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The Cutting Edge
Volume XXVI, Number 3, July 2019
News and Notes |
Leaps and Bounds | Germane Literature | Season's Pick
REPORT ON THE MEETING. The symposium "Sistemática y Taxonomía Botánica en Costa Rica," announced in our last issue of this rag, was a resounding success. Virtually all of the talks that we were able to attend were quite well done, even entertaining, and informative. Silvia Lobo (CR), the one who made it all come together, did a laudable job as MC, and only had to squeak the rubber rooster a few times to remind speakers that their time was up! This symposium, at least for us, inaugurated the Museo Nacional's new auditorium, accessed via their butterfly garden at its upper, southeast corner, in an area that used to be accessible only from above, at the south end of the Museo´s courtyard. More or less in historical order, that site was a dungeon, a display of religous art, and a dark and dank storage area. We are most pleased with its present usage! Many familiar faces and friends were in the audience, and most were formally recognized for their contributions to botany during recent years. Other than those who gave talks, these included the likes of Evelio Alfaro, Rafael Chacón, Ulises Chavarría, Gerardo Herrera, and Gina Umaña. Talk was heard of repeating this symposium in a year or two, but perhaps hosted by a different institution, e.g., USJ.
VISITING BOTANISTS IN TIQUICIA. The most recent OTS course (6 June–8 July) in Costa Rica, Sistemática de Plantas Tropicales, was coordinated by Mauricio Bonifacino (MVFA) and Álvaro Idárraga (recently named director of JAUM). The invited faculty members included José Luis Fernández Alonso (MA), who annotated material (mainly "Bombacaceae" and Lamiaceae) at CR (both campuses) and USJ, and pteridologist Robbin Moran (NY), who annotated specimens at CR and gave a nice talk, "Darwin y las Plantas," for a generalist audience at the Museo's same new auditorium, different day (see the previous entry).
SAD NEWS. Just after going to press with our last issue, we learned of the passing on 12 April of orchidologist Mark Whitten (b. 1954) in Gainesville, FL. We had never met Mark ourselves, but he was well-known in the orchid community, including to University of Florida graduate Mario Blanco (USJ), from whom we received this news. A close associate of Norris Williams, Mark was an authority on neotropical orchids who also specialized on pollination biology involving male euglossine bees. He had visited Costa Rica several times, most recently last year, to participate in an international symposium on euglossine pollination at La Gamba (near Golfito). Preliminary indications were that Mark had died of natural causes.
AND MUCH CLOSER TO HOME... It is our somber duty to report the death, on 6 July, of Pamela J. Sleeper (1951–2019), who was married to one of your editors (MHG) for nearly 38 years. The latter was a grad student and Pam a staff member at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst when they met in 1979. They were married in August, 1981 (after Pam had obtained an M.Sc. at Southern Connecticut State University) and moved to Costa Rica in May, 1984 (after her husband had completed his doctoral studies and was hired by the Missouri Botanical Garden). Pam was not a botanist, nor even a biologist, and was unable to work in her field (marriage and family therapy) during the couple's 6 1/2-year residence in Costa Rica. But she made the best of the situation, traveling all over the country on collecting trips (she was especially keen on participating when horses were involved), mostly during the years (1984–1987) preceding the birth of her son, Jeffrey, in San José. Pam had the opportunity to visit many idyllic spots since spoiled by tourism, and other more remote sites that remain largely undiscovered. She also made lasting friends, both citizens and expatriates, and got to know many visiting biologists; despite (or because of?) her innate fear of snakes, Pam seemed especially fond of herpetologists. After returning to the United States, Pam worked for more than a dozen years in the Department of Psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis, a job that paid for her son's college tuition. She opened a private practice in 2011, but was forced to retire after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in December, 2017. Jeff and her husband were both at her side during the final 24 hours of Pam's spirited battle against that particularly vile affliction. Her passing (just three days shy of her birthday) leaves a void in our lives that can never be filled. Funeral services for Pam were held in Ballwin, MO, on 13 July; for further information, see:
We are grateful to everyone (including many botanists) who attended, or sent flowers or other tributes. In addition to being named as a co-collector on many specimen labels, Pam is commemorated botanically by the sp. Asplundia sleeperae Grayum & Hammel (Cyclanthaceae). After much suffering, may she now rest in peace.