Mandy, a resident of Colorado since 2008, is an undergraduate at CU Boulder majoring in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Her research this year involves creating a checklist for Marchantiophyta in the Comanche National Grasslands of Southeast Colorado. Marchantiophyta, or liverworts, are of interest because they are silly and ridiculous in name and form, which are two qualities that Mandy appreciates in a plant. In addition to this, liverworts are a fascinating group that descends from the common ancestor of all land plants. This has interesting evolutionary implications given how static the liverwort’s morphological form has remained. The region of study was selected because previous undergraduate researcher, Joseph Kleinkopf, found molecularly distinctly populations of Amorpha nana in the grasslands, indicating that this might be a region of neoendemism. In her free time Mandy enjoys climbing things and meandering around Boulder.
Reaching the summit of Kamakasa Tepui:
Collecting on the Karoweing River:
Climbing trees: not as easy as it seems!:
Building subsummit camp in the rain and Giant Earthworm:
Rock House lichenizing (Kamakasa Tepui):
Kamp Life (Episode 1):
I Love This Little Area (Kamakasa Tepui):
Building Camp 6 and Lichenology 101 (Kamakasa Tepui):
Lichenizing around Full Moon Camp (Kamakasa Tepui):
Aleks finds nodules (Kamakasa Tepui expedition):
Arriving at Swamp Camp (Kamakasa Tepui):
Ken and Erin’s day off (Kamakasa Tepui):
Stuck at camp (river too high for crossing) and smoked pois:
High Tech Science (Kamakasa Tepui):
Ken collecting (Kamakasa Tepui):
Botanists Do It In Trees: climbing and collecting in Camp 2 (Kamakasa Tepui):
The Tree Will Survive, and Hymenophyllaceae:
Searching Desperately for Sunlight, Camp 5
Building a Bush Spoon:
People complain about tepui specimens being so ugly:
Between May-June 2012, the Smithsonian Institution and National Geographic funded an expedition to the never before summited Kamakusa Tepui (western Guyana, Mazaruni River Watershed). This expedition was co-led by Ken Wurdack and Erin Tripp and, prior to her emergency evacuation in week 2, Karen Redden. We were joined by PhD student Alex Radosavljevic and 8 amazingly dedicated and hard-working Arawak Amerinidans.
Also in the Guyana folder to the left you’ll find a few photos from the Kamakusa Expedition (for full set, see: www.flickr.com/photos/20420156@N06/sets/72157630272882948). Below these is a selection of videos from the expedition. Our intention here was to capture and provide some of the only video footage of life on a tepui – camp life, botanical life, expedition life…. some of these videos are educational whereas others clearly are not (do forgive some of those moments)!
With time, photos will be added from our previous tepui expeditions, including those to Mt. Ayanganna, Mt. Wokomung, and Maringma Tepui, in collaboration with David Clarke. For now, see full sets of photos as follows:
Wokomung Expedition (2003): www.flickr.com/photos/20420156@N06/sets/72157629096745490
Ayanganna Expedition (2001): www.flickr.com/photos/20420156@N06/sets/72157629461019981
Maringma Expedition (2004): www.flickr.com/photos/20420156@N06/sets/72157629461207419
2. Tripp, E.A. In Press. Field Guide to the Lichens of White Rocks Open Space. University Press of
Colorado, Boulder, Colorado.
1. Lendemer, J.C., R.C. Harris, and E.A. Tripp. 2013. Lichens and Lichenicolous Fungi of Great Smoky
Mountains National Park. Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden, New York
Botanical Garden Press: Bronx, New York, 260 p.
38. Tripp, E.A. and J.C. Lendemer. In Press. Candelariella clarkiae and Lecidea hoganii: two lichen
species new to science from White Rocks Open Space, City of Boulder, Colorado. The
37. Tripp, E.A. In Press. Lichen inventory of White Rocks Open Space (Boulder, Colorado).
Western North American Naturalist.
Erin A. T ripp ~ 4
36. Rabinowitz, O.* and E.A. Tripp. In Press. Observations on the phelloderm of aspens (Populus
tremuloides). Western North American Naturalist.
35. Tripp, E.A. and D.M. Koenemann**. In Press. Nomenclatural synopsis of the genus Sanchezia
34. Lendemer, J.C. and E.A. Tripp. 2015. Lecanora anakeestiicola (Lecanorales): an unusual new
fruticose species from Great Smoky Mountains National Park in eastern North
America. The Bryologist 118 1-10.
