Episodes
The Southeast is one of North America's biodiversity hotspots. Any trip through this region will be rewarded with lots of botanical splendor if you know where to look. Join Conservation Biologist Sara Johnson and me as we reminisce about a recent botanical excursion and learn about a fraction of the botanical diversity we met along the way. This episode was produced in part by Mohsin Kazmi Photography, Cathy, Simon, Nick, Paul, Charis, EJ, Laura, Sung, NOK, Stephen, Heidi, Kristin, Luke, Sea,...
Published 04/14/24
Published 04/14/24
I have said it before, and I will say it again: plants ARE habitat. Nowhere is this fact more apparent than in the field of wildlife ecology. From food to shelter, one simply can't understand the innerworkings of nature without understanding plants. Join me and Wildlife Ecologist Dr. Chris Moorman as we look at why plants are so important to conservation efforts. This episode was produced in part by Mohsin Kazmi Photography, Cathy, Simon, Nick, Paul, Charis, EJ, Laura, Sung, NOK, Stephen,...
Published 04/07/24
Competition for nutrients is a major driver of plant evolution, especially in nutrient-poor soils. As such, plants have evolved myriad ways of getting a "root up" on the competition. Dr. Jim Dalling joins us to discuss two recent discoveries related to two species with distinct and incredible root adaptations aimed at maximizing nutrient capture in highly competitive tropical ecosystems. This episode was produced in part by Cathy, Simon, Nick, Paul, Charis, EJ, Laura, Sung, NOK, Stephen,...
Published 03/31/24
The Appalachian region may not readily seem like a fire-prone region, but parts of it certainly are. Fire can be an important tool in sustaining biodiversity, but modern understanding of its role is limited. That is why people like Dr. Don Hagan study the effects of prescribed fire in the Appalachian Mountains and beyond. Join me and Dr. Hagan as we explore fire as a tool for ecosystem restoration and find our just how much we still have to learn. This episode was produced in part by Cathy,...
Published 03/24/24
Wildfires are familiar to those living on Earth today, but what about in the past? How does one go about studying ancient wildfires through deep time? Some of the answers lie in coal deposits. Join me and Dr. Ian Glasspool as we explore how he studies wildfire events dating back hundreds of millions of years and marvel at the amazing stories his data are able to tell! This episode was produced in part by Cathy, Simon, Nick, Paul, Charis, EJ, Laura, Sung, NOK, Stephen, Heidi, Kristin, Luke,...
Published 03/17/24
Good news is hard to come by in the world of plant conservation, but it is out there! Take, for instance, some recent examples on Santa Cruz Island in which the recovery of a handful of endangered plants, including island bedstraw (Galium buxifolium) and Santa Cruz Island Dudleya (Dudleya nesiotica), has been so successful, they have been delisted. That doesn't mean conservationists no longer have to worry. Join me and John Knapp from The Nature Conservancy as we explore the ins and outs of...
Published 03/10/24
How does one breath life into an extinct tree only known from fossils? There are a lot of answers to this question, but my guest today decided to go digital. Tim Stonesifer is the Assistant Director for Media Technology at Colby College and the person responsible for creating the 3D reconstruction of Sanfordiacaulis densifolia that was discovered by Dr. Gastaldo and colleagues (Ep. 462). Join us as we explore his process and what it was like to take a dive into paleobotanical reconstructions....
Published 03/03/24
Fossil hunting is like playing the lottery, your odds of hitting big are infinitesimal, but it can happen. Such was the case for Dr. Bob Gastaldo and colleagues when they unearthed the remains of Sanfordiacaulis densifolia, an extinct tree from the Carboniferous Period unlike anything we have ever seen. Join me and Dr. Gastaldo as we take a deep dive into why this tree is so strange and what it can tell us about an ancient ecology. This episode was produced in part by Cathy, Simon, Nick,...
Published 02/25/24
Litter trapping plants don't worry about soil, they make their own! Because so many species in the tropics grow either epiphytically or in nutrient poor soil, some of them have turned to alternative solutions. Their anatomy is such that they collect everything from dead leaves to bird droppings. A diverse community of soil microbes and invertebrates can then go to work to create nutrient rich humus. What's more, litter trapping abilities can be found in plants as distantly related as ferns...
Published 02/18/24
For Dr. Rob Raguso, the phrase "stop and smell the roses" takes on a whole new meaning. Dr. Raguso studies the intricate world of floral chemistry. You are undoubtedly familiar with some of the wonderful odors flowers produce but such tantalizing smells are only the beginning. The world of floral chemistry is quite remarkable and the function of the myriad substances they produce go much deeper than simply pollination. We revisit a conversation that will put a whole new spin on your...
Published 02/11/24
Plant pigments certainly catch the eyes of many organisms, but they serve many important functions beyond simple attraction. For instance, plant pigments can play a huge role in managing stressors like heat, sunlight, and more. Join me and Dr. Niky Hughes as we explore one of the most abundant and important types of plant pigments - anthocyanins - and learn how they not only vary in appearance but also in functional benefit. This episode was produced in part by Charis, EJ, Laura, Sung, NOK,...
Published 02/04/24
Plant stress starts at the molecular level but can influence entire ecosystems. That is why questions about drought, heat, and climate change fuel Dr. Lou Santiago's research. Join us as we explore the ins and outs of studying plant stress in different ecosystems. This episode was produced in part by Charis, EJ, Laura, Sung, NOK, Stephen, Heidi, Kristin, Luke, Sea, Shannon, Thomas, Will, Jamie, Waverly, Brent, Tanner, Rick, Kazys, Dorothy, Katherine, Emily, Theo, Nichole, Paul, Karen, Randi,...
