposium will bring together scientists from across the country who are conducting leading edge research in plant genomics across various disciplines. The purpose of the symposium is to showcase how next gen methods are being used to explore biological questions across the breadth of botanical science such as genetic impacts of climate change, plant adaptations in a genomic context, or comparative genomics of seed plants. Much of the research being discussed will be either empirical or present novel methods for analyzing data. The symposium format is justified here to enable i) cutting edge research from leading labs to be presented together and ii) a balanced representation of scientists across gender and career stage; these goals are best obtained through invitation to speak at a symposium.

Next generation methods are now well formulated and have become widely accessible. This symposium will present a variety of innovations in thought and application of these methodologies. The next (and current) generation of scientists will likely be dealing with NGS technologies and must learn how to utilize these methods in their research.  Our speakers are helping to sprout the next generation of genome scientists through teaching and training of colleagues, postdocs, and students in NGS methodologies. This symposium will provide scientists with examples of how NGS can be applied to botanical research and how these technologies are revolutionizing scientific disciplines. The increasing publicity and availability of next generation methods and their applications in botanical science make this symposium topic timely.

A broad representation of gender and career stage of invitees exists, with both male and female presenters spanning from postdoctoral to full professorial career stages. Invitees and their prospective topics are listed below, with 6 slots available.


Carnivorous Plants: New Horizons in Hungry Foliage

Douglas Darnowski, Indiana University Southeast (

This session will explore new directions in carnivorous plants, broadly considered (e.g. including sub-/hemi-/proto-carnivores like Stylidium and Roridula). Any papers will be considered, but given recent trends (e.g. in the Journal of the International Carnivorous Plant Society), it is expected that genera newly recognized as carnivores (e.g. Philcoxia) as well as physiological and developmental papers on carnivorous plants will be the most common. It is anticipated that at least 6 papers should be obtainable for this session, and more is probable based on recent meetings of various societies.

Integrative Species Delimitation: Incorporating Multiple Types of Data

Craig Barrett, Ohio State University (,

Despite recent advances in DNA sequencing technologies and coalescent theory, there exists a strongly professed need for species delimitation studies to become more pluralistic, incorporating multiple forms of data. These may include information in the form of: morphological/anatomical distinctness, molecular divergence, behavioral variation, ecological niche separation, reproductive isolation, and geographic barriers.  There are several challenges associated with integrating these types of data. Which data, if any, should receive preferential weighting? Do all data need to corroborate one another?  How do species concepts/delimitation criteria fit into the picture when considering multiple forms of data? This colloquium was organized to explore some of the frameworks under which different data types can be integrated, stressing empirical examples.

Principles of Crucifer Evolution

Marcus A. Koch, University of Heidelberg (, Ihsan Al-Shehbaz, Donovan Bailey

The proposed colloquium aims to provide a forum to present and discuss research on Brassicaceae systematics, character evolution, and principles in adaptation and evolution in the light of rapidly increasing knowledge of the family.  Major gains in our understanding of these fields have been made through recent research programs focused on Brassicaceae as a model system.  In particular, phylogenetic and population-level studies, including data from whole-genome/whole-transcriptome sequencing, are providing a clear understanding of relationships, character evolution, and important macroevolutionary processes influencing the diversification of a large economically and scientifically important family.  Taking advantage of the knowledge gained through more than a decade of focused research on Arabidopsis, investigations on other genera of Brassicaceae are also rapidly turning the family into a model system for plant genome evolution.

A colloquium on Brassicaceae will offer a unique opportunity to bring together researchers from around the globe to present their recent findings, share ideas, and transmit knowledge to a growing community of researchers sharing interest in Brassicaceae.  No such colloquium or symposium has been run through a Botany (or a similar) meeting for the last 15years. 

A full colloquium schedule (four hours of 12-15 minute presentations) will be easily scheduled for Botany2012.  We will divide these colloquium into segments focused on 1) Phylogenetics, 2) Population Genetics, 3) GenomeEvolution and development, and 4) Data Sharing.

