New pictures from Texas field trips


I added two new folders from my most recent field trips to Texas (one more to go).They are not as good as Dylan’s pictures but might be useful. Remember we have a Flickr account with :

User name: sunflower_photos

Password: sun flower head
For more information about this Flickr account or how to organize the lab photos, see these posts:

New germplasm from Dylan’s 2015 field work

As many of you know, I was tasked with collecting wild populations of Helianthus annuus, H. petiolaris, and H. argophyllus from across the geographic range of the species, for use in the abiotic stress adaptation project. Over a three month period, I drove more than 30,000 miles and collected at 145 Helianthus localities in 15 western states. I found a lot of really interesting plants, including what might be several new species. In future posts, I’ll talk some more about the trip, and what I found.

The seeds are now here. They are cleaned and packaged in individual envelopes numbered by population and mother plant. I cleaned the seeds in Ames, Iowa at the UDSA facility, so they are high quality, ready to go. All of the seeds are now part of the seed collection in our lab in the Biodiversity building. The new seeds have been added to the permanent database of seeds for the whole lab. But I also put a copy of my complete notes here. My notes give details about where the plants were collected, their ecology, etc. I’ll be putting printed data in the boxes with the seeds as well, just in case the zombie apocalypse arrives and these electronic data go dark. I also plan to post photos of each population I visited, but that’s down the line. For now, the seeds are here, so if you need to access any of them for a project, the data linked to this post should help you do that. If you happen to use any of these plants in a project, please note that voucher specimens were deposited in the herbarium at Indiana University (herbarium code: IU).

If you need to contact me about these seeds, and you have no idea who I am or where I am located, here is my “permanent” email address, which should also last for some time.


Introducing Phoebanthus, Sibling to Sunflower

Before I left UBC to head to California, Rose and I got interested in looking closely at the nearest relatives of Sunflower. In particular, Rose was looking to obtain an “outgroup” for her analyses of cpDNA phylogeny in the sunflowers. We found out that the sister-genus to sunflower is a little plant called Phoebathus, which consists of just two species, one diploid and one tetraploid. Both of them are perennials that are endemic to Florida.


Phoebanthus grandiflorus

After learning about the plant, I started looking for a way to get some samples. I learned very quickly that it’s basically not cultivated at all. So I contacted several naturalists from Florida who live near Phoebanthus country, and one of them (a gentleman named Wayne Matchett) volunteered to get us some tissue and seeds for the more common tetraploid species, Phoebanthus grandiflorus. It took a while for Wayne to locate a flowering population, and then to wait for the seed heads to mature (at my recommendation, he “bagged” the heads), but he finally managed to secure about 100 mature seeds, along with a sample of leaf tissue, both of which I am now in possession of.


Some of the seeds that Wayne got

I guess that I became obsessed with this plant because it is such an underdog compared to Helianthus. While Helianthus is a weedy, widespread, diverse, and dominant genus that has more or less conquered North America as well as the human race, the sibling genus to sunflower amounts to just two species, both of them found in what is probably the cushiest, least stringent environment in all of North America: Florida (sorry, Chris).

In any case, I’m going to apply for a permit to bring the seeds and tissue to UBC when I visit in a month or so. I might also try to keep some here in California and try growing it here to see how it performs. In addition to providing a nice outgroup for phylogenetic analyses, it might be cool to do other comparisons between the vivacious head-turner that is Helianathus, and its runty little sister genus, Phoebanthus.

In the meantime, here are some of Wayne’s photos:





Tissue dessication with table salt

There is a new paper published by Elena Carrió and Josep A. Roselló online early in Molecular Ecology Resources that suggests salt dessication of leaves dehydrates and prevents decay at levels similar to that of silica gel, with similar PCR results.

Large-grain silica is probably still the best option, but this would come in really handy if you come across something interesting that you want to collect but don’t happen to have silica gel with you.

Here is the main figure (link to the paper below):

Thanks to Maggie Wagner from the TMO lab who found this paper and sent it around. Here is a link to the full article:

DOI: 10.1111/1755-0998.12170

Photographs of Helianthus annuus

Over the weekend, I took some photos of the H. annuus that are growing out at Totem Park, including some of Emily, Brook, and Greg’s plants. They are just such photogenic plants, I could not resist. I uploaded a complete set of hi-res .jpg files to the blog server, and they are presented above in the gallery. These are massive, but they are .jpg, so that means they are lossy. If you want to use these for printing, let me know and I can send you the raw files, from which you can make .tif files that are as good as film negatives.

