Bryolog 12 (27 May 2018)


As a general policy, check the website for event updates before you walk out the door!

  • Workshop on use of the California Moss eFlora: 9:00-4:00 on Friday 15 June at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in Fisher Science 33-354. You will learn how to dissect mosses and run them through the key to genera, as well as photographic keys to Orthotrichaceae and Homalothecium. Bring your own specimens for others to identify, and if you have them bring books. Enter campus via Grand Ave or Highland Drive—Grand Ave is closer to the building. Buy a day parking pass for $5 from one of the electronic kiosks. Parking in the K1 lot is best followed by a short walk downhill to the Fisher Science building. You can pick up a map at the Information Booth as you enter campus from Grand Ave.
  • John Brinda, Brent Mishler, Javier Jauregui Lazo, and Caleb Caswell-Levy will lead a bryophyte fieldtrip emphasizing the cryptobiotic soil crust community, 28 July 2018, 9:00-4:00, at Tilden Park in Berkeley. RSVP
  • Open mic day 9:00-4:00 on Saturday 18 August at California State University Northridge, CR 5335. Bring your own specimens and books. We’ll emphasize Grimmioidea.
  • David Wagner is offering a three and a half day, intensive Field Bryology Workshop at the Andrews Experimental Forest, Blue River, Oregon, 24-28 September 2018. See Event Updates…
  • Run for office. Director of Field Trips and Secretary are opening up. Don’t be bashful. Fill out LINKED FORM to self-nominate. Election will be announced in the next issue of Bryolog.
  • Next SO BE FREE is still not planned out fully. You cannot register yet, but soon the website will have registration forms posted.

Quarterly Report

  • A note from our President, Jim Shevock…
  • SO BE FREE 23 in the Siskiyou Mountains was a success! A brief summary and photos can be found on our website under SO BE FREE. Click here to read Scot Loring’s detailed report, including photos of the two potentially undescribed Orthotrichum species and other species of note found at the foray.
  • Our chapter in cooperation with the Alta Peak Chapter had a great time with students from College of the Sequoias learning mosses of the Giant Forest and working with microscopes.

Timeless Bits

Note from the Bryophyte Chapter President

—Jim Shevock

So much has happened since the creation of the Bryophyte Chapter of CNPS just over two years ago. I am pleased and honored to serve as your President for the next two years. In our short time as a chapter in CNPS, we have developed programs and outreach activities to advance the awareness and importance of California bryophytes toward ecosystem function. Our first and now past President, Paul Wilson, dedicated countless hours to develop links to other chapters through the liaisons and set the foundation for our existence as a chapter in CNPS. I hope to see more programs and field trips featuring bryophytes across the CNPS chapters in the coming months. Perhaps many of you could lead a short walk for another CNPS chapter to raise the awareness of bryophytes on the landscape. You do not need to be an expert to lead a bryophyte walk!

One of the guiding principles of our budding bryophyte chapter has been to engage both professionals and amateurs equally into the operations of the chapter and programs we deliver. We also designed our chapter governance so we will have a frequent turnover of officers. In this issue of Bryolog, we have a call for two positions currently to fill on the Board of Directors: our Secretary position and Field Trip Director. Neither of these require any expertise in bryology, but rather, a willingness to advance bryology. So that is the only criterion, a willingness to contribute your talents for a 2-year term. The Board physically meets once a year at SO BE FREE and the rest of our work is conducted either by email or conference calls. So it is not a tremendous workload to serve on the Board! Keep in mind too that the Bryophyte chapter is not geographically based so any member of the chapter could serve in one of these positions. As with any non-profit organization, we accomplish only the work we are prepared to volunteer and donate of our time to do. There is so much we could do as a chapter but it relies on us stepping up to the plate to offer our time and talents. No one will get burned out in a 2-year term on the Board. So I encourage you to consider serving, and if you can’t right now, consider serving in the near future because we have vacancies every year. Let us know if you would like to consider a role in the chapter now or in the future. Descriptions of Board positions can be found on our website under standing rules.

In this issue of Bryolog we are ready to embark on an educational research mini-grant program. To make this happen, we need to start a fundraising drive exclusively for this purpose. Paul Wilson is so passionate about the need for this activity (see his separate note) to support students working on bryophytes that he is willing to match all contributions up to $2500 during this first round of giving! So if you donate $50 to the educational research grant, your contribution is matched. If you can afford to donate more, your gift is doubled too. I also view supporting students, even with small amounts of funding, as critical to making the project a reality. So I hope you will join me and make a donation to the Bryophyte Educational Research Grant Program today. Our goal is to offer the first mini-grant later this year (see Request for Proposals). If we can raise a larger amount of funds, we might even be able to offer two grants in our first year. So it is up to us to perhaps have a latte or two less in the coming days and weeks and transfer that amount into the educational research grant program. I know we can begin to support students to investigate bryophytes only if we can demonstrate that there is an interest to support them to undertake such research.

On another note, we also rely on your active membership in CNPS. Part of membership dues are returned to the chapter through subvention. So if your membership is ready to expire or has expired, please renew. And for those receiving Bryolog who have not yet joined CNPS, I hope you will do so too. Just be sure when becoming a member that you identify yourself with the Bryophyte Chapter.

