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Botany news

2 Posts tagged with the botanist tag

New People

Posted by David Williams Feb 3, 2012
Sara Contu has just started working in the Botany department here at the museum. She is working with Neil Brummitt on the SRLI (Sampled Red List Index) project working on conservation status assessments of the Pteridophyte selected for the sample. The assessment is based on herbarium specimen records, literature research (protologues, floras, monographs, etc.) and GIS analysis. She will summarize the information in the IUCN Species Information Service (SIS) Data Entry Module database, and the report is subsequently delivered to IUCN


Tonya Lander joined the Department on January 4 as a Post Doc working on the genetic population structure of the widespread Central American tropical forest tree Brosimum alicastrum (Moraceae).  Tonya’s post is funded by the Darwin Initiative and she will be with us at least until October 2013.


Annabel Crookshank is working on a project to DNA barcode UK ferns, and is currently at the museum to source suitable material for DNA analysis from un-mounted collections, and process these samples in the molecular lab.



Some of the spectacular scenery that Sandy Knapp has photographed on her fieldtrip to China


Sandy Knapp continues to search for aubergines (Solanum melongena) and other interesting Solanum species in China, and I've been reading her blog with interest.


Aubergine varieties seem to have evaded discovery so far - a farmer in one of the locations she visited said his crop had failed due to the cold weather, but there are apparently lots of other interesting crops and plant life to be seen, and in some cases eaten.


On Monday Sandy was served the leaves of the black nightshade, Solanum nigrum, which is a common weed in Britain and thought to be poisonous! She says it was obviously not very, at least in China. A braver approach than I'd have, and I was relieved to read from her blog posts later in the week that she didn't seem to be any the worse for it.


Sandy's not just exploring fields, brush and spectacular limestone mountains: she found another species, Solanum torvum, growing in a rubbish dump in the north of China. Who said fieldwork isn't glamorous!



It's worth it though. Yesterday she wrote that they'd found their first exciting Solanum species - Solanum violaceum (shown right). Although it's a common species, she wants to compare it carefully throughout its range to other species that may or may not be the same.


Not all of her observations have been positive. She has seen first-hand evidence of habitat destruction in the beautiful and biologically interesting limestone hills near Gansu. She says mining for stone and gravel will have destroyed many of them by next year, along with the native flora that grows there.


I look forward to finding out more about Sandy's travels, including whether she finds the elusive aubergine and whether she's served up any other risky dishes.


Read Sandy's blog, Investigating aubergines in China.