The Quarterly Newsletter of the William L. Brown Center for Plant Genetic Resources
The William L. Brown Center for Plant Genetic Resources Dr. Rainer Bussmann, the new Head of the Wm. L. Brown Center
In October of this year, Dr. Rainer W. Bussmann
ter. He comes to St. Louis with a great deal
of experience in both academia and the world
of non-profi t organizations. Trained as a geog-
rapher and botanist, his research activities are
now primarily of an ethnobotanical nature.
Originally from Germany, Rainer took his Mas-
ter’s degree at the University of Tübingen. While there he led a project on the vegetation and res-toration ecology of mountain forests in Kenya and Ethiopia. During his fi eldwork in Africa, he saw the extent to which local populations de-
pended on plants for food, medicine, fodder, and
Dr. Rainer W. Bussmann, the recently ap-
building materials. This realization led to a shift
pointed Head and William L. Brown Curator at the WLBC.
in his research focus to medicinal plants and
Photo: Bruce Ponman
species that serve as indigenous food crops.
Also while working in Africa, Rainer met a
donor interested in research, conservation, Florida Collecting Trip
and sustainable development in Latin America. Karen Meyer and Andrew Townesmith spent
This chance encounter allowed him ultimately a month earlier this year gathering plants in
to raise funds for the construction of the larg-
Florida for the WLBC’s collaboration with the
est research station south of Panama, and the
of Sarraceniaceae, Mayacaceae, and Zamiaceae
grams in Ecuador and Kenya. In order to make were collected for the fi rst time for the NCNPR
the wealth of research data available for the project. Several species of Annonaceae and
benefi t of the local populations, Dr. Bussmann Bromeliaceae were also collected, both families
co-founded Nature and Culture International having only been represented by a single spe-
(NCI), an NGO dedicated to the conservation cies previously.
of biological and cultural diversity by means of
sustainable development activities. He contin-
ues to serve as the Vice President and Scientifi c Wendy Applequist and former WLBC Director
Jim Miller recently published a paper that ex-
Dr. Bussmann’s fi rst appointment upon com-
amines the likelihood that Echinacea species
pletion of his doctorate at the Univ. of Bayreuth are present at the location of previous herbar-
was as an Assistant Professor at the same in-
ium collections (unsurprisingly, the likelihood
stitution. During fi ve years there, he ran a re-
decreases over time). This paper is of interest
search program in the mountains of southern because it provides data suggesting that native
Ecuador. In 2003, he moved to the US where he populations of Echinacea purpurea in Missouri
has held positions as Scientifi c Director of the are in long-term decline, possibly due to habi-
Lyon Arboritum and Associate Professor at the tat loss and degradation. (Full publication de-
University of Hawai’i, and as a Research Fel-
tails: Applequist, W. L., D. J. McGlinn, M. Miller,
low at University of Texas, Austin. His research Q. G. Long, and J. S. Miller. 2007. How well
currently centers on medicinal plants and in-
do herbarium data predict the location of pres-
digenous crops in the Andes, East Africa, Iran, ent populations? A test using Echinacea spe-
cies in Missouri. Biodiversity and Conservation
The William L. Brown Center for Plant Genetic Resources
CaliforniaWLBC staff members Andrew Townesmith and CA was made in 1995. However, it had previously Karen Meyer spent fi ve weeks this summer col-
been collected at only 2 sites, located about half
lecting plants in California for the Center’s collab-
a mile apart. The WLBC collection was made sev-
eral miles from the previous sites and at a sub-
as the second visit to California in stantially lower elevation. 2007 and the third overall. Since California is the
Two families that had been little collected for
most botanically diverse state, Karen and Andrew
NCNPR were the Polemoniaceae and Aristolo-
were able to fi nd many species not yet collected chiaceae, but Karen and Andrew were able to On the access road approach-
for NCNPR. Over the course of the trip, they visited
fi nd several new species from these taxa. They ing the summit of Mt. Shasta,
many different regions and habitats. Most of their
also came across a number of genera new to the at about 8,000 feet.
time, however, was spent at relatively high eleva-
project, many of which belonged to the Astera-
tions in the mountain ranges of Northern Califor-
ceae; other signifi cant new genera included sev-
nia, where there is substantial botanical diversity. eral ferns, some Apiaceae, as well as Ericaceae, The collecting was particularly successful in the including two saprophytic members, Pterospora northern Sierra Nevada, the Cascade Range, the and Sarcodes. Also of interest was Darlingtonia, Siskiyous, and the Northern Coast Range.
a pitcher plant (Sarraceniaceae) which grows in
The most exciting collection occurred in the Sis-
fairly restricted habitats, but often in large popula-
kiyous where they found Shepherdia canadensis tions. This was the second pitcher plant collected (russet buffaloberry). This plant is widely distrib-
for NCNPR, and the second genus in the family.
uted throughout the northern US and may be
One of the highlights of the trip was working on
found at high elevations in the Southern Rockies. Mount Shasta above the 7000-foot elevation. Un-
As this species was not listed in the 1993 edition til now, there has been virtually no collecting for Photo: Andrew Townesmith
of the Jepson Manual used on the trip, the WLBC the NCNPR program at high elevations. In con-staffers were quite excited to think they had dis-
trast to typical collecting localities, where much of
covered a new state record. A little research on what is encountered has already been collected, the internet later revealed that they were about almost every species found in the alpine zone of 12 years too late; the fi rst report of Shepherdia in
Mount Shasta was new for the program.
Wm. L. Brown Research FellowshipThe Wm. L. Brown Research Fellowship was es-
Environment and has collaborative research ties to
tablished several years ago to help biologists the Univ. of Agricultural Sciences in Bangalore and from South Asian countries pursue their research.
the French Institute in Pondicherry.
Scientists at an early stage of their career are en-
Dr. Bhagwat plans to survey the biodiversity of a
couraged to work with a WLBC staff member on number of sacred sites in India, with an emphasis Veratrum californicum grow-a project in one of the following areas: taxonomy,
on mountain top sites. These habitat islands have ing in a meadow in Mendocino
ecology, and evaluation of conservation status been noted as repositories of biodiversity, and National Forest. of medicinal plants; ethnobotany and the study their sacred status affords them something like Photo: Andrew Townesmithof traditional knowledge; ex-situ conservation of protected status. Dr. Bhagwat proposes to work useful plants; community-based development with Jan Salick, following the GLORIA methodol-and conservation; GIS analysis and conservation ogy, to assess the effects of climate change on a planning; and natural products discovery.
number of mountain top sites in the Himalayas.
Recently, the Second Wm. L. Brown Fellowship At least six sites in Darjeerling and Bhutan will
was awarded to Dr. Shonil Bhagwat. Dr. Bhagwat be identifi ed and surveyed. Information on local earned his Ph.D. at Oxford University, where he knowledge of useful plants will also be recorded. was a Rhodes Scholar. After graduation, he held a The data will be analyzed in order to relate plant post-doc for three years at the Natural History Mu-
diversity and the incidence of endemics to tem-
seum in London as part of the Biodiversity World perature, rainfall, and snow cover. Canonical cor-Project, developing climate change models to study
respondence analysis and non-metric multidimen-
long-term ecology. He is currently a post-doctoral sional scaling will be used to identify the effects of Dr. Shonil Baghwat, the 2008 researcher at the Oxford University Centre for the climatic variables on species composition.
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