Common Mosses of Western Oregon and Washington

—Daniel Palmer

This book by McCune and Hutten is written for the beginning moss enthusiast, but it has useful micrographs and habit pictures of many of the most common mosses of the Pacific Northwest that can be useful to the intermediate and advanced bryologist alike. The book also provides great advice and guidance about how to collect and store mosses as well as tools that will be needed to identify mosses. In addition, a great glossary and a reference section will guide those who are developing their library. In general, this is a great book for any beginning-to-advanced moss enthusiast.

SO BE FREE 2018 Summary

—Scot Loring

The 23rd annual SO BE FREE meeting was held March 24-27, 2018, at the Siskiyou Field Institute in Selma, Oregon. The event was well-attended by people with a broad range of bryological expertise from across North America and beyond. Gourmet meals were catered by Taylor’s Country Store and were hailed by many attendees as some of the best meals they had ever experienced at SO BE FREE.

Field trips
The weather was cold, with the snow level dropping at night to near the valley floors (SNOW BE SKI?). Although this greatly limited our choices of field trip destinations, plenty of spectacular areas remained accessible. The region offers a wide variety of vegetation types with complex geology that includes serpentine, volcanics, limestone/marble, and more. Destinations included but were not limited to:

1. Siskiyou Field Institute grounds: A beginners’ hike, led by Brent Mishler and Ken Kellman, explored the late-successional forests, riparian areas, and serpentine barrens of the Institute property. Even the sidewalk holds great bryophyte diversity:

person kneeling to look at moss on ground

2. Illinois River: Multiple stops were made along the Illinois that included mixed conifer/hardwood forest and riparian areas. Geology is primarily serpentine, peridotite, and other ultramafics. Incense cedar host Dicranoweisia above the Illinois (photo Jason Brooks):

people with hand lenses

3. Rough and Ready Botanical Wayside: This location is famous for its diversity of serpentine-endemic vascular plants. We also found it to be great for bryophytes, especially ephemerals. Plant communities include Pinus jeffreyi savannas, ericaceous shrub associations, and old-growth forest. Geology is primarily serpentine and similar ultramafics (photo BLM):

river in flood season

4. Rogue River Trail: This location follows the roadless Wild and Scenic part of the Rogue through many different types of plant communities. Much of the canyon is rocky and includes seeps and springs, offering a great diversity of bryophytes. In the photo, note the abundance of bryophytes, obvious even from a distance:

Rocky sides of river gorge

5. Table Rocks: A popular hiking destination of locals in the Rogue Valley, the tops of the Table Rocks support plant species found nowhere else on Earth. The vernal pool habitats are also excellent for bryophytes. The geology is andesitic. Upper Table Rock (photo BLM):

volcanic table mountain


Finally … the bryophytes!
Although no species list was compiled, many interesting bryophytes were observed. Jason Brooks and Scot Loring each found potentially undescribed species of Orthotrichum along the banks of the Illinois River. Dubbed “#1” and “#2”. “Orthotrichum #1” was found on riverside serpentine and is reminiscent of O. euryphyllum:


Orthotrichum #2” was found on riverside tree and shrub bases and is reminiscent of O. rivulare:

habit of moss on wood

Multiple species of conservation concern for the State of Oregon were also located and were reported to local federal agencies. Discoveries such as these help demonstrate the importance of forays like SO BE FREE regarding conservation efforts and gaining a better understanding of local floras. Entosthodon californicus is a rarity that we saw at the Rough and Ready Botanical Wayside:

macro photo of moss capsules

And, Phymatoceros bulbiculosus was found along the Illinois River:

hornwort thallus

And, of course, many interesting bryophytes were also found that were not of conservation concern, but important nonetheless, including Gymnomitrion obtusatum from the Illinois River:

several species of mosses

Also from the Illinois River, Blindia acuta with sporophytes:



The evenings were a time for microscope work and socializing

Brent Mishler giving a tutorial on hydroids (photo Jason Brooks):

people at microscopes

David Long brought a bottle of tasty whiskey from Scotland and generously provided it to very grateful attendees (my thirsty self included). Thanks, David! The deep smoky/peaty flavor was a perfect match for a bryology event such as SO BE FREE. And a couple shots greatly enhanced one’s bryo identification abilities, or so it seemed (photo Jason Brooks):

person pouring shots

Overall, a great time was had by all. Many interesting bryophytes were observed at many interesting locations. I highly recommend attending SO BE FREE for those of you who have yet to do so. For those of you who have attended, I look forward to seeing you again in the future!

group photo

To Potential Donors in Support of our Research Fund

—Paul Wilson

I am writing to ask you to join me in saving bryology in California. If you send in twenty bucks, I’ll send in twenty bucks more. It is like Public Radio. My limit is $2500 in the coming year, and I sincerely hope that by the end of January 2019 the fund will approach $5000 in donations.

In the last Bryolog, the Chapter announced that students may apply for mini-grants (technically scholarships) to support their research (see Request for Proposals). Such mini-grants have a disproportionate positive effect in launching the careers of scientists. Let me explain the situation as I see it.

