Speaker Series

Everyone is welcome to attend membership meetings in the Recreation Room of the San Francisco County Fair Building (SFCFB) at 9th Avenue and Lincoln Way in Golden Gate Park. The #71 and #44 buses stop at the building. The N-Judah, #6, #43, and #66 lines stop within 2 blocks.
Before our programs, we take our speakers to dinner at Chang’s Kitchen, 1030 Irving Street, between 11th and 12th Avenues. Join us for good Chinese food and interesting conversation. Meet at the restaurant at 5:30 pm. RSVP appreciated but not required. If you wish to notify, please call Jake Sigg at 415-731-3028.

June 6, 2019, THURSDAY, 7:30 PM

Mosses are from Mars, Vascular Plants are from Venus

Speaker: Brent Mishler PhD, Director of the University and Jepson Herbaria at UC Berkeley

The bryophytes are the most diverse set of land plants aside from the flowering plants.  The group includes three quite distinct lineages: mosses, hornworts, and liverworts; some familiar species are frequently encountered in mesic forests and along streams, while a number of less familiar species are in tropical  rain forests, arctic tundra, and desert boulders.  The bryophytes have an ancient history —they are remnant lineages surviving today from the spectacular radiation of the land plants in the Devonian Period, some 400-450 million years ago.  Yet despite their diversity, phylogenetic importance, and key roles in the ecosystems of the world, study of many aspects of the biology of bryophytes has lagged behind that of the larger land plants, perhaps because of their small size and how few scientists specialize in them.  In this talk, you will hear a summary of what we do know about their biology, as an encouragement for you to get to know them better.

Two questions to intrigue you:  Are bryophytes biologically like their larger cousins, just smaller versions?  If not, in what ways does bryophyte biology differ from that of the larger vascular plants?  The short answers: No, and, in almost every way possible!   The groups didn't evolve on different planets, but their differences could almost make you think they did.  They certainly adopted very different approaches to being land plants on this planet.  Many aspects need much more study, but what is known about bryophyte biology suggests that in general the bryophytes differ in most ways in their genetics, physiology, ecology, and evolution from vascular plants.

Brent D. Mishler is Director of the Jepson Herbaria at UC Berkeley, as well as Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology, where he teaches phylogenetic systematics, plant diversity, and island biology.  He received his PhD from Harvard University in 1984, then was on the faculty at Duke University for nine years before moving to UC Berkeley in 1993.  His research interests are in the systematics, evolution, and ecology of bryophytes, especially the diverse moss genus Syntrichia, as well as in the phylogeny of green plants.  He is also interested in more general topics involving the theoretical basis of systematic and evolutionary biology, such as phylogenetic methods and the nature of species.  He has been involved in developing electronic resources to present plant taxonomic and distributional information to the public, and for research applications of these data, including to the California flora.  He is one of the founders of, and incoming President Elect for, the CNPS Bryophyte Chapter.




August 1, Thursday, 7:30 pm

Insect Apocalypse? Is insect biodiversity and biomass declining? What do the recent studies mean?

Speaker: Dr. Leslie Saul-Gershenz

Dr. Leslie Saul-Gershenz is Associate Director of Research, Wild Energy Initiative of the John Muir Institute of the Environment at UC Davis where she researches native solitary bees and their nest parasites. She will discuss several recent studies that have documented a large decline in insect abundance, biodiversity, and biomass in Europe, Puerto Rico, and California, looking at changes in insect populations over a 30-year period. Each study used different methodologies and pointed to different causes of declines. She will also speak about her current bee study to understand the impact of utility-scale solar energy development in California’s deserts, and look at how activities outside protected areas affect protected areas, such as national parks and reserves. Insects, plants, and underground resources are inseparable within their ecosystems; conservation management policies need to reflect these complex relationships.

Leslie studies the chemical ecology, pollination ecology, and complex parasite-host interactions of solitary native bees and their nest parasites across the western US, including the Mojave Desert, the coastal sand dunes of Oregon, and eastern Washington. She has also collaborated on a bee inventory in the Mojave Desert, providing evidence that this amazing ecosystem is a biological hotspot for both native bees and plants; they found at least 170 species of bees in the intersection between the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts.


Future Program


September 5, Thursday, 7:30 pm

Plants of the Farallon Islands

Speaker: Peter Pyle