Bryophytes & me...
My study of bryophytes (mosses, liverworts, and hornworts) began and continues with a study of species and how to identify them. I have been fortunate enough to conduct this study in Sequoia National Park, which is an excellent example of California's floristic diversity. The park includes elevations from 1360 to 14494 feet, meaning it is possible to travel from foothill chaparral to conifer zone to subalpine/alpine regions all within a day.
Species identification of bryophytes can be a tricky process. Knowing the habitat from which a species was taken can be as important as any morphological character in its identification. Many times distinguishing features are cellular characters, only seen with the compound scope. In short, identification requires putting together details from all angles, a process that can be surprisingly rewarding.
Why go through all the work of learning species? Species identification is the foundation of floristic and comparative studies. The work I do now willl be a foundation for my future study of bryophyte ecology and evolution.
My thesis project...
My thesis shall be to inventory bryophyte species and their niche characteristics within Sequoia National Park along a grand transect from the foothills with their mediterranean climate to the alpine crest where bryophytes are frozen under snow during the winter. As I inventory species I will also describe their ecology. I began by determining a plot, then identification of any and all bryophytes I find. I record general conditions of their niche, speciffically certain fundamental physical characteristics of the mircrosite. These include the substrate on which they grow, their wetness, and the amount of light they recieve. I also record larger scale conditions such as elevation and overall vascular vegetation, for example, Jeffery Pine/Manzanita woodland. With this information I can determine how species are distingiushed within the community, not only within a plot, but also among vegetation regions. By making comparisons among regions, I can determine how niche occupancy changes in these different regions. Are different habitats available in the different regions? Does this effect the diversity of species within habitats, and within regions? The answers to these questions not only shed light on the ecological processes which govern their occurrence, but something of their evolution as well.
The ecology of a species...the niche of a species, is only put into perspective by the evolutionary history of that species. To understand occurrence, or to answer the deceptively simple question, "Why is an individual...here?", we must first come to understand and describe the current situations it is experiencing, the entire package of these situations is a species' niche. Parameters of a species niche may set the the ground rules for its occurrence, but how did these parameters come to be in the first place? Descriptions of a species' niche, how many species' niches differentiate, and finally how they change, give clues to how they evolved. Given these clues, I would like to paint a general picture of bryophyte evolution within California vegetation zones.
Finally, I would like to produce several products including a slideshow and field guide. As new plots are completed species are photographed and identified. The photographs will then be cataloged to create the photo field guide "Bryophytes of Sequoia National Park." Photographs will also be added, along with photographs taken using a compound scope, to Dr. Wilson's Bryophytes of California web site. The web site will use the new photos in conjunction with an updated key, which inturn will provide a more manageable, more accessible system used when confronting the task of species identification.
California State University, Fullerton, B.S. Biology
Dean's Honor List, California State University, Fullerton 1996-1999
Adjunct Faculty, Antelope Valley College 2002-present, course: General Biology Lab
CSUN Graduate Assistant, Design and Analysis of Experiments, Plants and Animalsof Southern California Fall 2009
Member Biology, Ecology, and Evolution Reading group
Group instructor for CSUN K-12 outreach program on natural selection during Darwin week