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e-Monocot is a NERC funded consortium between Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Oxford University and the Natural History Museum.

 

Grant no's 279981, 279984 & 279970. Period, Nov./Dec. 2010 to Oct./Nov. 2013.

 

 

E-mail: enquiries@e-monocot.org.

The eMonocot Team

eMonocot Team
The eMonocot team at the Plenary Meeting, Kew Gardens

Team Member Profiles

  • Dr Paul Wilkin

    Institution
    RBGK

     

    Personal interests / role in project

    I am a plant systematist at RBG, Kew with interests across the diversity of the lilioid monocots (lilies and their relatives) including yams (Dioscorea), dragon trees and mother-in-law’s tongues (Dracaena & Sanseviera) and members of the iris (Iridaceae), daffodil (Amaryllidaceae) and lily (Liliaceae) families. I am the principal investigator on the eMonocot project with my primary role being in content development, although I am developing an interest in outreach activities.

     

    What's your favourite monocot and why?

    My “first love” among the monocots was Bromeliaceae, the pineapple family. The most spectacular bromeliad has to be Puya raimondii or queen of the Andes, a high elevation giant reaching over 10 m tall in flower. We had one in the old Alpine House at Kew and the gardener in charge of the house always wanted to see it bloom. Unfortunately it takes several decades to do so (especially in London) and he retired before it got close to flowering. However, my favourite is still the first one I grew as a student: Billbergia nutans, queen’s tears or the friendship plant. It has a very exotic appearance, with gaudy red or pink bracts on its pendent inflorescence and green petals with blue margins. In its natural habitat from southern Brazil to Northern Argentina it is an epiphyte. Like many broms, its roots just hold it in place on the tree and it absorbs much of its nutrition through tiny ash-white scales on its dark green leaves. Its epiphytic habit and relatively southerly distribution mean that it is very tough, making it an excellent houseplant which is also surprisingly hardy outdoors in temperate areas. Best of all, it forms young plants as it grows (called offsets or pups) so you can give it away to your friends (hence one of the vernacular names). So it’s a community plant which links people together, like eTaxonomy.

     

     

     

  • Mr Edward Baker

    Institution
    Natural History Museum

     

    Personal interests / role in project

    My role in eMonocot is to develop the Scratchpads platform for the needs of eMonocot users. This will allow user communities to collect data within their Scratchpad and then submit it to the main eMonocot project.

     

    What's your favourite monocot and why?

    My interest in plants comes from an interest in the phytophagous stick- and leaf-insects (order Phasmida). Relatively few of these insects have exclusive associations with particular plant species, and those that do tend to have functional wings in both sexes. One unusual flightless genus, Megacrania, does have a close (although not exclusive) association with the monocot genus Pandanus.


    Photo: Paul Brock. Megacrania batesii feeding on Pandanus tectorius. Etty Bay, Queensland, Australia.

     

     

     

  • Dr Bill Baker

    Institution
    RBGK

     

    Personal interests / role in project

    Bill Baker leads the palm research programme at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. He specialises in the taxonomy and evolution of palms, and leads Palmweb, a web portal to biodiversity information on palms. He contributes to eMonocot through his hands-on experience of web taxonomy and building expert communities as a co-investigator on the Content Board.

     

    What's your favourite monocot and why?

    I could have chosen one of the many amazing species in my specialist group, the palm family. However, there is another monocot that is even closer to my heart – Roscoea purpurea forma rubra. This plant was discovered on my first botanical fieldwork, an expedition that I led in 1992 as an undergraduate at Oxford University at the tender age of 20. We had been asked to keep our eyes peeled for specimens of this hardy ginger, but we had never expected to discover a spectacular red form, a flower colour previously unknown in the genus. It is now a highly prized garden plant, usually found under the cultivar name “Red Gurkha”. Incredibly, we then found an entirely new species of Roscoea, R. ganeshensis, at an adjacent site. I will never forget the exhilaration of that first scientific discovery, the sheer satisfaction and the passion ignited to go out and discover more.

     

     

     

  • Dr Abigail Barker

    Institution
    RBGK

     

    Personal interests / role in project

    Abigail Barker is the Science Applications Manager at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew with overall responsibility for the development and maintenance of all science & horticulture applications. She is a co-investigator on eMonocot responsible for overseeing the work of the Kew ICT team member and for liaising with the Kew-based eMonocot content team. She aims to ensure that the outputs of the ICT team can be sustained by Kew post-project.

     

    What's your favourite monocot and why?

    My favourite monocot reflects my upbringing in Connemara, Ireland. It is the Common spotted orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii (Orchidaceae). It is a beautiful flower which always amazed me when I happened upon it. It may appear modest in comparison with its exotic relatives, but in flower its simplicity is a thing of great beauty.