Published 01/28/24
Plants obviously need water to survive, but how do they interact with water in a more physical sense? How plants like trees capture and distribute precipitation can have massive consequences for ecosystem and societal processes. From soil formation to stormwater management, understanding wet plants is very important. Join me and Dr. John Van Stan as we explore how his lab is tackling the complex dynamics of wet plants and learn how varied disciplines play a role in such investigations. This...
Published 01/21/24
What wetland scene would be complete without a few cattails? The genus Typha is synonymous with wetlands yet as you will hear in this episode, we know so little about them. Joining us is Dr. Pam Geddes from Northeastern Illinois University to talk to us about her work on cattail invasion ecology. What started as a question about ecosystem function and monocultures has morphed into an exploration that involves asking questions like "how do we define a species?" Settle in and learn as we...
Published 01/14/24
We take seeds for granted, yet still have much to learn about how they work. What factors play in to seed dormancy? How long can some seeds remain dormant? What cues are required to break dormancy? All these questions and more drive Dr. Grace Fleming's research. Join us as we explore how molecular processes involving mRNA play a role in the mysterious world of seeds. This episode was produced in part by EJ, Laura, Sung, NOK, Stephen, Heidi, Kristin, Luke, Sea, Shannon, Thomas, Will, Jamie,...
Published 01/07/24
My guest today is Melissa Díaz-Morales from the Jardín Botánico Lankester in Costa Rica and her work focuses on orchid pollination. Orchids are known for their deceitful pollination syndromes and Melissa has spent the last few years working on a lady slipper orchid known as Phragmipedium longifolium. This flowers of this beautiful orchid appear to be mimicking aphid infestations. Why is that? Listen and find out ;) This episode was produced in part by Sung, NOK, Stephen, Heidi, Kristin, Luke,...
Published 12/31/23
We revisit a conversation with PhD student Melissa Díaz-Morales and Director of the Lankester Botanical Gardens, Dr. Adam Karremans to look at how flies have managed to influence the evolution of the largest subtribe of orchids in the world - the pleurothallids. This remarkable group of orchids is home to over 5,000 unique species and presents some of the most stunning and complex floral morphology of the entire orchid family. They also undergo some serious chemical ecology that helps attract...
Published 12/24/23
Knowing what we don't know can be as important as knowing what we do. Even highly charismatic plants like orchids harbor many mysteries in need of investigation. Join me and Dr. Adam Karrenmans as we discuss his new book "Demystifying Orchid Pollination" and learn why paying attention to nature at all scales can provide valuable insights into biodiversity and conservation. This episode was produced in part by Sung, NOK, Stephen, Heidi, Kristin, Luke, Sea, Shannon, Thomas, Will, Jamie,...
Published 12/17/23
Many of us are familiar with Darwin's finches and the impact animals made on his work, but what about his obsession with plants? Indeed, plants were an instrumental part of Darwin's life, helping him understand how organisms adapt and evolve. Darwin's relationship with plants are the subject of a beautifully illustrated new book "Darwin and the Art of Botany." With the help of Oak Spring Garden Foundation, authors Dr. James Costa and Bobbie Angell explore Darwin's botanical investigations...
Published 12/10/23
Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) can grow so big and gnarly that their canopies support entire ecosystems. From lichens and liverworts, to ericaceous shrubs, these ecological communities are very important to the biodiversity of redwood habitat. However, not all redwoods have what it takes to provide habitat for these organisms. Join me and Marie Antoine as we explore the ins and outs of redwood canopy biodiversity and learn what can be done to ensure they can support biodiversity well into...
Published 12/03/23
The world of aquatic plants is incredibly diverse, yet our ties to land make it difficult to fully appreciate these organisms. Their glory and splendor is best observed in their underwater realm. This is why aquascaping is such an incredible hobby. Planted aquariums provide you with a unique view of the underwater world without ever having to get your feet wet. Whether you simply like to look at planted aquariums or get your hands wet in designing and constructing your own, there is no end to...
Published 11/26/23
It may not seem obvious at first, but fish need plants too! From aquatic to terrestrial, plants provide fish places to breed, places to eat, and places to hide. Plants filter water and prevent erosion, ensuring fish have suitable habitat. Plants also feed the organisms that fish love to eat. Simply put, you can't protect fish without protecting and restoring native plant communities. No one knows this better than the folks over at Conversation Fisheries. Join me and Conservation Biologist...
Published 11/19/23
The black belt prairie is a crescent-shaped grassland ecosystem curving through Mississippi and Alabama that supports high biodiversity. Sadly, like grasslands across the globe, the black belt prairie ecosystem continues to be carved up into increasingly smaller chunks of habitat. What is left often suffers from degradation due to a lack of life-giving fires. Understanding what remains in these habitats and how ecological restoration efforts can bring back some of what has been lost is of...
Published 11/12/23
Bats and plants rely on each other more than we know. From pollination and seed dispersal, to pest control and unexpected relationships, Dr. Merlin Tuttle wants you to know just how important bats are across the globe. Dr. Merlin Tuttle is widely recognized as the godfather of modern bat conservation and is the founder of Merlin Tuttle's Bat Conservation. Join us as we take a dive into the amazing world of bat/plant interactions and learn what you can do to help! This episode was produced in...
Published 11/05/23