Spring Lab Picnic

Fun in the Richmond sun

Even by early May (when I should have gotten this post up), it’d been a momentous spring for the Rothfels lab with, among other excitements, Jonathan finishing his Honors Thesis and Joyce completing her PhD — the first Rothfels Lab graduates!! These events, of course, provide a great excuse for a picnic.

Jonathan and Keir, discussing the finer points of allopolyploidy
We look blurrier than we felt.

The smaller humans stole the show, as usual.



Mexico! Abby and Ixchel in the field

Operation All The Astrolepis

I recently returned from a 10 day trip to Mexico to collect Astrolepis for my senior thesis project. I am studying the evolutionary origins of the allopolyploid complex, Astrolepis integerrima, which occurs in the southwestern United States and the deserts of Mexico. I started in Mexico City where I met up with Ixchel González Ramírez of the Mishler lab. I stayed with her and her family for a night there and then we headed off to Querétaro. Ixchel and I collected Astrolepis in Querétaro with one of her colleagues, Moni Queijeiro-Bolaños, a professor at the Universidad Autonoma de Querétaro. We collected in three localities surrounding the city.

from left to right: Oscar, Moni, Ixchel, and Abby. First day of fieldwork complete!
Astrolepis sinuata growing on a volcanic outcrop. Rock hammer for scale.

Ixchel and I then went to Peña de Bernal, Ixmiquilpan, and Tolantongao in Queretaro and Hidalgo, collecting any Astrolepis we saw along the way. We also found some hotsprings in Tolantongo!

Peña de Bernal
The first A. integerrima found!
Ixchel collecting some Gaga we spotted
plant press & silica. Also note the Botany 2018 water bottle
a relaxing evening exploring the hot springs and grottoes in Tolantongo
mmmm… delicious barbacoa breakfast on our way back to Mexico City

After the 5 day road trip, Ixchel and I returned to Mexico City. The next day, I took a bus to Puebla to meet up with former Specht lab post doc and current BAUP professor, Etelvina Gándara. Etel, one of her undergraduate students, Koni, her dog, Milla (named after Milla biflora), and I went on a two day roadtrip through Puebla and Veracruz, looking for Astrolepis at several localities.

from left to right: Abby, Etel, and Koni in front of caldera lake Atexcac
field dog Milla strutting in front of the lake
volcanic roadcut equals prime Astrolepis habitat

We collected Astrolepis near three different beautiful caldera lakes and spent the night in Coatepec, Veracruz, which is in a cloud forest. Because we were in one of the coffee producing regions of Mexico, I had to get some coffee for the Rothfels lab!

A waterfall in the cloud forest near Xico, Veracruz
The choice was ours to make…

I then headed back to Mexico City to spend two days at the MEXU herbarium, sampling tissue from their collections of Astrolepis. I spotted some collections made by someone familiar…

hmm.. something familiar here?
within the collections! So many Astrolepis!

It was an amazing trip and would not have been possible without the help of many people (Ixchel, Carl, Carrie, and new friends) as well as the fellowships I received from the IB and EPS departments. I’m about to study abroad in Santiago de Chile for all of Fall 2019 semester but I can’t wait to come back to my specimens in January to start uncovering a part of the the mystery of the morphologically variable Astrolepis integerrima!



Abby & McConehenge


On March 11 (yes, I’m that far behind!) Abby took our lab meeting on the road and gave us a tour of her work on the geology interpretive displays at McCone Hall, including the infamous McConehenge (which, unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of — you’ll have to go to the “front yard” of McCone Hall and check it out for yourself). This has been a semester-long labor of love (and sweat) on Abby’s part (she worked with Nick Swanson-Hysell on this, of the Department of Earth and Planetary Science), and the results show it! Probably best lab meeting ever.


Abby by the core McCone Henge interpretive display–the stations described on the sign correspond to each of the boulders comprising the henge–see the map in the top-left corner.
There are also a series of indoor display cabinets with cool rocks and minerals, which Abby worked on.
Calcite colored by geothite.
Rhodochrosite and malachite with azurite.
Rosasite on geothite with calcite.
Calcite (paramorphic after aragonite).
Cool gypsums.
Benitoite with neptunite, in natrolite.
Tourmaline with rubellite.