In Team Fern's most ambitious expedition yet, we travelled to peninsular Malaysia for three weeks. We battled through oppressive heat and endless waves of leeches to collect ferns in a variety of habitats, from lowland tropical rain forests to cloud forests. We worked closely with scientists from FRIM (Forest Research Institute of Malaysia) and were fortunate to have FRIM's pteridologist, Gary Theseira, as our guide. Team Fern consisted mostly of the usual suspects, with a new addition or two for variety: Amanda Grusz, Petra Korall, Jordan Metzgar, Andy Murdock, Nathalie Nagalingum, Kathleen Pryer, Harald Schneider, Eric Schuettpelz and Mike Windham.
(Photo credits: [PK] indicates photo by Petra Korall; [AM] indicates photo by Andy Murdock; [JM] indicates photo by Jordan Metzgar; [NN] indicates photo by Nathalie Nagalingum; [KP] indicates photo by Kathleen Pryer; [ES] indicates photo by Eric Schuettpelz. Text by Jordan Metzgar.)
Malaysia is a small country in southeast Asia... We visited the peninsular portion of the country, saving Borneo for a later trip.
For 9 days, this intrepid band of explorers froze, baked and bled their way across the hinterlands of Arizona, crossing deserts, conquering canyons and collecting numerous ferns. From the brink of the Grand Canyon to the Mexican border, the expedition continued on for one reason, and one reason alone: to further science. Trip leader Mike Windham, from the University of Utah, hunted for humdrum mustards of the genera Boechera and Thysanocarpus. He also guided pteridophiles Eric Schuettpelz, Harald Schneider, Kathleen Pryer and Jordan Metzgar in their quest for general fern collections to be used in a variety of systematic studies. The expedition began in northern Arizona, with stops at the Grand Canyon, and near Flagstaff and Sedona. The group then migrated south and collected in numerous locations in Central Arizona, before concluding the expedition with several days of collecting in southeastern Arizona. The following pages document their incredible story of survival, which has never before been told in public. (Photo credits: [JM] indicates photo by Jordan Metzgar; [KP] indicates photo by Kathleen Pryer. Text by Jordan Metzgar.)
In addition to this compelling narrative, hundreds of the fern photos from the trip have been compiled into an identification website for Arizona ferns:
The site also features range maps and links to online identification keys.
Team Fern members assembled at the Phoenix airport on the 12th, before meeting Mike Windham at the Grand Canyon. Along the way, team members got their first glimpses of the striking Arizona scenery. Much photography occurred at 70 mph. Beginning on the 13th, a series of grueling hikes at high elevation and sometimes extreme cold quickly built cameradie among the team. However, stops in this Flagstaff-Sedona revealed a treasure trove of ferns, including many rare northern species and disjunct species.
As part of the Pryer lab's outreach program, lab member Jordan Metzgar led this fern hike at the Few's Ford area of Eno River State Park to excite and educate people about the natural history of ferns. The trip was sponsored by the Duke Natural History Society and drew a crowd of about 18 people. We hiked the Buckquarter Trail and parts of the Holden's Mill and Ridge Trails, encountering 10 species of fern and fern allies along the way. The species list and photo gallery from the trip are posted below. (All photos by N. Nagalingum. Text by Jordan Metzgar.)
Ferns and Fern Allies Encountered
Athyrium aspleniodes (southern lady fern)
Asplenium platyneuron (ebony spleenwort)
Botrychium dissectum (cut-leaved grape fern)
Cheilanthes lanosa (hairy lipfern)
Diphasiastrum digitatum (common running cedar)
Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern)
Pleopeltis polypodioides (resurrection fern)
Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern)
Selaginella apoda (meadow spikemoss)
Woodsia obtusa (blunt-lobed woodsia)
Confronted by a need for additional taxon sampling in their molecular systematics projects, this intrepid band of explorers plotted an expedition to the Highlands region. This area encompasses Jackson, Transylvania and Macon counties of North Carolina, Oconee and Pickens counties in South Carolina and Rabun county in Georgia. The area is noted for its high rainfall (highest in the eastern USA!), numerous waterfalls and high species diversity and endemism. This fearless band of botaneers was comprised of fern enthusiasts Jordan Metzgar, Maarten Christenhusz and Sabine Hennequin, and lichenologists Emily Fraker and Monica Garcia Otalora. Realizing the need to travel in state-of-the-art comfort, lest they suffer the same fate as the Donner Party, the group acquired the Minivan of Botany. The expedition used the Highlands Biological Station as their home base and made quick strikes into Georgia, South Carolina and around North Carolina. While the lichenologists were successful in their goal of making a number of general collections, the pteridologists did not fare as well in their pursuit of several filmy fern species (Trichomanes spp. and Hymenophyllum spp.). Old herbarium localities did not pan out and severe hurricane damage made several sites inaccessible. However, these noble scientists managed to make numerous general collections and to lay the groundwork for their inevitable victorious return to the region (tentatively planned for summer 2005). The photos below tell their story. (All photos by M. Christenhusz. Text by Jordan Metzgar.)