Herbarium Research Assistantship – Summary of Accomplishments, Fall 2005

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Herbarium Research Assistantship – Summary of Accomplishments, Fall 2005

Grasses are an extremely important family of plants economically and ecologically, and they are among the plant families considered to be the largest, taxonomically. Over the last 20+ years there have been many nomenclatural changes in Poaceae. Many of these changes are reflected in the recently published (2001) Illustrated Flora of British Columbia, but the specimens in the UBC Herbarium have not been updated. In 2005, as a research assistant in the UBC herbarium, I annotated a portion of the UBC grass collection, updating the nomenclature and correctly identifying specimens.

This work clearly benefits the herbarium and users of the grass collection, but there was also substantial personal gain for myself as a researcher and student of the grasses. This opportunity allowed me to carefully study the morphology, biogeography, and taxonomy of the grass family in western North America, gaining valuable experience in understanding this difficult group of plants. I was able to study specimens in conjunction with the primary and secondary taxonomic literature, and become familiar with many genera and species. All annotations were based on a thorough understanding of the nomenclature and taxonomy of the group. Every specimen that I annotated was carefully studied under a microscope. Nomenclature was updated and/ or identifications were confirmed for the following genera: Achnatherum, Agropyron, Aira, Anthoxanthum, Arctagrostis, Arrhenatherum, Beckmannia, Briza, Bromus, Catabrosa, Cinna, Coleanthus, Cynosurus, Dactylis, Deschampsia, Distichlis, Elymus, Eragrostis, Hesperostipa, Hierochloe, Holcus, Leymus, Oryzopsis, Pascopyrum, Phalaris, Phleum, Phragmites, Piptatherum, Pseudoregneria, Schizachne, Setaria, Sphenopholis, Sporobolus, Thinopyrum, Trisetum, Vahlodea, and Zizania. I estimate that I worked through several thousand herbarium sheets.

Through this work, I have identified several taxonomic issues that could benefit from further research, and I anticipate working on several of these problems in the future. While working through specimens of Trisetum, it became clear to me that there were problems with the taxonomic treatment of this genus in the BC flora. I therefore prepared an article for Botanical Electronic News to clarify this problem:

Saarela, J. M. 2005. Trisetum (Poaceae) in British Columbia. Botanical Electronic News No. 251 (http://www.ou.edu/cas/botany-micro/ben/ben351.html).

I also prepared a manuscript (with co-authors Linda Jennings, Cindy Sayre, and Jeannette Whitton) reporting specimen information for all of the vascular plant type specimens in the UBC herbarium. It is critical that this information be made available to the global botanical community to facilitate taxonomic work. This manuscript has been accepted for publication, and is currently in press in the Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (formerly Sida, Contributions to Botany), and should be published in the June/July 2007 issue.

Saarela, J. M., L. Lipsen, C. M. Sayre, and J. Whitton. In press. Vascular plant type specimens in the University of British Columbia Herbarium (UBC). Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas.

Since January, 2007, I have been working as a research scientist at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa, Ontario, home of the National Herbarium of Canada (CAN). My research continues to be focused on the taxonomy, systematics, and evolution of grasses and their monocot relatives.

Jeff Saarela

19 March 2007

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