05 Nov 2018

First Lab Field Trip!

This past weekend, the lab made our first field trip together to visit the Guadalupe Mountains National Park (GUMO) in southwest Texas. In attendance were Dr. Matt Johnson, Ph.D. student Yanni Chen, lab technician Haley Hale, and undergraduates Zach Bailey and Madeline Slimp. We were joined by Dr. Nick Smith, and Ph.D. student Xiulin Gao, from the Schwilk lab.

The goal of the trip was to get some first-hand experience with the diverse botanical region of the park. Our students have been working with our large herbarium collection (2000+ specimens from 500+ species) made when the Park first opened in the 1970s.

Camping was a bit of an aventure, with winds howling at 25 mph all night. We made it through the night, and after a luxurious breakfast we made our way to Frijole Ranch and the Smith Spring Trail. It was a 1 mile hike with about 400 feet of elevation gain, and along the way we saw a diverse set of high desert plants. We were able to see quite a bit of fall color, with maples (Acer grandidentatum), dwarf mulberries (Morus micorphylla), Mexican buckeyes (Ungadia speciosa) and velvet ash (Fraxinus velutina) all in various shades of orange and red.

At the top of the trail was Smith Spring, a refreshing closed canopy with running water. I was pleased to find that mosses do exist in southwest Texas, and they can be quite happy!

Overall the trip was a success and will be a good starting point for new ideas about botanizing in the national park. Our experience will be an inspiration for our first DNA sampling from the GUMO herbarium collection which begins this week!