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No. 61 August 7, 1993
Address: aceska at cue.bc.ca Victoria, B.C.
BOTANICAL COMMUNITY MOURNS DEATH OF LEADING BOTANIST
From: Janine Adams
kama at mobot.mobot.org & biodiv-l at bdt.ftpt.br
ST. LOUIS - Dr. Alwyn Gentry, the world's leading expert on the
plants of Latin America, was killed August 3 in a plane crash in
Ecuador. Three other people, including American ornithologist
Ted Parker, were killed in the crash in the Pacific lowlands
coast of Ecuador. Three biologists survived the crash.
The scientific group was doing an aerial survey of the coastal
area of Ecuador, 350 miles southwest of Quito, when the crash
occurred. They were on a reconnaissance trip for Conservation
International's Rapid Assessment Program (RAP).
Gentry began working at the Missouri Botanical Garden in 1971.
He was revered for his botanical knowledge of South America and
was recognized as one of the world's leading field biologists.
He made more than 70,000 botanical collections during his
lifetime. His understanding of woody tropical plants, a subject
about which he had recently published a major volume, was unsur-
"We feel Al's loss very deeply," said Dr. Peter H. Raven, direc-
tor of the Missouri Botanical Garden. "He was undoubtedly one of
the most knowledgeable people in the world about the complex
flora of Latin America. With the passing of Al Gentry, the
botanical community, and indeed the world, has lost an invalu-
able resource. And the Garden has lost a valued, long-time staff
Gentry is survived by his wife, Rosa Ortiz de Gentry; a son,
Darrell Gentry; two daughters, Diane Gentry and Maria Liana
Gentry; two sisters and his mother.
CANADIAN MUSEUM OF NATURE LAYOFFS [see BEN # 59]
From: grapevine (various unofficial sources)
The Museum of Nature lay-offs have happened and they can be
described as an "intellectual massacre". Eight scientists will
lose their jobs: five zoologists and three botanists are going.
The botanists are Dr. Robert Ireland, one of Canada's few moss
experts; Dr. Erich Haber, who is an expert on Pyrola and rare
and endangered plants; and Dr. K.A. Pirozynski, a palaeobotanist
who has unique knowledge of fossil fungi. There is a rumour
about yet another layoff notice that could not be delivered to a
botanist who is on a field trip. Among the zoologists was Dr.
Francis R. Cook, editor of The Canadian Field-Naturalist.
We do not know the duties of the 10 technicians who are being
laid off, but since he says there is no museum in Canada that
has sufficient technical staff to maintain its biological col-
lections properly, the cuts must be serious.
Maintenance of the Museum of Nature collections and access to
them are also problems. They hold the Canadian moss collection,
for example, but will now not have anyone on staff with exper-
tise in that field. They have apparently suggested that the
Ottawa collections could be sent out to provincial museums, but
as we know that is impossible in British Columbia because the
Royal B.C. Museum is also short-staffed and uncertain about its
In many museums "the exhibition people have taken over" (Science
258, 16 Oct 1992 p. 396). The museum directors seem to want to
be in the entertainment business and have forgotten why museums
were established and have lasted 400 years.
BOTANY IN CANADA
"Botany is at a low ebb in Canada, at a lower ebb than in most
civilized or half civilized countries on the face of the earth."
George Lawson 1860
RE: HAYNES' LEASE ECOLOGICAL RESERVE FIRE [BEN # 60]
From: Jane Bock <BOCK_J at CUBLDR.Colorado.EDU>
One thing bothered me about the fire description you sent. My
colleague, Yan Linhart, and I are very concerned with two
aspects of restoration of vegetation.My concerns are that using
exotic plants, even if sterile, slows plant success- ion as a
natural process because the natives must find some way to re-
place the exotics. Linhart is always worried about revegetation
discouraging maintenance of the naturally occurring gene pool. I
was very impressed with your weed disposal efforts up there from
volunteers. What if a volunteer party were organized to collect
seeds from indigenous species that were on the land pre-burned
from the closest seed sources. This is very labor intensive, but
if done by volunteers, this helps. We are trying to get the
National Park Service here to stop revegetating lands from
central nursery stock. It is not sufficient to use the same
species in our opinion. The best job is using stock from nearby.
I have lots more to say about this topic if it interests you.