Lab News

  • Pumpkin Carving–We’re #2, we’re #2! (11/7/2023)

    Pumpkin Carving Contest 2023

    The Rothworth and Rushfels labs, Pumpkin Carving Champions Halloween 2022, sought to defend our crown (aka creepy little stuffed devil gnome thing), but were narrowly bested by the shark tadpoles of the WoLab. Well met, WoLab! Nevertheless, multiple people, who may or may not be Rothworth/Rushfels lab members, confided that our “Terrifying Notifications” jack-o-lanterns were a fan favorite.

    The explanatory signs really tie it all together.
    Artists at work
    spoooky…. (so many notifications!)



  • Spooky Plants at USU’s Science Unwrapped Outreach Event (10/9/2023)

    We had a great time Friday night sharing some spooky plants with attendees of USU’s monthly Science Unwrapped outreach event. A huge thank-you to the USU teaching greenhouse which let us borrow all these awesome plants!

    Pictured: Julia (Rothfels lab), Gabbie (Rushworth lab), Kallol (Rushworth lab), David (Rothfels lab), bonus Children’s python (Antaresia childreni)

    Some favorites were Euphorbia milii (crown of thorns), Amorphophallus (corpse flower genus), and of course the carnivorous plants including both Nepenthes and Sarracenia, which are in different orders and each evolved pitcher traps independently.

  • The Long-Awaited Southwest Utah Trip Blog Post, May 23-29 (10/4/2023)

    The Long-Awaited Southwest Utah Blog Post, May 23-29

    Post by David Adelhelm

    Our first winter in Logan, Utah was quite long, with the first snow coming in mid-October and lasting all the way to mid-to-late April. For those of us accustomed to warmer climates and shorter winters, this led to some intense cabin fever. By January, we (the grad students) had decided that the moment the weather let up, we were getting some time out in the field. With that goal in mind the three of us planned, budgeted, and wrote two different grant applications to fund some fieldwork over the summer, and both were funded!

    Figure 1 – The Scenery in Logan as of April 5th, 2023. Spot the picnic table?

    The first of these grants was written to help further the collections of the Intermountain Herbarium (UTC) here at USU, with a focus on under-sampled counties of Utah, primarily the southwestern three counties: Washington, Iron, and Kane. With our funding and permits acquired, we set our departure date for May 23rd and made our site reservations. For our locations, we chose: Snow Canyon State Park, Pine Valley, and Three Peaks Recreation Area, with two nights in each campsite. Our traveling crew consisted of a whopping 11 people: the three C’s (Carl, Cathy, and Conrad), the Ekwealor family (Jenna, Somi and Leo), the grad students (David, Julia, Kallol, and Chinedum), and our intrepid collections manager, Kris Valles.

    Figure 2 – Some shots from Snow Canyon State Park.

    The camping was a blast, with some of our members being first time campers – congratulations on surviving Kallol and Chinedum! Given the size of our party, we kept mainly to popular trails, using our one full day in the Canyon to cover much of the Hidden Pinyon and connected trails. On our second day, we visited Snow Canyon Sand Dunes and Jenny’s Canyon, where we all saw a solitary desert tortoise.

    From there, we departed for Pine Valley, within the Dixie National Forest. Some of us were fortunate enough to stop by the Gunlock Falls on the way, which were experiencing historic high-water levels due to the record snowfall that winter. Pine Valley presented us with a complete shift in environment, from dry desert to high elevation forest. And with that environment shift came a shift in observable plants too – Equisetum and Cystopteris galore (and some flowering plants too)! Warm days and unexpectedly cold nights were the norm here, so it made sense we settled in for s’mores after a long day spent covering the nearby trails.

    Figure 3 – The scene from Pine Valley and a shot from Gunlock Falls.

    After Pine Valley, all that remained was Three Peaks, near Cedar City, Utah. The drive was less eventful than the Pine Valley drive but the campsite was so windy we nearly lost our tents on the first night! On our second day in the campsite, we met with Cedar City local and faculty of Southern Utah University, Matt Ogburn, who gave us a great crash course on the local flora. Thanks Matt!

    Figure 4 – The final campsite and some scenery from the Three Peaks trail.

    All in all, the first Rothfels + Rushworth labs field trip was a resounding success and a great way to introduce us to the Utahn flora! We’ll be cataloging our collections in the herbarium for most of the school year but according to our iNaturalist project made for the trip, we observed at least 215 species. Check out all the cool plants we saw on our iNaturalist Project below:

  • Botany 2023 – Hello Boise! (9/17/2023)

    At the end of July we road tripped up to Boise, Idaho to attend the Botanical Society of America’s annual conference – Botany 2023!  An overwhelming (but in a good way) amount of talks and posters to see, and many many botanists to meet or reconnect with. 

    Rothfels Lab post-doc Jenna Ekwealor organized a wonderful symposium this year – The Ploid Thickens: Polyploid Phylogenetics. Congrats Jenna!

    And PhD students Chinedum Anajemba and Julia Hobbie presented on using PURC to untangle allopolyploid complexes (C) and resolving tricky species placements in the athyriid ferns (J). Hooray!

    Besides all the neat science, there was plenty of excellent company, great food, and delightfully nerdy botany merch to be had…

    See you next year in Michigan!

