Guest post: Botany is not dead, but this plant is

Jennifer Ackerfield, Herbarium Curator in the Biology Department, shows off specimens in the CSU collection. May 12, 2015. Image via J. Ackerfield. Guest post from Colorado State University Herbarium Collections Manager Jennifer Ackerfield. She literally wrote the book on Colorado flora. Botany is not dead, but this plant is: The importance of herbaria in the 21st century and beyond Herbarium.  For many, this one word invokes images of a dark, dusty place, a mortuary for…

Continue reading


Our Man in Savana

See what I did there? Image via Wikimedia Commons. Our friend the mesquite seems to pop up in the most unlikely of places. Mesquite, a genus which includes thorny desert shrubs/trees from various parts of the Americas, perhaps most clearly demonstrates the importance of context. It’s not that a species is inherently bad because it’s invasive. Or, to go as far as some naysayers, that to want to prevent or remove invasive species is a…

Continue reading


It gives me the duck face

Like this, only it last for a few days… Image from Emergency Brake from Wikimedia Commons. There is still time to contribute to the science of science communication! See the bottom of this post to do so AND also win prizes. Survey closes Nov 20, 2015. This may, perhaps, be more than you needed to know. But I am allergic to poison ivy. No big deal, you might think. You’re a botanist. Surely you know…

Continue reading


News and a Survey

Hi cats and kittens. Next month I’m starting a postdoc position at Colorado State University working on a whole new weedy plant! (Don’t worry, knapweed, I still love-hate you.) I’m planning some (hopefully) fun sci-comm gems related to this project, perhaps even a small citizen science project that YOU could help me out on. We’ll see how it goes. For now, let’s say I’m getting just a *tad* closer to my childhood dream of being…

Continue reading


What is going on with invasive knapweed? OR How I spent my PhD

Over the course of my PhD work (published here, and most recently here), I have found evidence for evolved differences in phenotype (in other words, in their morphology, development, phenology, stress responses) between native and invasive populations of diffuse knapweed. Why is that interesting? Well the invasive populations didn’t even exist until barely 100 years ago. And something about them has let them succeed and spread over vast areas of their new habitat. Perhaps what…

Continue reading


How have we never talked about knapweed before???

Surely I’m not the only one that thinks of their study organism in terms of fictional criminal geniuses? Wow, sorry folks, I’ve been slacking, and that whole PhD thing is a sorry excuse! Let me tell you a little natural history about a plant called diffuse knapweed (Centaurea diffusa), the  Dr. Moriarty to my Sherlock Holmes. Experimental plant, Centaurea diffusa, Montpellier, France, June 2011 The system I work in is a weedy species in a…

Continue reading


Super secret project: Revealed!

Hello gentle reader! It’s been ages, I know. But I’ve been scheming schemes. I’ve been working on a little secret project with game designer Elizabeth Steward. We are designing a game about invasive species (with a dollop of evolution, and a smattering of economics)! It’s still in the works, but perhaps you would like to check out what we have so far? PLAGUE OF SPECIES!!! Every time I start thinking about this, I get almost…

Continue reading


Students of Ethnobotany: Mr. Potato-head’s beautiful but deadly cousin

Angel’s Trumpet. Image from Wikimedia Commons by berichard. This ultimate edition of Students of Ethnobotany comes from Carina I., and teaches us that you can’t necessarily trust a plant just because it’s beautiful and comes from a good family. Imagine this… you see a nice looking flower in a nearby garden, you take a whiff and BAM! Free will and the ability to reason are knocked right out of you! Sounds like a tale out…

Continue reading


Students of Ethnobotany: Feed me, Seymour!

Feed me Seymour! Audrey2. Image from Wikimedia Commons by KaiMartin. This man-eating penultimate edition of Students of Ethnobotany comes from the fascinated Yvette Beesley. When I was in my teens my parent were large supporters of the Arts and took me to this play called “The Little Shop of Horrors”. It was amazing, with a singing and dancing plant called Audrey2 that needed blood to survive. With the help of his friend Seymour, Audrey 2…

Continue reading