     

     

     

  • Dr Ruth Bone

    Institution
    RBGK

     

    Personal interests / role in project

    Ruth Bone is a member of the content team, and will be creating interactive plant identification keys and taxon pages for emonocot. Her personal interest in the project stems from her belief that accurate, scientific information should be made freely available to as wide an audience as possible, particularly to researchers who have limited access to academic literature- including those who work in remote locations like Round Island, Mauritius.

     

    What's your favourite monocot and why?

    My favourite monocot is the bottle palm - Hyophorbe lagenicaulis. This species is endemic to Mauritius, where I spent two years working on conservation projects. The only remaining natural population grows on Round Island: a small rodent-free islet off northern Mauritius and a refugium for rare fauna including endemic reptile species that are extinct on mainland Mauritius. Work is on-going to restore the island’s flora, that was once dominated by palm savannas of three genera endemic to the Mascarene Islands: Dictyosperma, Hyophorbe and Latania.

     

     

     

  • Dr Ben Clark

    http://www.cate-project.org/

    Institution
    Department of Zoology, University of Oxford

     

    Personal interests / role in project

    I am the Lead Software Developer on the eMonocot project. For the past five or six years I've worked on a variety of projects in collaboration with the taxonomists at Kew and the Natural History Museum, London. I was the software developer working on the CATE Project. I also collaborated with, and later was employed by the EDIT project where I worked on the Common Data Model Library, and associated web-services. I've most recently been employed as part of the Science Applications team at Kew where I was involved with the Grass Portal project. I am a biologist by training. During my Ph.D. I used analytical models to study competition between different plant species for nitrogen and the effect of nutrient cycling on the outcome of compeition.

    My personal interests are in developing software applications which work well for taxonomists and biodiversity scientists. I am particularly interested in descriptive information in all its forms and in finding ways to deliver taxonomic information to those who need it. To that end, I am also interested in the use of web-services and associated technology for publishing taxonomic information. Lastly, I am interested in the use of web-based environments for curating and publishing taxonomic information, and in providing taxonomists with tools to work effectively together online.

     

    What's your favourite monocot and why?

    Being a software developer, I tried to find a monocot which has links to the software I develop, but the most relevant plants are from the Rubiaceae (Java), and the Fabaceae (Spring Beans).

    Instead, I've selected a monocot which isn't a favourite as such, but is one that I became intimately familiar with during my Ph.D. Nardus stricta L. is found in upland and moorland habitats where the damp conditions and its slow-growth rate is not so much of a disadvantage. It is tough, contains lots of silica, and is very herbivore resistant. I spent many hours harvesting, drying, grinding, digesting, and analysing samples of Nardus to see whether differences in leaf chemistry could in part explain competition between it and Calluna vulgaris, which typically dominates moorland when grazing rates are lower.

    The image was taken by Conny and is available from Wikimedia.

     

     

     

  • Professor Charles Godfray

    Institution
    Oxford University

     

    Personal interests / role in project

    Charles Godfray is a population biologist with a strong interest in biodiversity informatics and web-taxonomy. He has worked with the Natural History Museum and Kew groups on the CATE project (Creating a Taxonomic eScience) and will lead the developer group at Oxford.

     

    What's your favourite monocot and why?

    Choosing a favourite monocot is nigh on impossible but I’ve gone for a classic New Zealand tussock grass, Chionochloa rubra. My mother was a New Zealander and though I’ve never lived there I’ve visited a number of times and love walking in the mountains with their fabulous flora often dominated by tussock grass. I grow this species amongst other New Zealand plants in my garden in Oxfordshire.

     

     

     

  • Dr Ian Kitching

    Institution
    Natural History Museum

     

    Personal interests / role in project

    Ian Kitching is a researcher at the Natural History Museum studying the phylogenetics and biology of Lepidoptera, with a particular focus on the hawkmoths (Sphingidae), and is a co-investigator on e-Monocot. He is part of the outreach team, which will proactively seek to engage external audiences in e-Monocot and he will also ensure that the systems developed are equally applicable to animal groups.

     

    What's your favourite monocot and why?

    My favourite monocot is the Madagascan Star Orchid, Angraecum sesquipedale. When one of these flowers was sent to Charles Darwin, he noted that no insect then known had a tongue long enough to reach its nectar and thus pollinate it. However, Darwin confidently predicted that such a moth would one day be found. Although it took another 40 years, one was indeed discovered and named as Xanthopan morganii praedicta, in recognition of Darwin's prediction. This orchid thus symbolizes the link between the focus of the e-Monocot project and the moths that are the subject of my research.

     

     

     

  • Mr Laurence Livermore

    Institution
    Natural History Museum

     

    Personal interests / role in project

    My role is to test and facilitate the entry of data into Scratchpads and deliver training courses to users.

     

    What's your favourite monocot and why?

