It’s been a busy couple of days so this is my first chance to post a brief update on what is happening at the International Botanical Congress in Shenzhen, China. Not only have there been great talks to attend, but it’s been an all-too-rare chance to catch up with friends and colleagues, some of whom I’ve not seen for years. Also I’ve been able to meet researchers whose work I know well but whom I’ve never met. And I’m still trying to finish my talk for Saturday….. So here’s a few glimpses of what’s been going on, in no particular order.
On Tuesday I attended two fascinating symposia, one on the patterns and outcomes of pollen transfer between species in plant communities. The first talk was this one by the great Chinese pollination ecologists Shuang-Quan Huang. I’ve corresponded with Shuang for years but the IBC has been my first chance to meet him.
That was in the morning; in the afternoon I went to a session on my favourite plant family, the Apocynaceae, organised by my colleague and collaborator Sigrid Liede-Schumann. This included some great talks on the evolutionary relationships within the family, and patterns of diversity in poorly studied parts of the world. There were two talks on my favourite genus in my favourite family, Ceropegia. The first, by Sharad Kambale, was about the endemic species found in India, followed by a second on the pollination biology of the genus by Annemarie Heiduk. Anne’s talk complements my own on Saturday, and in fact she, Sigrid and I are co-authors on a paper on the genus that, we heard on Monday, has just been accepted by the journal Flora. Here’s a shot of the Apocynaceae participants; Anne is far right with Sigrid next to her. It’s a sobering thought that Sigrid and I have been collaborating for over 20 years……:
Of the keynote lectures I’ve seen in the last couple of days, I was particualrly inspired by Loren Rieseberg’s over view of plant evolution in the Anthropocene. This is surely the only talk this week, or at any IBC, that ended with a couple of episodes of a children’s animated series about nature! Loren’s work with Scout and the Gumboot Kids was inspired by him becoming a father and recognising that the most important contribution he will ever make is the legacy he leaves as a teacher of the next generations, rather than as a researcher (though his research work is very significant!)
I also enjoyed Peter Wyse Jackson’s talk on “International developments and responsibilities for the botanical community in plant conservation”. Peter very eloquently set out the case for how plant conservationists can lead the way in achieving many of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, but the key must be to include local communities within projects and not exclude them. It reflected a theme that’s running right through the conference, that plant science has a vital role to play in making our civilization sustainable: plants are absolutely key to this:
After all, humans are just Super Monkeys in evolutionary terms….
…and monkeys need plants, especially fruit such as these delicious wampee (Clausena lansium) a new one for me that I’d never tried before. It’s in the same family as oranges and other citrus fruits (Rutaceae) but has a texture more like a grape and a sour, slightly phenolic taste:
In these blog posts I’m trying to give just a few personal insights into what’s been going on, but there’s much that I’ve missed: on any given day there’s as many as 28 separate symposia going on at the same time! No wonder then that the IBC has its own daily newspaper:
Now, I must get back to writing that talk….