|BOTANICAL ELECTRONIC NEWS|
|No. 202 September 12, firstname.lastname@example.org Victoria, B.C.|
Prof. Daniel Isaac Axelrod, paleobotanist in the University of California, Davis, a Research Associate of Berkeley Museum of Paleontology, and a founding member of the Southern Connection passed away on the 2nd of June 1998 of heart failure at the age of almost 88. He was born July 10, 1910, in New York, moved soon to Guam and then Hawaii, where he became familiar with tropical plants (and surfing on long, heavy redwood planks!). He then returned with his family to Oakland, California, where he joined the Boy Scouts and roamed the Oakland-Berkeley hills with his life-long friend, Cordell Durrell. Cord played a major role in Ax's life, first in school at Berkeley, then at UCLA, and finally by bringing him to UC Davis in 1967.
Axelrod was known for his extremely careful collection and documentation of fossil floras from throughout the western United States and his stimulating theoretical and synthetic papers on topics as diverse as angiosperm evolution, climate and evolution, dinosaur extinction, early Cambrian animal radiation, Quaternary mammal extinctions, plate tectonics and paleobotany, and many, many more. His work always involved careful comparisons to modern vegetation, which he studied in many parts of the world. Although he was not always right, he understood clearly how science and the method of multiple working hypotheses worked. He was excited to propose alternative hypotheses and knew from Darwin (who Ax said had it all right to begin with) that it was very valuable to do so and to reject those that failed. For example, in 1963, he had the guts to publish a paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research called "Fossil floras suggest stable, not drifting, continents". His timing was bad, in that the plate tectonic revolution was about to begin, but when it was apparent that his hypothesis was disproved, he quickly reanalysized his data and fully embraced the alternative idea that fossil floras suggest drifting, not stable, continents! He was a superb scientist!
He began publishing papers while a student at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1934. His publications were numerous and continued to the day he died, for he was working on several monographs on western North American floras that he collected or recollected in recent years. His work was supported largely by the Carnegie Institution and the National Science Foundation over most of his career. He collected tens of thousands of fossil plant specimens during this time, and recently donated them to the UC Museum of Paleontology, including a huge number of types. In recognition of his accomplishments in paleobotany, the Paleontological Society presented him with its highest honor, the Society's Medal, in 1990 (Journal of Paleontology, 65:520-523). It was only one of several honors he received throughout his career.
Axelrod received his B.A. at Berkeley (1933), and returned after working with the California Forest Service for 2 years to do a M.A. (1936) and Ph.D. (1938) on Tertiary floras under the guidance of Professor Ralph Chaney. He spent two years as a post-doc at the National Museum and the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C. He then joined the service and did photo interpretation for American operations in the Pacific. Axelrod began his academic career in the Geology Department at UCLA right after WW II, and moved to the Geology and Botany Departments at UC Davis in 1967. He served for a year as Chair of the Geology Department, and did a masterful job. But research was his calling and he relished it and teaching research-oriented courses in paleobotany. After his retirement in 1976, he continued his studies as if nothing had changed, going into his office/lab everyday to study and write. He always arrived about 5 in the morning and worked until 4 pm. I saw him a couple of months ago in Davis and he told me he had at least "4 major monographs" that he was working on. His most recent, but not his last, paper was published in January of this year. He never slowed down, for he considered his research "exciting and much fun!"
Once I was honored to co-teach ecology at Davis with Ax. Although he only gave a few lectures, the class broke into spontaneous applause each time he finished (the only times I ever saw that happen anywhere!). The same thing happened at professional meetings with his peers. He was through and through a paleobotanist (and botanist and geologist) extraordinaire.
Long confused with the well known Botrychium pinnatum St.John of northwestern North America, B. boreale Milde has been known in the past from Greenland and northern Eurasia, especially in Scandinavia. Much to the surprise, during our study of collections of moonworts we turned up two collections of this species in British Columbia. These are as follows:
This is an amazing discovery and range extension. Moonworts, in their elusive way, have a habit of turning up this way, as apparently sporadic populations, but often, once recognized, field workers find that a given moonwort is more common and widespread than previously believed. Remember the situation with Botrychium pallidum which is now being found over an enormous range. [Plants of B. pallidum resemble B. minganense, but they are diminutive and whitish. - AC]
The characters can be compared as follows:
We urge you to look through your collection for specimens of the true Botrychium boreale. In the field, watch for this species, especially in the north and southward in higher elevations. It is very commonly associated with B. lunaria and sometimes B. lanceolatum. There are many questions that we need to answer about this plant. For example, no one has ever counted its chromosomes. Is it diploid? Does it have any habitat peculiarities?
I don't know whether or not I had sent you the info on our new little book. It is by James N. Corbridge and W. A. Weber. A Rocky Mountain Lichen Primer. Univ. Press of Colorado, P.O.Box 849, Niwot CO 80544 (1-800-268-6044). 6x9, 56 p., 72 color photographs, ISBN 0-87081-490-7 [paper]. US$19.95 + $3.00 shipping for first copy, $1.00 for each additional.
This is not a book designed to create lichenologists, but it has been very much needed here for ordinary people, hikers, gardeners, boy scouts, etc. It illustrates 72 of the most easily recognized lichens. It's amazing to learn how many people wished for such a thing. Corbridge was our Chancellor of the University and I seduced him into lichenology.