33. Tripp, E.A. and J.C. Lendemer. 2014. Sleepless nights: when you cannot find anything to use in
describing new taxa but molecules. TAXON 63: 969-971.
32. Tripp, E.A. and M. Fekadu**. 2014. Comparative leaf and stem anatomy in selected species of
Ruellieae (Acanthaceae) representative of all major lineages. Kew Bulletin 69: 9543 (8
31. Lendemer, J.C., E.A. Tripp, and J. Sheard. 2014. Review of Rinodina Ach. in the Great Smoky
Mountains highlights the significance of this “island of biodiversity” in North America.
The Bryologist 117: 259-281.
30. Lendemer, J.C. and E.A. Tripp. 2014. Discovery of Gyalideopsis mexicana in the United States.
North American Fungi 7: 1-4.
29. Tripp, E.A. and L.A. McDade. 2014. A rich fossil record yields calibrated phylogeny for
Acanthaceae (Lamiales) and evidence for marked biases in timing and directionality of
intercontinental disjunctions. Systematic Biology 63: 660-684.
28. Freyre, R. and E.A. Tripp 2014. Artificial hybridization between the U.S.A. native Ruellia
caroliniensis and the invasive Ruellia simplex (syn. R. brittoniana). HortScience 49: 991-
27. Tripp, E.A. and L.A. McDade. 2014. Time-calibrated phylogenies of hummingbirds and
hummingbird-pollinated plants reject hypothesis of diffuse co-evolution. Aliso 31: 89-
26. Callmander, M.W., E.A. Tripp, and P.B. Phillipson. 2014. A new name in Ruellia L. (Acanthaceae)
for Madagascar. Candollea 69: 81-83.
25. Harris, R.C., E.A. Tripp, and J.C. Lendemer. 2014. Arthopyrenia betulicola (Arthopyreniaceae,
Dothidiomycetes), an unusual new lichenized fungus from high elevations of the
southern Appalachian mountains. Aliso 31: 77-81.
24. Tripp, E.A. and K.E. Hoagland. 2013. Typifying an era in biology through synthesis of
biodiversity information. Taxon 62: 899-911.
23. Tripp, E.A. S. Fatimah*, I. Darbyshire, and L.A. McDade. 2013. Origin of African Physacanthus
(Acanthaceae) Via Wide Hybridization. PLoS ONE 8: e55677.
22. Tripp, E.A., T.F. Daniel, S. Fatimah*, and L.A. McDade. 2013. Phylogenetic relationships within
Ruellieae (Acanthaceae), and a revised classification. International Journal of Plant Sciences
21. Darbyshire, I., Tripp, E.A. and K.G. Dexter. 2012. A new species and a revised record in the
Namibian Barleria (Acanthaceae). Kew Bulletin 67: 759-766. (including an erratum,
published in early 2013).
20. Tripp, E.A. and K.G. Dexter. 2012. Taxonomic novelties in Namibian Ruellia (Acanthaceae).
Systematic Botany 37: 1023-1030.
19. Tripp, E.A. and L.A. McDade. 2012. New synonymies for Ruellia (Acanthaceae) of Costa Rica
and notes on other neotropical species. Brittonia 64: 305-317.
18. Tripp, E.A. and J.C. Lendemer. 2012. (3-4) Request for binding decisions on the descriptive
statements associated with Mortierella sigyensis (fungi: Mortierellaceae) and Piromyces
cryptodigmaticus (fungi: Neocallimastigaceae). Taxon 61:886-888.
Erin A. T ripp ~ 5
17. Tripp, E.A. and S. Fatimah*. 2012. Comparative anatomy, morphology, and molecular
phylogenetics of the African genus Satanocrater (Acanthaceae). American Journal of
Botany 99: 967-982.
16. Tripp, E.A. and J.C. Lendemer. 2012. Not too late for American biodiversity? New discoveries
give hope for mitigation of an extinction epidemic and call for increased inventory and
protection of biodiversity in our backyards. BioScience 62: 218-219.
15. Tripp, E.A. 2010. Taxonomic revision of Ruellia sect. Chiropterophila (Acanthaceae): a lineage of
rare and endemic species from Mexico. Systematic Botany 35: 629-661.
