Introduction to Bryological Research
at the Missouri Botanical Garden
The Missouri Botanical Garden provides a unique environment for study and training in bryology. The staff at the Garden includes five Ph.D. bryologists actively working on nomenclatural, bibliographic, floristic and monographic research of bryophytes, i.e. Drs. Marshall Crosby, Robert Magill, Bruce Allen, Si He, and Steve Churchill. Research activities currently include programs in North, Central and South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. The bryological staff has published 17 monographs or revisions and over 280 other papers dealing with the taxonomy, nomenclature, literature, and systematics of bryophytes. The staff has undertaken some major flora projects (Moss Flora of Central America, Bryophyte Flora of Southern Africa, Bryophyte Flora of Tropical Africa, Moss Flora of the Northern Andes and Bryophyte Flora of China) and will also contribute to the bryophyte volumes for the Flora of North America. Training of new taxonomists is also an important aspect of the Garden's goals. A National Science Foundation PEET project is currently underway in the bryology department to train students in bryological systematics.
The bryophyte herbarium at the Missouri Botanical Garden contains over 300,000 mounted specimens. The Garden's library holds an almost complete coverage of historical and recent bryological literature, providing easy access to information critical to monographic studies. The importance of this literature to the Garden's bryological research efforts is reflected in the collation and maintenance of an electronic data base on the world's moss literature. Quarterly supplements of Recent Literature on Mosses (RLM) are produced in camera-ready form directly from the TROPICOS bibliography files. The bryophyte bibliography data base contains over 16,000 articles and is used as an authority file for much of the information in the taxon data base. In addition to providing a list of current literature to the bryological community, the interactive bibliographic data base serves our systematic research by providing access to literature through keyword or author indexes or string searches on titles, notes, and annotations. Automated production of selected bibliographies both during preliminary research or for the published monograph is also an invaluable aid.
Nomenclature is an important aspect of bryological research at the Garden. The Index of Mosses [W³MOST] project has authenticated and data based all of the names of mosses published since 1963 in an effort to continue the excellent work begun by the Index Muscorum Project. The Index of Mosses project maintains in an electronic data base of all published names of mosses and associated information. This project uses the RLM bibliographic data base for reference sources. The nomenclatural research necessary to maintain and update the worlds list of published moss names has also allowed several other important projects to be undertaken at the Garden, e.g. the World Checklist of Mosses.
The computers within the bryological lab are connected to the Garden-wide network giving access to various Garden servers, e-mail and internet services. Access to all of the Gardens computing facilities makes data acquisition and manipulation easy and an integral part of our systematic research efforts. All aspects of our research depend heavily on access to the data bases where specimen, taxon, and bibliographic information is stored. Bryologists at the Garden also carry out an active program of field work through a wide network of contacts and overseas projects in the Americas, Africa, and Asia. Many tropical countries have active agreements with the Garden that can facilitate requests for fresh material for morphological or molecular analysis.