We’re back and ready to classify!

We’re back in Chicago and already hard at work to identify more MicroPlants for the project! Already inputting collection locations as well as taking a further look in the microscope!

On our website, microplants.fieldmuseum.org, some of our classified images have a map associated with exact coordinates of where we collected over the years. We have everything from New Caledonia, Fiji, Chile, New Zealand and now Borneo!IMG_20141009_091436

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Day 14 in Borneo: Reminders in the Mountains.

“Today we made our way down slowly collecting on the way back to our base area at 1500m. On the way down we encountered many climbers making their way up to access the peak. Everyone was intrigued about this bunch of botanists, looking through small hand lens clinging to trees, or even up trees. They either thought we were totally mad and gave us plenty of space avoiding us, one person even asked if I was suffering from altitude sickness and if I was okay, to most people being intrigued in what we were doing. I was reminded by many that we have the coolest job in the world.”10698462_10152702598445606_5676520526599430491_n

Day 12 in Borneo: Finding everything we came for.

“I can report the first phase has been an outstanding success and we have collected everything we came looking for. The view, when it is not raining and cloudy is out of this world! It rains every day which makes collecting tiny plants that are already difficult to find a challenge. However, it generally rains in mid afternoon, and we have daily bets as to the exact time, I am currently in debt The walk up was amazing. Life at this elevation was a unique experience for me. With less oxygen, physical activity climbing at this elevation can be challenging. I woke up each day with what can only be best described as dehydrated and mild headaches.”

Juan and Matt Borneo

Dr. Matt von Konrat and Juan Larrain at  5°59’47″N   116°31’45″E

Day 9 in Borneo: Finding the Needle in the Haystack.

“Today has been a long day in the field. We were specifically looking for a species only collected twice. We are not even certain of the genus and there is debate if it is a Frullania or if it belongs to its own genus. However, it is a very distinctive plant. If we can do DNA studies it will resolve this question once and for all. The trouble is the original locality data is very vague as is often the case with older collections. We must have searched 1000 trees and shrubs between Juan, myself and Monica. It is like looking for a needle in the haystack. Well……. we are still trying to find the right haystack to look for it! We collected probably over a dozen Frullania species today, but we could not find the plant we are looking for. We have seen the material that it was described from, and we should recognize it in the field.

So, tomorrow we start the search again. Perhaps we might find the right haystack where it likes to live. Then we just have to find the needle.”

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This is the drying process after we collect directly from the field. Lucky interns get to fold hundreds of envelopes to hold dried specimen until they arrive back at the museum!

Day 8 in Borneo: Leech it up.

“We can expect more leeches as we go lower in elevation. Great. Today has been a long day in the field…”

Research shows that Leech saliva is commonly believed to contain anesthetic compounds to numb the bite area. Depending on the species and size, leech bites can be barely noticeable or they can be fairly painful!

Leech Instagram

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Photo credit: Matt von Konrat and Monica Suleiman

The MicroPlants Team is in Borneo!

The MicroPlants Team is on a collections trip to Mt. Kinabalu on the Island of Borneo! Head of The Field Museum’s Botanical Collection, Dr. Matt von Konrat as well as his Postdoctoral Scientist Juan Larrain, are trekking to find some more specimen for our collection of almost 3 million Herbarium specimen we house here at The Field Museum! The MicroPlants team uses the specimen collected on these trips by imaging oil bodies right away (See: Frullania 101), coming back to the lab and taking microscope images of MicroLeaves (Lobules) and uploading them to the Microplants site for Citizen Scientists to help gather data!

Collection trips like these are very important to document bryophyte diversity as well as gathering data for conservation efforts. There is a correlation between areas of low pollution and higher biomass and diversity of liverworts146020704_9fcdf628c4_b