Botany travels: representing New Zealand around the world

My name is Heidi Meudt and I’m a Research Scientist in Botany at Te Papa, currently doing taxonomic research on New Zealand’s native forget-me-nots. As part of my job, I occasionally attend scientific conferences in New Zealand and overseas. I’ve blogged before about some of the reasons that international conferences are important for those of us doing research at Te Papa. These include presenting our latest scholarly research to the wider world, hearing about the latest ideas and methods, and face-to-face networking.

September has been unusually busy in this regard, due to trips to both Europe (Germany and Denmark) and Australia to attend scientific conferences. So, what were some of the highlights from this year’s travels?

Me with Dr Federico Luebert at the Bonn Botanic Garden, Bonn, Germany. Sept 2016.

Me with Dr Federico Luebert at the Bonn Botanic Garden, Bonn, Germany. Sept 2016.

To start things off, I attended the III International Meeting on Boraginales in Bonn, where there were about 25 scientists from various countries who are all experts in the taxonomy and relationships of flowering plants classified in the order Boraginales. Forget-me-nots (Myosotis, Boraginaceae) belong to this order, and so participating in this small and highly stimulating meeting was very relevant for me and my research. At the meeting I presented my recent findings on forget-me-not pollen, and made some new connections that I hope will lead to some collaborative international research on the closest relatives of New Zealand forget-me-nots.

Conference participants the finer points of Boraginaceae taxonomy, conservation and systematics at the 2016 International Boraginales Conference, Nees Institute, Bonn, Germany. Photo by Heidi Meudt.

Conference participants the finer points of Boraginaceae taxonomy, conservation and systematics at the 2016 International Boraginales Conference, Nees Institute, Bonn, Germany. Photo by Heidi Meudt.

Group photo at the International Boraginales Conference, just outside the Nees Institute, University of Bonn, Germany, where it was held. Sept 2016.

Group photo at the International Boraginales Conference, just outside the Nees Institute, University of Bonn, Germany, where it was held. Sept 2016.

The second meeting I attended was the 23rd Symposium on ‘Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology’ of the German Botanical Society in Munich. It was great to hear about the latest evolutionary research being done by students and professors from many German and other European institutions. To top it off, the meeting ended with a botanical field trip to the Alps!

Group photo of those who attended the conference in Munich, just outside the conference venue in the Munich Botanic Garden. Sept 2016. Photo by Jens Rohwer.

Group photo of those who attended the conference in Munich, just outside the conference venue in the Munich Botanic Garden. Sept 2016. Photo by Jens Rohwer.

Me on the field trip to Herzogstand in the German Alps. We trekked to the top of the zig-zag on the top right of the photo, which still had trees at 1731 m above sea level! Photo by Blanca Rojas Andrés.

Me on the field trip to Herzogstand in the German Alps. We trekked to the top of the zig-zag on the top right of the photo, which still had trees at 1731 m above sea level! Photo by Blanca Rojas Andrés.

Me and colleague Dr Blanca Rojas Andrés on top of Herzogstand in the German Alps.

Me and colleague Dr Blanca Rojas Andrés on top of Herzogstand in the German Alps.

In addition to those two conferences, I also had some particularly productive meetings with colleagues Dr Dirk Albach, Eike Mayland-Quellhorst and others at the lab in Oldenburg where I was a visiting researcher. We’ve recently published a second paper from the work we did on Veronica while I was in Germany (here’s a blog about the first paper), and as a result of our face-to-face meetings, we now have a plan for continuing our collaboration for the next year and working on additional papers together.

Heidi Meudt with Dr Dirk Albach and Eike Mayland-Quellhorst, eating lunch at my favourite place, the University of Oldenburg Mensa (cafeteria)! Photo by Simon Pfanzelt.

Heidi Meudt with Dr Dirk Albach and Eike Mayland-Quellhorst, eating lunch at my favourite place, the University of Oldenburg Mensa (cafeteria)! Photo by Simon Pfanzelt.

