Torrey Botanical Society Announces Annual Lecture Series For Fall and Spring

Torrey Botanical Society Annual Lecture Series
Fall 2010 and Spring 2011

October, December, March, and April lectures will be presented at the Arthur and Janet Ross Lecture Hall,
The New York Botanical Garden,
200th Street and Kazimiroff Blvd, Bronx, NY 10458

November and May lectures will be presented at the Auditorium at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 1000 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11225

Lectures are free and open to the public

Mammals and plants on three continents: ecological niche modeling of species distributions for studies of evolutionary ecology, climate change, and invasive species
Tuesday, October 5, 2010, 6:30 PM
Presented by Robert P. Anderson, Associate Professor, Department of Biology, City College of the City University of New York (CCNY/CUNY)

Coupled with a great increase in the online availability of species occurrence records and environmental data, recent theoretical and computational advances now allow ecological niche modeling of species geographic distributions using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Such models hold wide application across ecology, evolutionary biology, biogeography, and conservation, including studies of the effects of climatic and other environmental changes. Although free, user-friendly software is available over the internet, production of realistic niche models requires substantial knowledge of the study species and of the principles of model evaluation. I present an overview of these developments, using examples from my research on mammals and plants. Specific study groups include purple loosestrife in the Great Plains, legumes in the Guiana Shield, rodents and tenrecs in Madagascar, and rodents in the sky islands of northern Venezuela.


Seed Banking in New York: A Biological Savings Account\
Wednesday, November 3, 2010, 6:30 PM
Presented by Tim Chambers and Heather Liljengren, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation’s Greenbelt Native Plant Center

Did you know that there is a global bank of seeds being saved around the world to protect plant species? The Greenbelt Native Plant Center, along with Brooklyn Botanic Garden, have contributed 75 native plant species from our region to the Millennium Seed Bank Project, an initiative led by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, which has been called a Noah’s ark for Earth’s flora. The Native Plant Center and BBG are founding partners of the Seeds of Success program, which aims to preserve seed of the flora of the United States and develop native plant materials from regional and local seed resources. The Native Plant Center currently maintains its own seed bank and is working with BBG to develop a mid-Atlantic regional seed bank to help others conserve their local flora.

To stock seed banks, botanists collect samples from native wild populations. Each collection is processed, individually packaged, and deposited in the bank, similar to a giant walk-in cooler. These collections have the potential to survive storage for hundreds of years. The seeds can then be used to stem the effects of such conditions as habitat loss and fragmentation, climate change, and biological invasion, now and into the future.


The role of field work in modern systematics; planes, trains and automobiles (plus other modes of transportation) in search of neotropical Melastomataceae
Tuesday, December 7, 2010, 6:30 PM
Presented by Fabian Michelangeli, Assistant Curator, Institute of Systematic Botany, The New York Botanical Garden

Modern systematics relies on several tools not available only a few decades ago, such as DNA sequencing and powerful computing. Thus, many evolutionary biologists have focused their research in the laboratory, trying to take advantage of these developments in order to answer questions that we could not address in the past. During this talk I will show, using systematics work on the Melastomataceae (meadow beauties and princess flowers) as an example, how field work is still necessary to carry out modern systematics. Some unforeseen lines of research have developed from actual observations of the plants in the field, which has opened completely new lines of research in this group of plants.


Capturing Today’s Botanical Treasures: An Artistic Journey with Orchids and Other Threatened Plants
Sunday, March 6, 2011, 1:00 PM (Annual Banquet)
Presented by Carol Woodin, Botanical Artist and Exhibitions Coordinator, American Society of Botanical Artists

Abstract:  TBA


Tiger nuts and velcro plants: a walk through the relationships, biogeography and remarkable diversity of sedges (family Cyperaceae)
Tuesday, April 5, 2011, 6:30 PM
Presented by Julian R. Starr, Associate Professor, Department of Biology, University of Ottawa, and Research Scientist, Canadian Museum of Nature

The Cyperaceae or sedge family is a truly remarkable group characterised by its exceptional diversity (ca. 5000 spp.), varied habitats (deserts to rain forests), unusual chromosomes (holocentric) and diverse biogeographical patterns. Distributed across every continent except Antarctica, sedges represent nearly 3% of the native vascular flora of North America, north of Mexico, and in some regions, such as the Arctic, they are the dominant component in terms of species diversity and biomass. In addition, approximately 10% of sedge species are of either direct (e.g., medicines, crops) or indirect (e.g., weeds) economic importance to humanity, and yet sedges are largely unknown to the general public, and they are frequently mistaken for other plants such as rushes or grasses, even by professionals. In this talk we will learn about the fascinating biology of the sedge family and how to recognise them in nature. In addition, we will learn about recent advances in our understanding of their relationships, evolution, and diversity through the application of new genetic techniques such as DNA sequencing and barcoding. Recent collecting trips to the Arctic, the Rocky Mountains, and the most southerly reaches of South America (Tierra del Fuego), will highlight the beginning of our research on the biogeography and taxonomy of arctic-alpine and bipolar species complexes including the discovery of hidden diversity in this poorly known, but remarkable family of plants.


Trouble in Paradise: Are We Losing Our Native Bees?
Wednesday, May 4, 2011 6:30 PM
Presented by Stephen Buchmann, entomologist, International Coordinator of The Pollinator Partnership and co-author of The Forgotten Pollinators
This lecture is presented in collaboration with NYC Wildflower Week (

Dr. Stephen Buchmann, co-author of “The Forgotten Pollinators,” twelve other books and more than 170 scientific publications, presents an illustrated talk showcasing North American native bee diversity, along with threats to bees and other pollinators. The amazing ways bees make a living, from carpenters to masons to social parasite free-loaders will be examined along with their fantastic mutualistic dances with flowering plants. Learn about flowers that produce resins, oils and perfumes besides ordinary pollen and nectar floral rewards. See the world’s smallest bee (under 2mm) from the Sonoran desert. Stephen will also update us on the current situation plaguing honey bees, Colony Collapse Disorder, and steps the Pollinator Partnership ( is taking to alleviate it and help beekeepers. Declines in several U.S. bumble bee species will be examined. Its not all doom and gloom, as he suggests simple things to do, steps we can all take in our backyards, gardens and schools to help native bees and other pollinating animals. You can become a bee rancher, a pollinator landlord! Several of Dr. Buchmann’s books may be available for purchase and signing after his talk.
Susan K. Pell, Ph.D.
Corresponding Secretary and Program Chair
Torrey Botanical Society

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