Phenology and Conservation Implications

Kellen Calinger (, Jake Weltzin, Dan Herms

Phenology, the study of recurring biological events in relation to the seasons, is a sensitive indicator of climate change and shifts in phenology have been observed worldwide.  While the general trend with increased temperature is advancement of phenology, particularly for spring events, different species show markedly variable phenologic plasticity.  A few studies are already presenting compelling evidence that temperature increases associated with climate change may be causing differential selection for phenologically plastic species and against non-responsive species.  A variety of mechanisms may favor or disadvantage responsive versus non-responsive species.  For example, early blooming species may be at increased risk of frost damage, yet stand to benefit from a longer growing season.  The disruption of plant-pollinator symbioses may significantly reduce reproductive success if plants and insect pollinators respond differently to warming.  Herbivore populations may be impacted negatively if there phenological synchrony with host plants is disrupted.  Additionally, invasive species may be able to shift phenology to occupy currently open phenological niches and aid their invasion into the community.  These paths through which phenology may alter future species performance require investigation in order to conserve at risk species and preserve biodiversity in the face of future warming.

Colloquium in Honor of John McNeill

Vicki A Funk, Smithsonian Institution (, Warren Wagner, Nicholas Turland

John McNeill has contributed to the global botanical community in three main ways. First he has had a major influence on botanical nomenclature. He served on the Nomenclatural Committee for Spermatophyta from 1975 until 1999, on the Editorial Committee of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (now the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants) since the XIII International Botanical Congress, held in Sydney in 1981. He was appointed Vice-rapporteur for the Nomenclature Section of the Berlin (1987) and Tokyo(1993) Congresses and Rapporteur-general for the Vienna (2005) and Melbourne(2011) Congresses. He also served for 12 years as Nomenclature Editor for Taxon (1999-2011), and continues to serve as a column editor for proposals to conserve and reject names. 

Second, He worked on Taxonomic studies in the Caryophyllales. He studied Alsinoideae for his Ph.D, which proved to be a very insightful study of the core groups including Arenaria s.l. and associated genera. He continued to work in the family during his career, especially on Alsinoids, but also on Silene and Stellaria. He was a participant in the recent molecular study of the family and interpretation of the impact of these new data on generic classification. During his career he worked on other groups mostly including weedy species including several within the order Caryophyllales including asynopsis of classification of the Portulacaceae, Atriplex in the Chenopodiaceae, and of course numerous papers on nomenclature. He was deeply involved in the Flora North America project and serve for some time as Chair of the FNA Management Committee.

Finally, he has served as an able administrator at three botanical institutions: as professor and chair of the Biology Department the University of Ottawa (1981-1987), Regius Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh (1987-1989),and as Associate Director (1989-91) and Director of the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (1991-1997).

John retired from ROM in 1999 and moved back to Scotland where he continues to work using Edinburgh as his base and he recently stepped down as Nomenclature Editorof Taxon. At this point in his career it seems appropriate to recognize his many accomplishments by organizing a series of interesting talks about the topics he cares deeply about.

Evolution on Islands: A Colloquium to Honor the Careers of Daniel Crawford and Tod Stuessy

Mark E Mort, University of Kansas ( )

Dan Crawford and Tod Stuessy began collaborating on the study of island evolution over 30 years ago. This long productive collaboration has provided important insights into insular diversification and their work has inspired and shaped subsequent generations of evolutionary biologists work in island systems.  The importance of their research has been recognized widely and they both are former Asa Gray and BSA Merit Award recipients.  They have countless hours of service to both ASPT and BSA and served as president of ASPT in sequential years.

This colloquium will bring together eleven botanists (including several of their former students) who are working on a range of evolutionary questions such as the reproductive biology of insular plants, molecular systematics of endemic lineages, co-evolution of plants and mycorhizal fungi, and the evolution of island cycads.  This work is being conducted across different archipelagoes, including Hawaii, the Juan Fernandez Islands, Cuba, and Macaronesia. All participants have benefitted through their interactions with Dan andTod. It is fitting to honor both of them in Columbus Ohio where this ongoing collaboration began. 

Orchid Biology: Darwin's Contrivances 150 Years Later

Rafael E Arevalo, University of Wisconsin (, Kathryn Theiss (

Sponsorship and Funding: ASPT, Systematics Section, Ecology Section

We wish to propose a colloquium for the Botany 2012 meeting centered on the theme of "Orchid Biology: Darwin's Contrivances 150 Years Later".  Charles Darwin's 1862 first edition of "On the Various Contrivances by which Orchids are Fertilized by Insects" marks its 150 year anniversary in 2012.  We propose that this milestone deserves to be celebrated on a grand scale. By organizing this colloquium we will profile a contemporary generation's perspective on orchid biology and encourage a new generation of students to continue studying these unique plants.