14. Tripp, E.A. and J.C. Lendemer. 2010. The genus Platygramme in North America. Castanea
13. Tripp, E.A., J.C. Lendemer, and R.C. Harris. 2010. Resolving the genus Graphina Müll. Arg. in
North America: new species, new combinations, and treatments for Acanthothecis,
Carbacanthographis, and Diorgyma. The Lichenologist 42: 55-71.
12. Tripp, E.A., T.F. Daniel, J.C. Lendemer, and L.A. McDade. 2009. New molecular and
morphological insights prompt transfer of Blechum to Ruellia (Acanthaceae). Taxon 58:
11. Schmidt-Lebuhn, A. and E.A. Tripp. 2009. Ruellia saccata (Acanthaceae), a new species from
Bolivia. Novon 19:515-519.
10. Stone, D.E., S.H. Oh, E.A. Tripp, L.E. Ríos, and P.S. Manos. 2009. Natural history, distribution,
phylogenetic relationships, and conservation of Central American black walnuts
(Juglans sect. Rhysocaryon). Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 136: 1-25.
9. Tripp, E.A. and P.S. Manos. 2008. Is floral specialization an evolutionary dead-end? Pollination
system evolution in Ruellia (Acanthaceae). Evolution 62: 1712-1737.
8. Tripp, E.A. 2007. Evolutionary relationships within the species-rich genus Ruellia (Acanthaceae).
Systematic Botany 32: 628-649.
7. McDade, L.A. and E.A. Tripp. 2007. Synopsis of Costa Rican Ruellia L. (Acanthaceae), with
descriptions of four new species. Brittonia 59: 199-216.
6. Lendemer, J.C., R.C. Harris, and E.A. Tripp. 2007. Heterodermia neglecta, a new lichen species
from eastern North America. Bryologist 110: 490-493.
5. McDade, L.A. and E.A. Tripp, with assistance from T.F. Daniel. 2007. Acanthaceae of La Selva
Biological Station, Costa Rica. In: La Flora Digital de La Selva. pdf available at
4. Tripp, E.A. and K.G. Dexter. 2006. Sabal minor (Arecaceae): A new northern record of palms in
eastern North America. Castanea 71: 170-175.
3. Tripp, E.A. 2006. Ruellieae (Acanthaceae). Version 10 Apr 2007. http://tolweb.org/Ruellieae/ in
The Tree of Life Web Project, http://tolweb.org (Web Publication).
2. Tripp, E.A. 2004. The current status of Ruellia (Acanthaceae) in Pennsylvania: two
endangered/threatened species. Bartonia 62: 55-62.
1. Tripp, E.A. 2002. Plant diversity and biogeography of the Upper Potaro Watershed in Guyana,
South America. Proc. of the National Conference for Undergraduate Research 2002.
Lichen biodiversity studies are in general at least 100 years, if not 200 years, behind that of plant and animal inventories. This is true even within 500 miles of the nation’s capital, in our country’s most visited national park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Prior to inventory efforts of GSMNP by Erin Tripp and colleague James Lendemer (New York Botanical Garden), the lichen biota was believed to be 90-99% known, consisting of ~460 species. Over the course of a half-decade of fieldwork there, we have doubled the number of known species, thus calling into question just how well known are our ‘best known’ biotas in the United States (Tripp & Lendemer 2012; Lendemer et al. 2013).
Tripp and Lendemer are continuing inventory efforts in GSMNP in order to fully document species ranges and ecologies as well as to produce a fully illustrated color field guide to the most lichenologically diverse national park in the United States (Tripp & Lendemer, forthcoming).
More recently, Tripp and colleagues have begun a lichen inventory of the Southern Rocky Mountains – a historically neglected but incredibly rich biota, and one with most intriguing biogeographical connections to numerous corners of the Earth.
A few selected publications resulting from recent lichen efforts:
Tripp, E.A. and J.C. Lendemer. 2012. Not too late for American biodiversity? New discoveries give hope for mitigation of an extinction epidemic and call for increased inventory and protection of biodiversity in our backyards. BioScience 62: 218-219.
Lendemer, J.C., R.C. Harris, and E.A. Tripp. 2013. Lichens and lichenicolous fungi of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden, 260 p.
Lendemer, J.C., E.A. Tripp, and J. Sheard. 2014. Review of Rinodina Ach. in the Great Smoky Mountains highlights the significance of this “island of biodiversity” in North America. The Bryologist 117: 259-281.
