From Plant Press, Vol. 19, No. 3, July 2016.
Manuela Dal Forno joined the Botany Department as a postdoctoral fellow in June 2016, working with Eric Schuettpelz. Dal Forno received her Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Public Policy from George Mason University. Her dissertation research focused on the systematics of tropical basidiolichens in the Dictyonema sensu lato clade (Agaricales: Hygrophoraceae). Dal Forno was awarded an NSF fellowship for research using biological collections and will be obtaining microbiome data from fresh and historical lichen collections deposited at the U.S. National Herbarium. She will be comparing these data in both space (from different localities) and time (at various ages). Her main objective is to test the hypothesis that microbiome data from specimens deposited in herbaria represent the original bacterial assemblage associated with the living lichen thallus. This opens up a remarkable opportunity to add another data layer to millions of existing collections deposited in museums worldwide.
Bort (Robert) Edwards arrived in January as a Powell Center Postdoctoral Fellow under the guidance of Vicki Funk. The Powell Center is a USGS initiative for collaborative analysis and synthesis and Edwards’ project brings together data and investigators from SI, USGS, USDA, CSIRO, NSF, and a number of other organizations and universities. They aim to leverage big data in the form of geochemistry and geology, climate, plant distributions, and sequence data to investigate whether the evolution of extreme environmental tolerances has allowed the differentiation and diversification of plant groups in some of the more challenging environments of North America. Edwards has a Ph.D. in phylogenetics and biogeography from The University of Queensland in Australia studying differentiation, niche evolution, and species identity in a recent and complex radiation of monsoon tropical trees, broadleaved paperbarks (Melaleuca, Myrtaceae). He is also recovering from two years as a Drosophila speciation genetics postdoc at the University of Rochester (identifying the genetic mechanisms of hybrid incompatibility and the large X effect between D. simulans and D. mauritiana), and is enjoying supra-freezing temperatures, blue skies and dabbling with chlorophyll again. His research can be followed at http://bortedwards.weebly.com/ and on Twitter and Instagram @BortEdwards.
Laura Tancredi is the newest staff member of the Department of Botany. As part of the Information Management team, her main roles will be to enhance the Botany specimen catalog through digitizing, inventorying and imaging specimens, performing quality control for the rapid digitization project, and supervising volunteers and interns who will assist with the improvement of the online records. Before coming to the Smithsonian as a Collections Program Technician (CPT) in 2012, Tancredi worked as an archaeologist at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. She therefore comes to Botany with plenty of experience “collecting” in the dirt. Tancredi’s first project as a CPT, and first exposure to the world of pressed specimens, was with the National Anthropological Archives, mounting ethnobotanical specimens as part of the Recovering Voices Initiative. She subsequently spent over a year in the Division of Fishes cataloging ~15,000 specimen lots in their fluid collection, and moving and rehousing the osteological collection. She participated in the Department of Entomology’s species level inventory, catalogued the Department of Paleobiology’s Amber Collection, and spent about eight months last spring and summer with the Department of Botany preparing specimens for the conveyor belt digitization project.