Excerpted and modified from a report by Angela Newton, Bryological Times 99: 12-13, 1999.
The bryophyte subgroup of the Green Plant Phylogeny Research Coordination Group met for a Symposium and pre-Congress Workshop, in Xalapa, Veracruz. This was hosted by the Instituto de Ecología, A.C., and organized by Efrain De Luna and Brent Mishler. A total of 35 researchers attended the Workshop from the United States, Mexico, Canada, England, Holland, Germany, France, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand and Japan. Early comers enjoyed explorations of the city and its markets, and various impromptu field trips, before getting down to the serious work. Monday evening featured a preliminary mixer at the headquarters hotel, the Xalapa Finca Real, the first of many convivial discussions.
The Symposium on Tuesday 9th was open to the general scientific community and was well attended, with 46 researchers and students attending from many universities and research establishments in Mexico. The Symposium was inaugurated with welcoming speeches from Brent Mishler and from officials of the Institute, including Dr Miguel Zamora, the Academic Secretary, and Dr Victoria Sosa, the Co-ordinator of the Postgraduate Systematics Program. After a short break to re-organise the conference room, the first session, "Advances in the Phylogeny of Green Plants" commenced with presentations on "green algae" (Russ Chapman), land plants and "bryophytes" (Brent Mishler), tracheophytes and "pteridophytes" (Kathleen Pryer), seed plants (Susana Magallon) and angiosperms (Pam Soltis). This general part of the symposium was videotaped for later distribution for educational purposes.
Lunch was provided under the trees in the Jardín Botánico Francisco J. Clavijero, adjacent to the Institute. In the second session the current state of knowledge in the "hepatics" was presented, starting with an overview by Barbara Crandall-Stotler, and proceeding through the Marchantioids (Helene Bischler, M. Biosselier-Dubayle and John Wheeler), the Metzgeriidae (Barbara), Jungermanniidae (Roy Stotler) and Lejeuneaceae (Rob Gradstein). In the late afternoon session the principal moss lineages, grades and clades were discussed, with Bernard Goffinet starting with the overview of moss phylogeny. This was then followed by the Sphagnopsida (John Shaw), Polytrichales (Jaakko Hyvnen), basal arthrodonts (Bernard), Haplolepidae (Catherine La Farge), insights from protonemal characters on misplaced taxa (Jeff Duckett) and acrocarpous and pleurocarpous diplolepidae (Cymon Cox). After a group dinner in the hotel discussions continued long into the night, in a variety of locations.
On Wednesday the workshop sessions commenced in the Jardín Botánico, with a business and planning session chaired by Brent. We then split into two groups, with the hepaticologists remaining in the Jardín, and the muscologists climbing back up the hill to the top of the tallest building in the Institute. Initial discussions among the muscologists included the logistics of papers to be presented at the Congress and authorship and publication issues, especially concerning deadlines and the achievability of the proposed work. Discussions on the moss data availability matrix concerned the categories of data to be included, the status of research in those categories, and the target audience. Of special concern was the work involved in the initiation and maintenance of the moss DAM on the website. This is now finally available, due to the greatly appreciated work of Catherine La Farge over the preceding week in Berkeley. Similar discussions occurred amongst the hepaticologists, with John Wheeler deputised to take on the creation of a web version of the liverwort data availability matrix. Following lunch, again in the Jardín, muscologists were treated to a slide show of Bernard's recent adventures with balloons and rafts in the tree-tops of Gabon. Jeff Duckett then provided more insights on protonemal characters. For most of the afternoon session discussions centred on the list of exemplar taxa at different priority levels, with sub-groups of authors splitting off to discuss their own lists at the lower priority levels. After a long and often difficult day, dinner at Los Tecajetes was very welcome.
Thursday morning workshop sessions provided additional time for collaborators in the different Congress contributions to get together and discuss the nuts and bolts of their presentations, after which the closing plenary session was again held in the Jardín. After lunch, a field trip was taken to the woodlands around the Institute. This area, originally citrus and coffee plantations, has been reverting to natural vegetation over the 20 years since the Jardín Botánico was founded. At 1300m (4500 feet) the area is tropical lower montane, with frequent mists, drizzle and rain in the winter months, and daily afternoon rain in the summer months, providing an ideal climate for many bryophytes. The steep sided stream valleys are forested with deciduous and evergreen oaks, elms, beech and sweet-gum, together with tree ferns and "more tropical" angiosperms in the Caesalpiniaceae, Melastomataceae and Piperaceae, and with epiphytic Bromeliaceae, Cactaceae and Orchidaceae. Common bryophyte families include the Calymperaceae, Hookeriaceae, Meteoriaceae, Neckeraceae, Polytrichales, Pterobryaceae, Sematophyllaceae, Lejeuneaceae, Marchantiaceae and Anthocerotae. Careful grubbing in the right places revealed Riccias and Fossombronia, despite the recent hot dry weather.
The principal field trip was held on Friday to the volcanic hills to the north-west of Xalapa, towards Naolinca. The whole area is located on the skirts of the Volcan Cofre de Perote, with volcanic soils, lava flows and old cinder cones. The first area visited, at La Concha (1000m), was a relatively recent lava flow with a malpais of tumbled rock and lava tubes, with dwarf oaks and caesalpinoid legumes. Despite the dry conditions quite a few interesting bryophytes were found, at least some of which are destined to be ground up and their DNA extracted. The next stop was in La Esquilon. The hour and a half allowed here was not enough for some, who lingered at a cliff with a mixed salad of Monoclea and Dumortiera, garnished with Cyclodictyon. Other highlights included several Calymperaceae, and Homalia glabella with sporophytes. A small residuum of workers returned to the Institute for discussions that ended at midnight, bringing the workshop to a satisfactory close. Nevertheless, participants from several labs took advantage of being in Mexico to spend a few additional days in the field, collecting material for further morphological and molecular studies.
Not only did this Symposium and Workshop provide an excellent opportunity for many of the world's phylogenetic moss systematists to get together and discuss their research with colleagues that they don't often meet in person, but it was also a very pleasant and enjoyable visit to a beautiful part of the world. The Institute and Jardín Botánico provided an excellent location and an atmosphere conducive to discussion. The hard work of Efrain's PhD students, Deneb García, Alvaro Flores and Antonio Guerrero, both before and during the meeting, ensured that most aspects of the Symposium and Workshop ran smoothly. The support of the Institute and the GPPRCG, and the organisation by Brent Mishler and Efrain DeLuna, is greatly appreciated.