    My favourite monocot had to had to be edible, so I have chosen Rye (Secale cereale) because rye-based breads are one of my favourite foods.

     

     

     

  • Dr Sarah Phillips

    Institution
    RBGK

     

    Personal interests / role in project

    Sarah Phillips is the project manager, and will monitor progress and ensure that communications between the consortium members in the different partner organisations is effective. She comes into the project from managing the Herbarium specimen catalogue at Kew and has played an active role in making Herbarium specimen data more accessible through her support of digitisation projects. She is interested to learn more about how end users utilise the data that is made available to them with the aim of improving how information is presented.

     

    What's your favourite monocot and why?

    It is always hard to pick a favourite. During my postdoctoral studies I spent many a happy hour, although often cold and wet, in fields of Winter Wheat, Triticum aestivum, searching for linyphiid spiders. Arachnophobes need not be alarmed though, as these small money spiders are only about 1-6mm in length. These spiders feed on agricultural pests such as aphids and they were part of my investigations on how prey biodiversity affects predator fitness and hence potential to control pests in crops. I have to admit that at the time I was more interested in what was on or under the plant rather than the plant itself. Since working at Kew, I have developed my interest in plants and hopefully have absorbed a tiny bit of knowledge, being surrounded by experts.

    In the end I have plumped for the rather more showy Bird of Paradise plant, Strelitzia reginae. This native South African plant reminds me of my first role at Kew, as part of the African Plants Initiative Project. Working for this herbarium specimen digitisation project took me away from UK agricultural fields and gave me a more global outlook, I even had the opportunity to visit Cape Town and the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens.

     

     

     

  • Dr Dave Simpson

    Institution
    RBGK

     

    Personal interests / role in project

    Dave Simpson is a plant taxonomist at RBG, Kew specialising in Cyperaceae and related monocot familes. He is a co-investigator on the project and a member of the Content Team Board.

     

    What's your favourite monocot and why?

    It’s very difficult to choose a personal favourite but I would opt for Mapania cuspidata. It’s a member of the sedge family (Cyperaceae). It doesn’t have showy flowers but has broad, shiny dark green leaves and the young emerging leaves are a beautiful salmon-pink colour on the underside. It’s a common species in SE Asia but in appearance it’s very unlike other Cyperaceae. It’s part of pantropical group that is taxonomically distinct from other sedges and grows exclusively in rainforest. M. cuspidata was the first sedge that I came across when botanising in Malaysia many years ago. I was immediately struck by its unusual appearance and this led to a career-long interest in these plants

     

     

     

  • Dr Vincent Smith

    http://vsmith.info

    Institution
    Natural History Museum

     

    Personal interests / role in project

    Vince Smith runs the Scratchpad project and is the principal investigator on e-Monocot at the Natural History Museum London. He will be helping develop the technical architecture for the Scratchpads that support the different monocot communities contributing to the project. Vince is also developing web metrics that quantify the contributions of individual scientists, helping to incentive their work and encourage participation in the system.

     

    What's your favourite monocot and why?

    My favourite monocot has to be an aquatic plant. As an avid aquarist I’m keen to recreate slices of underwater habitats from all over the world, and monocots are a regular feature in my aquaria. If forced to name a favourite I’d pick Echinodorus tenellus, the Pigmy Chain Swordplant. This is a fast growing foreground plant common in the Amazon basin where it forms dense carpets of foliage. Its easy to grow, and fills in niche in aquaria that is often hard to fill with other aquatic plants.

     

     

     

  • Ms Odile Weber

    Institution
    Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew

    Area of taxonomic interest
    Monocots

     

    Personal interests / role in project

    Odile has been working as the curatorial assistant in the Alismatid and Lilioid Systematic Team at RBG, Kew for nearly five years before the start of the project. Her research has focused on the geographical distribution and conservation status of species (mostly yams from Madagascar and aloes from the Horn of Africa) as well as creating a Scratchpad for Dracaenoids. As part of the content team she will initially work on a multi-access identification tool to the monocot families according to the APGIII classification system. Other responsibilities include compiling taxon information for internet pages, attending workshops and engaging with monocot taxonomists and IT developers.

     

    What's your favourite monocot and why?

    My favourite monocot group is the Iris family, probably because of their unusual leaves and their interesting flowers. The leaves of most Iridaceae are unifacial and equitant. The flowers are often arranged on an axis in clusters or solitary and are subtended by two opposite bracts. This is a specimen of Babiana angustifolia (a species described by Sweet in 1826) which flowered in one of the nurseries at Kew in March 2011. Note how the flowers at the tip of the spike are younger and therefore last to open. In Babiana, the leaves are usually pleated and hairy and the flowers can be blue, mauve, violet, pale yellow to white, pink or red.

     

     

     

Scratchpads developed and conceived by: Vince Smith, Simon Rycroft, Dave Roberts, Ben Scott...