  • Intermountain Botany Foray (8/9/2023)

    Thank you to everyone who was a part of the first annual Intermountain Botany Foray this June! What an amazing few days we had! Botanists geeking out in the UT high desert – what could be better?

    This was the start of a yearly botany trip in the Intermountain region, open to plant-fans of all walks of life. Each year we will go to a different location and spend a long weekend exploring the local flora and documenting it through iNaturalist and herbarium collections. And most importantly, getting to know one another and learn from and with each other!

    This year we visited the Desert Experimental Range in Millard County, Utah, a research station established in 1933 in cold desert rangeland. A huge thank you to our hosts at the Forest Service, Sarah Barga and Rob Heckman! We are so grateful to have been allowed to explore this special ecosystem!

    People hiking down a mountain slope

    Check out our iNaturalist page to see all the amazing things we observed. We made over 1500 iNat observations, with over 200 species of plants! Some highlights:

    Sphaeralcea caespitosa is endemic to just a few counties in western Utah and eastern Nevada. The large orange blooms are a striking contrast to the glaucus desert-adapted leaves.
    One participants spotted this Lewisia maguirei on our very first day – probably a new record for the state of Utah! 
    There were many beautiful cacti, but the deciduous Micropuntia pulchella, which drops its pads every year to overwinter, was a definite favorite.
    Trifolium friscanum is a rare endemic clover of the mountains in this area of Utah.

    What an amazing inaugural Foray! We can’t wait for next year. If you’d like to be contacted about next year’s Foray, please email

    Photos 1-3,8 @Lan Wei
    Photos 4-7 @Julia Hobbie

  • Winners of the Trivia Night at Prodigy, Logan (4/21/2023)

    The Rothfels and Rushworth lab, aka Rushfels lab, had the honor of winning the prize award for a nature/restoration-themed trivia night hosted by Prodigy Brewing in Logan on 04/18/2023. This event happened at a dinner with Dr. Seema Sheth (Center), who was the guest speaker for the Biology Departmental Seminar. This is the second trophy the Rushfels lab has won for the year 2023, and we are proud of the winning culture that has been cultivated in the lab, despite our team name, “the Mediocrrres”.


  • Mentorship award (5/31/2022)

    My mentees are the best!

    I’ve had the HUGE honor of receiving the Carol D. Soc Distinguished Graduate Student Mentoring Award!! This is a huge deal–I can’t think of an honor that would mean more to me. And, really, it’s a testament to how awesome the extended rLab graduate students are–mentorship awards are really menteeship awards, after all. Thank you all so much!!!!

    We also got to go to a sweet ceremony/reception. With light snacks!

    We are so great!
    I look like my dad.
    They gave me a crystal!
    Paparazzi in action.
    Ixchel killed it.
  • Full circle field trip (5/20/2022)


    We went to the field. Again!

    One of the rlab’s first field trips was to Jepson Prairie, one of the few remaining high quality vernal pools in California, and chock-full of crazy plants. This March (yes, this post is overdue) Jenna made a norCal visit, providing us with the perfect excuse to visit the prairie again. It was so good to be back–I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

    Look at that botanist!
    Sonia was SO patient with Conrad. Conrad over a month later: “Sonia loves me very much”.



  • Mt Diablo (2/14/2022)

    We went in the field! In all three dimensions! Four, I guess, technically.

    There, were, like, plants everywhere. It was great!

    We set a blistering pace, as you can see here.


    Look at all these liverworts David found! (Targionia, Asterella californica)


    And Ixchel’s Bane, this weird leafy Fossombronia


    And I had the pleasure of misidentifying a California fern! Don’t worry folks, the PI always knows what he’s talking about. Any takers for what species this actually is?



  • Rothfels Lab Secret Santa (12/17/2021)

    Extensive Geographic Sampling Reveals Potential Role of Gifts on Facial Responses in Human Test Subjects


    Six scientists (‘Secret Santas’) randomly drew (without replacement) the name of one of the other scientists (‘Santees’). Scientists were broadly distributed throughout the Pacific Ocean and the Continental United States (Fig. S1). An algorithm, DrawNames, was used to ensure that no one drew their own name (see SI Appendix for details). A gift was purchased by each participant. Each gift was then anonymously delivered to each participant’s Santee.

    Upon receipt of a gift, each Santee diligently avoided opening their gift prematurely. Gifts were then opened during a special ceremony held on Dec 16th, 2021. Zoom was used to allow remote Santas to attend the ceremony. Sliver was used to make pizza.


    One of six Santas was unable to ensure their gift was delivered anonymously. One of six Santees reported contamination from another Secret Santa study; in this case, the contaminant gift was discarded and the protocol repeated until an uncontaminated gift was recovered. The null hypothesis that Santees would be unable to guess the identity of their Santa was rejected (p = 0.0013).

    A good time was had by all (Fig. 1).

    Author Contributions

    IGR conceived the research; IGR conducted the experiment; IGR, CMT, JBE, DA, CJR, MRM participated in the study; MRM drafted the manuscript.

    Figure 1. Top left) Participants located in Berkeley, CA, met at VLSB to conduct the experiment. (top row, left to right: Mike, Carl [in comfortable Christmas Ghost costume], David; bottom row: Ixchel). Top right) Participants in Hawaii lounged on their couches with their sleepy dogs (left to right: Carrie, Kula). Bottom) One participant in Idaho actually received a small infant as their Secret Santa gift (left to right: Jenna, Leo).