I am close enough to retiring so that none of this affects me personally, and yet I fear for the part of bryology that involves an expert on identification doing stuff like describing new species, documenting differences between niches, mapping the distributions of rarities, composing photographic keys that aid in identification, and putting the herbarium in order.

I was an assistant professor who was hired to test airy ideas about evolution, and only after I was a full professor did I shift over to working on descriptive bryology. Moreover, it was a poor shift to make from the point of view of personnel committees and deans. I have failed to get substantial grant support for my moss work. There is little chance that I will be replaced by someone who does low-budget descriptive natural history on a group of little-known organisms. I made the shift because I feel that descriptive moss ecology is important and neglected, that California should have a moss expert doing this type of thing. Unfortunately, the writers of job descriptions at universities are under tremendous pressure to solve fiscal and educational problems that are other than the type of science that CNPS cares about.
This is not to say that I think cheap field bryology is a lost cause in academia. There are about 40 universities in California, and I have every reason to hope that 3 or 4 or 5 of them will continue to have positions that are occupied by one sort of bryologist or another. “Accidents happen.” Bryologists are like a shuttle species, and jobs are like ecological sites. They open up, and sometimes we occupy them, and sometimes those bryologists get to work in the field and in the herbarium—sometimes.

When bryo labs happen, we need to support them. Personnel committees and deans are not evil, but they believe others more than they believe themselves. They believe anonymous reviewers and editors of journals more than they believe themselves. And they believe granting organizations more than they believe in their own evaluation of what kind of science is worthy. To the extent that CNPS hands out grants, people in charge will take those grants as a serious signal. If my research program had paid for itself even to the tune of a quarter of the dollar awards of my colleagues in the biomedical sciences, I would have been freed to do research at the rate that they are. Even tiny mini-grants received by my students are commended, and the publications that these grants have made possible are treated as every bit as much of a contribution as publications out of other labs that are much more lavishly funded.

By funding students, we are doing our part to assure that talent will be available for future openings in environmental consulting, agency jobs, and as botany teachers. Yes, general botany is still a core part of the science curriculum at many community colleges! Other non-governmental organizations and governmental agencies are also doing their part. Over the years, my students have managed to cobble together enough grants to pay for their research expenses. True, some of that has come from me directly, but still, in my estimation mini-grants such as CNPS’s can make the difference between a well launched career and a student who feels she was ridiculously idealistic to not go into biomedical work.

We’ll start by handing out the mini-grants. At first it will be only one mini-grant of $500 every six months. We need to build up the fund so that there will be no dry years, while we are also building up the excitement of actual researchers receiving actual money to pay for their actual research. For now, we will fund students. I hope that someday we will expand this to others. None of my own students will receive any of these grants. To avoid conflict of interest, I’ll help them out directly. What I want us to do is to promote budding bryologists who are like my students but not my students. It is hard to exaggerate the reassurance that is given to a student and to their major professor for the cost of eight nights in rural motels near a field site. With grants from other sources—garden clubs and park concession associations—all of the costs of field work are covered.

Please send in your dollars. I know that many of you can afford to donate something. Not all of you can, not at this stage of your life, but many of you can or you will be able to after you yourself have made it. CNPSers are, by and large, of my socioeconomic class, and many of you are my seniors. Bryology is cheap, but it is not free. Becoming an expert in identifying a couple of hundred bryophytes in a California landscape, that is a big deal for someone who is twenty-something. Let’s back these aspiring experts. Let’s hold up our part of our civilization.

Now, I can do the math. We won’t be able to support a curator position even if all the members of the Chapter gave us the type of small donation that I’m asking for now. We will need to eventually find larger money if we are to support more than students more than symbolically. But this is not a good reason to hold back now. Let’s get this thing started. The next generation of bryologists needs every little bit of help they can get. Send a check, no matter how modest, to Treasurer Kiamara Ludwig, 3729 Woodruff Oakland, CA 94602-1650.

The Bryophyte Chapter was created three years ago, and the first order of business was to get moving on our basic education program. We did that with beginner walks, talks, and open microscope days. We now have a vigorous set of liaisons who are rapidly getting up to speed on promulgating basic bryology. But, the Chapter needs to have more depth than just basic bryology. I often ask myself, “What would be the threshold beyond which I would consider the Bryophyte Chapter to be a success?” My answer might change as time goes on, but for now, I think it would be a success if it is able to maintain the things that the founders are setting out to do even after they are no longer investing time and money in the Chapter. In this vein, I will consider the grant program to be worth my investment if it is able to give out at least a couple of mini-grants per year, indefinitely, without the founders having to constantly donate a thousand dollars a year to keep it afloat. Maybe, the founders will have to put in ten thousand dollars during the first decade of the Chapter’s existence, but I hope to see that during the second decade the money will keep rolling in and will keep rolling out.

Featured Photo 2

Tom Voltz took this photograph of a banana slug nibbling on the carpocephalum of Asterella californica in San Mateo County in April. Its rasping tongue, called a radula, is hidden beneath the lobed “lips.”

slug close up eating liverwort carpocephalum

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