Botany Curator Expeditions


Frank Almeda




In 2011 and 2012 Frank traveled to Colombia, for field studies of the Melastomataceae for the National Science Foundation PBI: Miconieae project. Our Academy team is focusing on Colombia because it is a major center of diversity for the family (58 genera and 957 species) and constitutes a major knowledge gap for this large family of flowering plants among Neotropical countries.  These expeditions to Colombia have resulted in the collection of numerous rare species. Some of the species collected were previously only known from the type or less than five collections. The work there has also resulted in range extensions for many taxa and the discovery of numerous species new to science.  


We would like to acknowledge our colleagues in Colombia and their institutions who have played a significant role in the success of our expeditions: Carlos A. Parra (Herbario COL- Universidad Nacional de Colombia), Humberto Mendoza, Eduino Carbonó (Herbario UTMC - Universidad del Magdalena), Philip Silverstone (Herbario CUVC – Universidad del Valle), Luis Roberto Sánchez (Herbario HECASA – Universidad de Pamplona), César Marín (Herbario UIS - Universidad Industrial de Santander), Bernardo Ramírez (Herbario CAUP – Universidad del Cauca), Martha Sofía González-Insuasti (Herbario PSO – Universidad de Nariño), Eva Ledezma Rentería (Herbario CHOCO – Universidad del Chocó). Field assistants: Mario Camilo Barrera, Jose David García, Breyner Martínez, Juan Mauricio Posada y Juan Fernando Restrepo.


The protected areas we have visited are as follows:


National Parks: PNN Chingaza, PNN Complejo volcánico Doña Juana-Cascabel, PNN Cocuy, PNN Farallones de Cali, PNN Munchique, PNN Pisba, PNN Selva de Florencia, PNN Serranía de los Churumbelos, PNN Serranía de los Yariguies , PNN Tamá, PNN Tatamá, SFF Galeras, SFF Iguaque.


Private reserves: Reserva Natural Campesina La Judía, Reserva Natural Cerro del Inglés, Reserva Natural El Refugio, Reserva Natural La Rejoya, Reserva Natural Río Ñambí, Reserva Natural Sisavita, Reserva natural de las Aves El Dorado, Reserva natural de las Aves El Pangán, Reserva natural de las Aves El Paujil, Reserva Zingara.






Frank spent three weeks in Madagascar in the company of Botany Department assistants (Rebecca Peters, Emily Magnaghi, and the late Rebecca Wenk), and our Botanical Coordinator in Madagascar, Rokiman Letsara. They conducted botanical field studies at Isalo National Park, Mantadia National Park, the Angavo Plateau Forest east of Anjozorobe, and the Réserve Villageoise d’Anja inselbergs south of Ambalavao. Their collecting efforts concentrated on succulent plants, bryophytes, Melastomataceae, and several other flowering plant families.




Frank has traveled to Brazil, Spain and Madagascar in 2009, as he continues his research on Systematics and phylogeny of Melastomataceae worldwide (with emphasis on Mexico/Central America, Andean South America, Brazil, and Madagascar); Chromosomal evolution of neotropical and paleotropical Melastomataceae; Cloud Forest floras of the Mesoamerican region; Historical biogeography and phylogeny of neotropical Symplocaceae; Flora of Marin County, California; Vegetation and flora of the Cerrado Biome Hotspot in Brazil; Drug discovery/biotic surveys and inventories of vascular plants and lichens in the rainforests of southern Madagascar.



Tom Daniel




Tom visited Guatemala in 2009, to conduct field studies in remote regions of Guatemala supported by the National Geographic Society to 1) document occurrences of Acanthaceae, 2) relocate rare species known from a single collection (some of them made more than 100 years ago), and explore little-visited regions in an attempt to locate species unknown to science.  Tom and his Guatemalan colleagues were able to locate 34 species of the shrimp plant family (Acanthaceae), including two that are new to science and two that were previously known only from a single collection. His collections and field observations are being used in an assessment of the biodiversity of Guatemala and will appear as a chapter in the book, Biodiversidad de Guatemala. A detailed account of the members of this large tropical family in Guatemala is also being prepared for publication.




Tom also visited São Tomé & Príncipe in 2008, on a Botanical collecting trip on these two oceanic islands in the Gulf of Guinea.  The expedition resulted in collection of numerous bryophytes, ferns, and flowering plants, including 15 of the 17 species of the shrimp plant family (Acanthaceae) occurring there.  His collections extended the known distribution records of several of these species.  A comprehensive account of Acanthaceae in this island nation that includes identification keys, images, ecological and geographic data, and conservation notes has been submitted for publication. 




Peter Fritsch




For 2011, Peter plans to go on the Philippines expedition mentioned below, and then he will spend three months in China (Jul 1-Sep 30) to conduct field work, write papers, and collect some molecular data. Also, he plans to attend (during that time) the International Botanical Congress in Melbourne Australia in July.




Peter went to the Philippines in October for two weeks to prepare for an expedition planned for April-May of 2011. He also went to Providence, Rhode Island, to attend the American Society of Plant Taxonomists meeting and delivered a talk.




Island of Borneo

Peter, conducted a field trip with a colleague from Wake Forest University to the state of Sabah, Malaysia, on the island of Borneo for three weeks in June-July 2009. The purpose of the trip was to find, study, and collect leaf samples of species of the flowering plant genus Diplycosia, in the heath family (Ericaceae). This group and its close relatives (Gaultheria, the wintergreen genus) is thought to have originated in the Northern Hemisphere at a time in the early Tertiary (Age of Mammals) when climate were much warmer, and during the advent of later cooling trends migrated southwards into the tropics and eventually became extinct in the north. Fritsch spent most of his time on Mt. Kinabalu, the highest peak on Borneo, with an elevation of 4095 meters (13,500 feet),where he was able to locate 15 species of Diplycosia. These are now being sampled for DNA sequences in the Academy’s molecular laboratory. With the DNA data, Fritsch will estimate the patterns and timing of speciation over geologic time to test the group’s postulated evolutionary history.



