Robert A. Stewart is a student at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. He recently studied at The New York Botanical Garden under the direction of Assistant Curator Kenneth G. Karol, Ph.D., a specialist in algae.
Species of algae in the genus Chara are commonly called stoneworts or muskgrasses and belong to the freshwater green-algal family Characeae. Given that the Characeae are close relatives of land plants, it is very important to understand their life history if we want to understand the early evolution of land plants.
A life history is the series of growth and reproductive changes an organism undergoes throughout its life. A key difference between the life history of land plants and the Characeae is that alternation of generations is found in land plants but not in the Characeae, as far as we know.
I studied the life history of Chara rusbyana with my mentor at The New York Botanical Garden, Assistant Curator Kenneth G. Karol, Ph.D., by examining living cultures and consulting the botanical literature. Based on this project, I produced a short animated film about Chara rusbyana under the supervision of Professor Robin Starbuck of the Sarah Lawrence College film department.