Thursday, December 5, 2013

Back from conference

I spent Tuesday and Wednesday at Systematics without Borders in Sydney, a joint conference of the Australasian Systematic Botany Society, Invertebrate Biodiversity & Conservation, and the Society of Australian Systematic Biologists. Although I sadly had to miss the first of its three days I enjoyed the meeting immensely. It is always good to see all the science that is being done in the field and to catch up with people.

A few highlights for me:

Phil Garnock-Jones received the ASBS' Nancy Burbidge medal for his work in plant systematics. From his prize lecture I learned many astonishing facts about plant sexuality, especially about that of mosses. When we talked a bit in one of the coffee breaks I also learned that he runs a very interesting botany blog, Theobrominated. Check it out!

Quite a few of the talks most relevant to my work were from New Zealand, actually, such as Rob Smissen presenting work on gene flow between different species of southern beeches and Ilse Breitwieser talking about the difficulties of circumscribing species in their native clade of Craspedia.

Having done my PhD on a Lamiaceae and being somewhat interested in pollination ecology, I also particularly enjoyed hearing about Trevor Wilson's work on the awesome Australian mint bushes (Prostanthera, Westringia and relatives). It turned out that quite a few generic limits will have to be redrawn because the stamen characters used for the traditional definition of groups have evolved several times in parallel. I guess I should post more botany pictures of these attractive plants in the future.

In addition there were many others, for example on biogeography and plant-insect interactions, too many to do them justice.

Just a pity they decided to have the conference in the first week of December, just when our summer students start...

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