Botany Associate, Post-Doc, Staff, and Student Expeditions

Marcela Alvear




Marcela organized and led the CAS botanical expedition to Colombia during the months of January and February, to collect Melastomataceae for the PBI: Miconieae project. On  this expedition they visited several national parks and private reserves in the following departments: Cauca, Huila, Nariño, Putumayo, and Valle del Cauca.


2011 - 2012

Marcela organized and was a member of the CAS botanical expedition to Colombia during the months of January, February and March, to collect Melastomataceae for the  PBI: Miconieae project. On these two expeditions they visited several national parks and private reserves in the following departments: Boyacá, Chocó, Magdalena, Norte de Santander, Risaralda, Santander, and Valle del Cauca,  



In early January, Marcela visited two areas in the eastern Andes of Colombia (Boyacá and Cundinamarca) to collect members of the genus Monochaetum (Melastomataceae) as part of her master’s research studies.



Bruce Bartholomew




Bruce held a Flora of China Editorial Committee meeting at the California Academy of Sciences.


In May, Bruce attended and presented a poster at the Second International Symposium on the Family Magnoliaceae at the Botanical Garden of the South China Institute of Botany of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Guangzhou, People's Republic of China


Also, in July and August 2009, Bruce participated in a botanical collecting expedition to Eastern Xizang (Tibet) as part of the joint Harvard University Herbaria - Kunming Insitute of Botany NSF funded project on the Biodiversity of the Hengduan Mountain Region of the People's Republic of China.




Bruce attended a Flora of China Editorial Committee meeting in Hangzhou, People's Republic of China in April 2008.


Emily Magnaghi




Emily plans to attend the Botany 2011 and Society for Economic Botany meetings in St. Louis in July.




Emily made another visit to Madagascar and was able to make a new collection of Mendoncia flagellaris (Acanthaceae) from a habitat that is highly fragmented and nearly gone, a plateau forest. This was an important collection for her study of Mendoncia and a very interesting look at this endangered habitat.




Emily went to Madagascar in 2007 to study the phenology and pollination ecology of Mendoncia cowanii (Acanthaceae) in the field at Mantadia and Ranomafana National Parks. This work is part of a Master’s thesis on the Systematics of Paleotropical Mendoncia species. 


Darin Penneys




Darin collected for four weeks this past August-September and combed the mountains along the southern border of the Yunnan Province, China in search of Melastomataceae.  Although there has been much deforestation in that region for the production of rice, rubber, tea, and bananas, the protected areas harbor a tremendous amount of biodiversity.  He was able to collect many species, and even some genera, found only in China and all of these will be critical for his investigation into the global phylogenetic relationships within this family.


Jim Shevock




Jim has the following Bryological expeditions planned: Chile, Taiwan, China, Philippines, and Madagascar




Jim completed 5 Bryological expeditions, these include:


Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe, Gulf of Guinea, west Africa, Taiwan, Republic of China, Guizhou Province, Sichuan Province, and Yunnan Province, People’s Republic of China, New Zealand


Nearly 2,500 collections were obtained during these expeditions to expand the bryophyte holdings in the CAS herbarium. Several specimens represent species new to science. The Asian collections will contribute to the ongoing publication of the Moss Flora of China Project.


Rebecca Wenk




Rebecca joined Tom Daniel, Bob Drewes, two mycologists, and a photographer for 3 weeks of plant collecting in Sao Tome & Principe, Africa, in April 2008.  She has collected specimens all over California, from the Anza Borrego desert to serpentine areas in the Siskiyou Mountains

Contact the Department

  • Botany Administrator
  • California Academy of Sciences
  • 55 Music Concourse Drive
  • San Francisco, CA 94118
  • 415-379-5361 (direct)

Greg Farrington's Madagascar Expedition

Seasoned travelers – Harry, Shirley, Jean, Mary Beth, Frank, Greg   We woke up on Friday morning at the Southern Cross Hotel in Ft. Dauphin to the sound of rain, not just a little rain but a deluge. It lasted about 20 minutes. Since the roof of the hotel is metal, it was like being […]
Start of the trip: the good dirt road; for a few miles it was like a superhighway A bus for Malagasys; makes the #1 California look like a limo Another lonely baobab tree Spiny cactus: a non-native species Three-cornered palm   The trip back from Berenty Reserve to Ft. Dauphin by minvan was on a […]
This entry consists entirely of pictures of some of the animals we saw at the Berenty Reserve. I hope you like them. Ring-tailed lemur Mother and baby Sitting lemur Mother and baby Red-fronted brown lemur Mother and baby Lemur “dancing” – actually hopping from tree to tree Verreaux’s Sifaka (lemur) Mother and baby White-browed Owl […]
Preparing rice paddies for planting – the mob of muddy zebu way. Planting rice Working in the rice paddy Harvested rice on the way to threshing   On Tuesday we boarded our minivan and headed north to the Berenty Reserve, a private facility about 70 km north of Ft. Dauphin. It is a protected forest […]
Market in Ft. Dauphin   On Monday we flew back to Tana to regroup, recharge the luggage from the mother ship, have a good dinner, enjoy lots of hot water, and then head out for Ft. Dauphin for our final exploration trip, this time to the Berenty Reserve north of Ft. Dauphin. By now, we […]