I also gave an invited research seminar at the Natural History Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen. While there, I met up with PhD student Gustavo Hassemer (whose PhD thesis on Plantago I am co-supervising), Dr Nina Rønsted (his main supervisor) and the rest of Nina’s amazing research group. Gustavo enthusiastically showed me some of the Plantago he has growing in the research garden and glasshouses, and we got caught up regarding his thesis work and plans. I’m really happy to be contributing my experience in Plantago taxonomy and phylogeny to his project, and it was lovely to finally meet in person after two years of emailing and skyping!

PhD student Gustavo Hassemer with some of his research collections of Plantago. Sept 2016. Photo by Heidi Meudt.

PhD student Gustavo Hassemer with some of his research collections of Plantago. Sept 2016. Photo by Heidi Meudt.

PhD student Gustavo Hassemer showing me some of the Plantago specimens he has cultivated in the glasshouse at the Botanic Garden. Sept 2016. Photo by Heidi Meudt.

PhD student Gustavo Hassemer showing me some of the Plantago specimens he has cultivated in the glasshouse at the Botanic Garden. Sept 2016. Photo by Heidi Meudt.

Me with Dr Nina Rønsted and Gustavo Hassemer at the Copenhagen Botanic Gardens. Sept 2016.

Me with Dr Nina Rønsted and Gustavo Hassemer at the Copenhagen Botanic Gardens. Sept 2016.

And last but not least, I recently returned from the 2016 Australasian Systematic Botany Society Conference in Alice Springs, Australia. Of the 60+ attendees, most were from Australian institutions, and I was one of only three representing New Zealand institutions.

Here we are, the New Zealand representatives at the 2016 ASBS conference in Alice Springs! Drs Jennifer Tate (Massey University), Heidi Meudt (Te Papa) and Ilse Breitwieser (Landcare Research). Sept 2016.

Here we are, the New Zealand representatives at the 2016 ASBS conference in Alice Springs! Drs Jennifer Tate (Massey University), Heidi Meudt (Te Papa) and Ilse Breitwieser (Landcare Research). Sept 2016.

2016 Australasian Systematic Botany Society Conference venue during one of the three days of talks. Sept 2016. Photo by Heidi Meudt.

2016 Australasian Systematic Botany Society Conference venue during one of the three days of talks. Sept 2016. Photo by Heidi Meudt.

There were also several botanists from Kew Gardens (England), including the keynote speaker, Mark Chase, who spoke about polyploid evolution in Australian Nicotiana. In spite of my talk being the very last one of the entire conference (the most coveted spot! ha ha), I really enjoyed being a part of this highly relevant regional conference, and I got up to date on such topics as electronic resources for the Australian and Australasian floras, polyploidy, biogeography, and the latest taxonomic research on flowering plants, liverworts and cycads. And then got to see many of these plants on the field trip to the MacDonnell Ranges on the last day.

Conference field trip to the MacDonnell Ranges, where we got to experience the amazing central Australian flora first hand. The trip was led superbly by Dr Peter Jobson of the Northern Territory Herbarium in Alice Springs. Here Peter is holding one of the native species from the area and telling us about its distribution and taxonomy. Sept 2016. Photo by Heidi Meudt.

Conference field trip to the MacDonnell Ranges, where we got to experience the amazing central Australian flora first hand. The trip was led superbly by Dr Peter Jobson of the Northern Territory Herbarium in Alice Springs. Here Peter is holding one of the native species from the area and telling us about its distribution and taxonomy. Sept 2016. Photo by Heidi Meudt.

We botanists get a little bit excited when we see beautiful native plants! Here is Eremophila christophori seen on the conference field trip. Sept 2016. Photo by Heidi Meudt.

We botanists get a little bit excited when we see beautiful native plants! Here is Eremophila christophori seen on the conference field trip. Sept 2016. Photo by Heidi Meudt.

After such a busy month, I look forward to the next few months of settling back into the museum and getting back to research… and also preparing for our next trips to the South Island to do field work on forget-me-nots!

Special thanks to Nina Rønsted, Natural History Museum of Denmark, DFG, Nees Institute at the University of Bonn, and Dirk Albach for providing funding for my trip to Europe.

Heidi Meudt
Research Scientist, Botany

P.S. I also visited botanic gardens in all five cities… Which is the subject of another blog!

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