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NSF-PEET Project in Systematic Bryology

Content written by Michelle Price

The National Science Foundation (NSF), in partnership with academic institutions, botanical gardens, freshwater and marine institutions, and natural history museums, seeks to enhance and stimulate taxonomic research and help prepare future generations of experts. NSF's Partnership for Enhancing Expertise in Taxonomy (PEET), supports competitively reviewed research projects that target groups of poorly known organisms. This effort is designed to encourage the training of new generations of taxonomists and to translate current expertise into electronic databases and other formats with broad accessibility to the scientific community.

  • Project Introduction and Description
  • Project staff and students
  • NSF-PEET Students - projects and training
  • Pilotrichella name list

    Project Introduction and Description

    Our project is to study Pilotrichella in the subfamily Pilotrichelloideae.

    Three major elements are included in the PEET projects:

    1. Monographic Research - a traditional monograph to assess relative character conservatism, identify characters of phylogenetic importance, evaluate and analyze generic relationships, circumscribe the subfamily into a clearly monophyletic unit, and evaluate the relationship of the Pilotrichelloideae to the Meteorioideae.

    2. Training - a program to train graduate and post-graduate students in both modern and traditional techniques and methodology of bryological systematics.

    3. Computer Infrastructure - the utilization of existing and developing computer facilities to build and manipulate data bases, train project personnel on all aspects computer use for scientific research, and disseminate the accumulated data and results of the monographic study through a variety of media.

    The Meteoriaceae (22 genera, 300 species) are a tropical, Leucodontalian family concentrated in the Southern hemisphere. It was last treated as whole by Brotherus (1925),who divided it into two subfamilies: Meteorioideae and Pilotrichelloideae. The subfamily Pilotrichelloideae contains 111 species in eight genera and is the monographic component of this project. Six of these genera have recently been revised, only Pilotrichella and Barbella are unrevised. This monograph will have three aspects. First Pilotrichella (58 species) and Barbella (36 species) will be critically revised using a traditional, morphological methodology. Second, the eight fully revised genera in the subfamily will be subjected to a thorough and rigorous cladistic analysis. Characters will be polarized using Meteorioideae and Trachypodiaceae as outgroups. Non-discrete character variation will be analyzed using Principal Component Analysis in an attempt to render it into discrete units. This discrete variation will be analyze by similarity matrix analysis which generates cluster phenograms. The third aspect of this study will entail DNA-sequencing of the genera. Finally, based upon the cladistic analysis as compared and tested against the DNA-sequencing results the subfamily Pilotrichelloideae will be newly circumscribed.

    The Missouri Botanical Garden maintains a large, modern, and well documented herbarium of over 4.5 million plant specimen - over 300,000 bryophytes, an important, historical library containing over 118,000 volumes, and through it close ties with the three local universities an outstanding record of training and education in botanical systematics. The bryological staff that will be supervising the monographic research and training program have published 17 monographs or revisions and over 280 other papers dealing with the taxonomy, nomenclature, literature, and systematics of bryophytes.

    The project will depend heavily on TROPICOS, the botanical database maintained by the Garden. It provides for all aspects of data management and manipulation used in monographic research. This system already includes all moss names, both accepted and synonyms, needed for this research project and associated literature citations and bibliographic references. The system provides access to the Internet and has been successfully used to produce Gopher and WAIS files, properly formatted tables for DELTA and ARCH/INFO. The HTML name and specimen documents presented here were produced directly from TROPICOS without intermediate editing. The computer system at the Garden will be employed throughout this project to demonstrate the benefits of computers in gathering, manipulating, synthesizing, and disseminating as widely as possible, the information gathered during this research project.

    Literature Cited

    Brotherus, V.F., 1925. Musci (Laubmoose). in A. Engler & K. Prantl (eds), Die Natürlichen Pflanzenfamilien, zweite Auflage, Vol. 11, Berlin.

    For further information contact: e-mail sysrev@nsf.gov or visit NSF-PEET website.

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