A couple of news articles:
PIs: Erin Tripp, Lucinda McDade
NSF Collaborative Research: Understanding Constraints on Floral Evolution: A Phylogenetic Approach to Comparative Anthocyanin Evolution in Ruellia (Acanthaceae)
Dates: March 2014 – March 2018
Small changes in a few genes involved in plant pigment synthesis, such as in blue, purple, or red anthocyanin pigments, can have dramatic effect on the evolution of lineages – both plants and their pollinators. New floral colors may attract different suites of pollinators, thus influencing lineage diversification and altering the evolutionary trajectories of life on Earth. This project combines new genomic technologies and traditional methods to investigate evolutionary trends in flower color evolution in a large lineage of tropical plants–Ruellia (Acanthaceae)–which has > 300 species in the Neotropics alone. Cutting edge genomic approaches will place the plant anthocyanin biochemical pathway in a comparative evolutionary context and facilitate understanding of how unorthodox floral color transitions, e.g., red-flowered ancestors giving rise to purple-flowered descendants, evolved. A near-complete phylogeny of New World Ruellia will be reconstructed using novel molecular markers (Ultra-Conserved Elements), which are being developed as part of this project. These markers will have substantial utility to related downstream research.
Flowers are among the most common means by which humanity connects to nature. Thus, floral biology has great potential to engage broad audiences in science. This research will shed light on the anthocyanin biochemical pathway, which contributes to numerous important plant functions (e.g., pollinator and fruit disperser attraction, UV sunscreen, herbivore defense), and have also been linked to human health benefits (e.g., anti-cancer, -viral, -inflammatory, -arteriosclerosis activity; treatments for hypertension, vision disorders). Anthocyanins are common constituents of human diets, being found in frequently consumed fruits and vegetables. This research project will add substantially to knowledge of the genetic basis of anthocyanin production and will thus have implications for human health research.
Prospective Postdocs: In 2014, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden will be hiring a postdoc to coordinate and lead 5 extended fieldtrips througout the Neotropics. Contact Lucinda McDade (email@example.com) with questions. In 2015, The University of Colorado will be hiring one postdoc to spearhead the floral transcriptomics aspects of this research. This postdoc should have extensive, prior training in managing and mining transcriptome data, in this case from a non-model organism and for genes (structural and regulatory) involved in the Anthocyanin Biosynthetic Pathway. Please feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org with further inquiries.
I was born in Israel, raised in New Jersey, and graduated with a B.A. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at The University of Colorado-Boulder in 2014. In the late fall of 2013, I joined the Tripp Lab to pursue a research question that Erin Tripp and I had discussed when I was a student in her Plant Systematics class. I wanted to find out what the powder found on aspen tree bark was made of. I asked Erin, who suggested the question was to her knowledge an unanswered one. I immediately signed up for independent study, and together we designed a study aimed at elucidating why aspen tree bark was powdery, and what the possible functions of this powder are.
We began our investigation with a literature review in November of 2013 followed immediately by fieldwork. Most people who have put their palms to an aspen tree are familiar with this curious powder in question. It tends to stick to your fingers and feels like a dusty chalk. Observations made by scientists who studied the aspen tree in the 1900’s recorded many helpful observations about the presence and color of the powder. Some non-scholarly sources claim that the powder is actually a wild yeast that can be used for homestyle fermentation, or as a natural sunblock. The most recently recorded observation was made by Univ. of Colorado Emeritus Professor and Botany Curator Dr. William Weber in his Colorado Flora: Eastern Slope, published in 2012. In that work, Dr. Weber speculated that the powder might be the developing thallus of a lichen.
Erin and I devised a working hypothesis that the white powder that characterizes aspen bark was actually aspen bark cells and that beta-carotene was the pigment responsible for the orange coloration of the powder. Beta-carotene is a carotenoid important to plant photosynthesis: not as an active contributor to the process but rather a molecule that helps transmit energy to chlorophyll while also playing a protective role for chlorophyll via its antioxidant properties. Starting in December of 2014, we collected samples from 11 aspen populations in Boulder County. Small squares of bark were cut, tagged, returned to the lab, then refrigerated. Once dry, thin cross-sections of samples were prepared via hand and then photographed under magnification for further study. Subsamples were then pulverized and extracts of bark pigment were made with acetone. These extracts were spotted onto Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC) plates to determine presence or absence of photosynthetic pigments and accessory pigments present in the bark powder.
