From Plant Press, Vol. 18, No. 3, July 2015.
By Gary A. Krupnick
Fern and lycophyte biology was the focus of the 13th Smithsonian Botanical Symposium, held 1–4 June 2015 at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) and United States Botanic Garden (USBG) in Washington, DC. Also marking the 12th Symposium of the International Organization of Plant Biosystematists, and titled, “Next Generation Pteridology: An International Conference on Lycophyte & Fern Research,” the meeting featured a plenary session on 1 June, plus three additional days of focused scientific talks, workshops, a poster session, a reception, a dinner, and a field trip. The conference brought together the world's pteridologists to celebrate the progress of fern and lycophyte biology to date and to forecast developments still on the horizon.
The Symposium began with opening remarks by Warren Wagner (Chair of Botany, NMNH), Kirk Johnson (Sant Director, NMNH), and Ari Novy (Executive Director, USBG). Eric Schuettpelz (Curator of Ferns, NMNH) served as convener. Noting that the last international conference on lycophyte and fern research took place 11 years ago at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Schuettpelz expressed excitement as this year’s conference of 97 talks and 30 posters, including the 10 invited plenary speakers, was to focus on discussing new and revitalized methods for pteridological research.
After the opening remarks, Laurence Dorr (Curator and Cuatrecasas Committee Chair, NMNH) presented the 13th José Cuatrecasas Medal in Tropical Botany to Paulo Günter Windisch (see related story on page 12 of the newsletter). This prestigious award is presented annually to a scholar who has contributed significantly to advancing the field of tropical botany. Windisch, a retired professor from the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, was commended for his extensive contributions to the systematics, biogeography, and evolution of neotropical pteridophytes. In his acceptance speech, Windisch expressed his appreciation and gratitude to the Smithsonian Institution and the selection committee. He said that receiving the medal rekindles his inner spirit, and remarked that “translating nature into science is an art.”
The first day of the Symposium included a plenary session that was open to the general public. With 10 invited talks, the audience was treated to an overview of fern and lycophyte evolution, genomics, physiology, ecology, horticulture, and conservation. The opening keynote speaker was Robbin C. Moran from the New York Botanical Garden, and his talk, “An Overview of Ferns and Lycophytes,” provided an exciting introduction into the world of pteridology. Starting with the life cycle of pteridophytes, Moran discussed the unique, independently living sporophyte and gametophyte generations of this plant group.