If anyone else has plants flowering that they would like pictures of, let me know! I’d love to get a nice set together for the lab.

Silica gel: God’s gift to botanists

Another Rieseberg lab member was asking me this week about preserving plant tissues on silica gel for later DNA extraction, and this got me to thinking about the general idea. I thought I would make a post about it, since it’s a useful technique, even in the genomic age. A lot of you already know all about this, so apologies for preaching to the choir.


The miracle of silica gel

I put an extensive post on my own Research Blog, but here is the gist of it:

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Herbarium Vouchers

In a recent lab meeting, the issue of herbarium vouchering came up, and a spirited discussion ensued. Inspired by what I heard there, and by some discussions with the manager of the UBC Herbarium, I decided to create a post on the how and why of herbarium vouchering. I put the complete version of this on my own research blog, accessible here. Here, I mostly wanted to summarize the idea, and try to convince everyone in the lab that vouchering is really important.


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Drooping flowers cured?

Earlier this year, Kate’s sunflowers in the hort greenhouse were having an issue where the stem right under a maturing flower would darken and wither. The flower would droop down and gradually die. This was particularly annoying when trying to collect seed from crosses.

I’ve been growing H. bolanderi in the hort greenhouse and my plants seemed to have the same issue. When I saw this happening I trimmed off the drooping flowers, which occurred on about 10 of 24 plants. I also noticed that the new leaves were browning at the tip, a symptom of nutrient burn, so I flushed the soil by excessively watering it once.

A week later my plants no longer had any head droop and some flowers that seemed iffy before were fine. The leaf tip browning also reduced. I’m not sure if flushing the soil was the cure or something else happened at the greenhouse or it has only temporarily subsided. This is just something to try if you have the same problem.

One interesting note is that my plants are serpentine adapted and Kate’s are dune plants, which are both fairly nutrient poor soils. Perhaps they are extra susceptible to nutrient burn.

Seed size in H. exilis

Here is a curiosity I noticed while sorting seeds.

At one of my H. exilis sites (G136) there was a serpentine field beside a raised road. The field had a large population of tiny sunflowers, but there were also a few plants on the gravel embankment beside the road. These plants were much bigger, probably because the soil used in the embankment wasn’t serpentine. I collected seeds from both field and roadside plants.

The roadside seeds are much bigger than the serpentine seeds.

This has several possible explanations:

-Plasticity. The non-serpentine plants are much bigger, being bigger makes their seeds also larger.

-Selection. Bigger seeds are better on the disturbed habitat of the gravel embankment.

-Introgression. Gene flow from H. annuus could be coming in and only persisting on non-serpentine areas, bringing larger seed alleles.

Helianthus neglectus collecting trip – Oct 2012 (Kate)

Recently, Kieran and I travelled to Monahans, Texas to collect Helianthus neglectus. It was a quick, fun trip in which we collected 8 dune and 10 non-dune populations. The seeds we collected are sorted and available in the lab in two boxes labelled “Helianthus neglectus – Monahans, Texas – Oct 2012″. Finally, I’ve posted the GPS coordinates and (usually) two photos for each site we collected from below. I will add more information about the habitat characteristics (vegetation cover and soil components) as it becomes available.

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Compiled Sunflower QTLs (GregO)

Last year I worked on a project to see if any of the domestication outlier genes were found with previously mapped QTLs. The project ultimately fell flat when new data showed that the outlier I was working on wasn’t an outlier, but I did compile a large table of sunflower QTLs which may be useful. The table has 369 mapped QTLs.

I’ve shared this with a couple of people, but I’m posting it here on a google doc for everyone to use. Here is the link:

A couple notes:
-It was compiled about a year ago, so it may be out of date. Also, although I tried to include every applicable study, I may have missed some. If you do find a study that I missed, I encourage you to add it to the table.
-It is only from annuus crosses, and a majority are domestics
-The position values are in cM

Anyway, read and enjoy. Change it if you find errors or new papers!

Lab camera manual: Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 (Rose)

A couple of points:

1. There is a spare battery, so please swap out and charge the one that you have just used.

2. The photos stored on the card could be deleted at any time (if a big job needs more room on the storage card), so PLEASE download them  before you take the camera back to the lab to avoid losing them.

3. The GPS should be turned on only when you need it (and set to OFF when you get on a plane).

DMCZS7 Basic Operating Instructions

DMCZS7 Operating Instructions