Microscopy and cross-section analyses revealed that the bark layer of the aspen tree is divided into three layers (from inner to outer): the cork cambium, a layer of orange cells, and finally a layer of white cells. The cork cambium is immediately subtended by green, photosynthetic chlorenchyma, and our TLC trials confirmed that this tissue layer contains all photosynthetic pigments you would normally find in the leaves (e.g., beta-carotene, pheophytin, chlorophyll-a, chlorophyll-b, and xanthophyll). In contrast, the outer two layers (orange cambium and white bark) contained no photosynthetic compounds. As such, the orange pigmentation present in powdery aspen bark is not beta-carotene and remains unidentified. The orange layer is composed of heavily conglutinated cells that, as they age, become white and lose cohesion.
Our study demonstrated that aspen trees exhibit a unique method of bark cell shedding. The accumulated layer of bark cells on the surface of aspen trees do not stick together and do not form a solid mass of protective tissue. Rather, the aspen sheds mature bark cells in a powder so that sunlight can continue to penetrate the cork and cambium to reach the chlorenchyma. When powder is removed from aspen trees, the orange cambium is visible above the verdant chlorenchyma directly beneath. Younger cork cells tend to be orange in color whereas older cork cells are white and give aspens their ghostly appearance.
Many questions remain regarding the physiology of aspens and aspen bark. What is the orange pigment responsible for the orange hue? Is sunlight the primary factor that bleaches the orange bark cells? Does weathering and physical removal of white cork cells make aspen bark more prone to sun-scald? How do aspens prevent secondary infection without a thick bark layer? We think these questions can be answered by the next undergraduate to join the Tripp Lab!
Ginni is a native of Denver, Colorado and is an undergraduate student at CU Boulder studying Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. In the Tripp Lab, Ginni used UROP funds to conduct phylogenetic research on an impressive and apparently very rapid radiation of plants: the genus Petalidium (Acanthaceae). Species of Petalidium represent some of the most ecologically important plants in the ‘ultra-arid’ deserts of Namibia and adjacent southern Angola. She built datasets to answer the overarching question: How and why has Petalidium speciated to such a degree, in such a narrow corner of the Earth (biotically driven, abiotically driven, or some combination thereof)? She used fresh field collections of Petalidium in order to begin to reconstruct the evolutionary history of this fascinating radiation. Ginni also works (and has a lot of fun!) at the 30th Street Biology Greenhouses on campus. In her free time, she loves to garden, hike, bake, and spend quality time with her friends and family.
Michael is a native of Durham, North Carolina and an undergraduate student at CU Boulder. He is undecided in his major, but is interested in a biology route. In the Tripp Lab, he conducted phylogenetic research on the previously understudied genus Arthonia. With ~600 species, the genus Arthonia is one of the most diverse lineages of lichens on the planet. In North America, Arthonia is represented by ~150 species, making it the fourth most diverse genus in this region after Lecanora, Cladonia, and Caloplaca. What drives high diversification in this important biological radiation? Is it the fact that most species are sexually reproducing, or that they grow mostly on bark? Alternatively, is high diversification related to the rampant switching of modes of nutrition present in the genus (lichenized, parasymbiotic, parasitic, saprophytic)? The impressive ecological amplitude demonstrated by species of Arthonia demands an evolutionary context for understanding this radiation. Yet, at present, sequence data are available for less than 30 species (GenBank). The goal of this study is to build a phylogeny of North American members of Arthonia, to facilitate downstream comparative investigation. To accomplish this, he extracted DNA from fruiting bodies and then used PCR and sequencing to build molecular data. Once enough data are collected, a phylogeny will be reconstructed to study evolutionary features of this understudied genus. In his free time, Michael likes to play soccer, fly fish, ski, spend time with friends and family, and watch Duke Basketball!
Joseph, a Boulder native, is an undergraduate in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology with a flair for active pursuits and the arts. In the Tripp Lab, he is currently working on a project in collaboration with the COLO Herbarium (co-advised by Collections Manager Dina Clark) regarding phenotypic variation within the Amorpha nana species complex. This “species” has been treated as a single entity in western North America, but populations in southern Colorado are morphologically divergent from other populations elsewhere in Colorado. Joseph is using his MCDB skills to test whether these phenotypic differences are underlain by molecular differences or can instead be explained by environmental / other influences. Joseph’s academic interests include bio- and organic chemistries, genetics, and medicine, and he hopes to continue furthering his education in the life sciences after graduation. In his free time, he likes to hike, play/watch hockey, and discover tasty new micro brews.