Exploring the science of plants, from the field to the lab

From the Field

From the Field: Bill Buck in Cape Horn 2014, Part 3

Posted in From the Field on March 7, 2014 by Bill Buck

William R. Buck, Ph.D., is the Mary Flagler Cary Curator of Botany at The New York Botanical Garden. For the last three years, Dr. Buck, a moss specialist, and a team of colleagues have journeyed to the Cape Horn region at the southern tip of South America, an area rich in moss species.


January 11, 2014; Isla Hoste, Caleta Coloane, Chile (55°06’S, 69°49’W)

The author collecting on Isla Hoste
The author collecting on Isla Hoste

Yesterday the engines started at 5 a.m., and we began our trip back to Isla Stewart, heading for the eastern end this time. Although the engines wound to life early, it is never quiet on the ship, thanks to the generator. It is always running, supplying power to the dryers we use to preserve specimens. Nevertheless, there is a significant boost in decibels once the main power plant starts up.

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From the Field: Like Driving on Okra

Posted in From the Field on November 18, 2013 by Matt Newman

Wayt ThomasGetting there is half the fun, unless you’re trekking into remote wilderness. With scientists such as Wayt Thomas, Ph.D., hoofing it into some of the most remote and unforgiving locales on Earth, it’s not surprising that their expeditions occasionally hit snags. Dr. Thomas is the Elizabeth G. Britton Curator of Botany here at the NYBG, and his focus on the flora of northeastern Brazil often takes him to deep, rugged forests where roads are a luxury, if not a pipe dream. But as seen below, the hassles are worth it, especially when species diversity is at risk. Dr. Thomas is working with plants found nowhere else in the world, an effort that has a two-fold benefit.

In the course of documenting these plants in Brazil’s Atlantic coastal forests, he and his team are also determining which species provide food and shelter for endangered and increasingly rare bird species also found in the area. With time, Dr. Thomas and his colleagues hope to uncover the relationships between plant and animal, which will allow scientists not only to track the location of these avian populations more easily but also to recommend specific reforestation plans to support these vanishing birds.

Of course, Dr. Thomas isn’t the only one roughing it in the field. Stay tuned to Science Talk for more adventures involving our globetrotting scientists.