Rhododendron Research Network

Newsletter - January 21, 2020
In this issue:

Publication Highlight

Rhododendron genome and chromosomal organization
The Rhododendron genome and chromosomal organization provide insight into shared whole genome duplications across the heath family (Ericaceae)
by Valerie L. Soza, Dale Lindsley, Adam Waalkes, Elizabeth Ramage, Rupali P. Patwardhan, Joshua N. Burton, Andrew Adey, Akash Kumar, Ruolan Qiu, Jay Shendure, and Benjamin Hall
Soza and colleagues have assembled the first chromosome-scale genome for Rhododendron using R. williamsianum. This genome assembly verified the 13 chromosomes previously observed in the genus and identified genes that occur along each chromosome. Using this information, they found evidence for two whole genome duplications (WGDs) within the Rhododendron genome. In some cases, a block of genes on one chromosome had up to 5 copies of this region on other chromosomes. Other publicly available genomes from close and distant relatives were used to estimate the timing of these WGDs. By comparing the R. williamsianum genome to other plant genomes, they found that these two WGDs are ancient, shared WGDs. The five copies of chromosomal segments identified in R. williamsianum corroborate that these WGDs likely resulted from a known tripling event that occurred approximately 120 mya and, more recently, from a known doubling event that occurred around 85 mya. Evidence of ancient WGDs in plants is increasingly being discovered and tied to the creation of new genes that were important for the evolution of major plant groups. Knowledge of the DNA sequence and genes and their chromosomal location will facilitate future studies of this horticulturally important and morphologically diverse genus.
Click HERE to read the full article.
Reproductive phenology of Himalayan Rhododendron
Reproductive Phenology of Himalayan Rhododendrons: Influence of abiotic, biotic factors and evolutionary history
by Shweta Basnett

Plant's phenology events are considered to be highly plastic due to their flexible response to environmental cues and have therefore gained importance in the context of climate change. However, a high variation in flowering time among species occupying similar environments indicates that phenological responses may be additionally mediated by pollination. For my doctoral thesis, I tested the role of abiotic, biotic factors and evolutionary history on the reproductive phenology traits of ten Rhododendron species in the Sikkim, Himalaya.

Budding, flowering, and initial fruiting, which occurred during the early favorable month of the year, exhibited a strong phylogenetic signal. In contrast, mature fruiting, and fruit dehiscence, which occurred during the months of harsh weather over the year were more associated with the abiotic factor. Lower elevation species with longer corolla length and higher nectar volume were visited more by birds and high elevation species with higher nectar concentration and shorter corolla length was associated with bumblebee and flies visits. Along the elevation, an increase in flowering segregation and pollinator's similarity was also observed. Overall, my study illustrates a complex interplay of abiotic, biotic and evolutionary history in determining the reproductive phenology of Rhododendrons along the elevation gradient.

Currently, I am looking out for a Postdoctoral position to further advance my interests in plant-pollinator interactions and phenology.

Click HERE to read the full article, or contact Dr. Basnett directly at mailto:shweta.basnett@atree.org?subject=Your%20article%20in%20the%20R-RN%20Newsletter

ARS 2020 - Abstract deadline extended to March 1, 2020
Present your Rhododendron Research 
at the American Rhododendron Society 75th Anniversary Convention
April 29 - May 3 2020, hosted by the Portland Oregon Chapter.

The R-RN is hosting a poster session, Saturday May 2nd from 2-5 pm.
Submit your poster abstract by March 1, 2020 to be included, space limited.

Other activities of interest to researchers will include: oral presentations in subject areas ranging from horticulture and conservation to genetics and evolution, field trips to local Rhododendron hot-spots, and R-RN working group to discuss collaborative grants and experiments, as well as a variety of opportunities to meet and collaborate with specialists from a across disciplines working in Rhododendron.

For more information about research-related activities at the ARS 2020 meeting, please contact Juliana Medeiros (jmedeiros@holdenfg.org).

Click HERE for poster abstract submission instructions.
Click HERE to view the Conference Webpage.

Research Resources

ARS Research Foundation proposals due March 1, 2020
The Research Committee of the Research Foundation of the American Rhododendron Society invites proposals, due March 1, 2020.

The Committee accepts proposals for both basic and applied studies, with particular interest in projects that comport value for Rhododendron growers, including but not limited to: genetics, physiology, ecology, conservation, breeding, propagation, and systematics.

Funding for research is provided by the ARS Research Foundation. Since 1976 over 150 awards have been made, representing a substantial contribution to the body of knowledge on Rhododendron

Click HERE to learn more about this funding program and access the submission forms. 

Also, please consider supporting our ongoing commitment to research:
Become an ARS member or Make a donation

Research Highlight

A Global Conservation Consortium for Rhododendron

Image: Rhododendron adenosum is extinct in the wild, but this Joseph Rock 1929 introduction is still growing at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, and now in the GCCR micropropagation pipeline.
Established in 2018, the Global Conservation Consortium for Rhododendron (GCCR) is one of the four Global Conservation Consortia established so far by BGCI. These consortia have specialist knowledge of particular genera that are technically challenging to conserve and manage.

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh along with 16 institutions from 13 countries formed the GCCR after an initial meeting in Oaks Springs in early 2018. The consortia currently includes botanic gardens with diverse Rhododendron collections in Europe, the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, along with botanical institutions in the centres of Rhododendron diversity in China, India, Nepal, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. We are working together to achieve the following objectives:
  • Establish and foster a network of experts
  • Identify and prioritise species of greatest conservation concern
  • Establish and manage coordinated ex situ collections of high conservation value
  • Undertake and facilitate applied research (e.g. conservation biology, population genetics, population structure, taxonomy)
  • Ensure that threatened species are conserved in situ
  • Build capacity to empower and mobilise in-country partners in diversity centers
  • Increase public awareness and engagement 

Click HERE to learn more about the micropropagation techniques being used in this project as described in Davidson, N. (2019). Micropropagation of Heritage Rhododendron Collections at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Sibbaldia: The Journal of Botanic Garden Horticulture, (17), 189-200.

For more information, please Contact Alan Elliott, Biodiversity Conservation Network Manager, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, aelliott@rbge.org.uk, Twitter: @alan_ellliott
Dr. Emily Gillespie appointed as R-RN representative
The R-RN Steering committee has appointed Dr. Emily Gillespie as the new representative for International Scientists.

This position is focused on building connections and improving communication within the Rhododendron research community, and Dr. Gillespie is excited to start connecting researchers across the globe. Her first efforts will be focused on expanding our contact list to include more researchers.

Dr. Gillespie is an Assistant Professor and Curator of the Friesner Herbarium at ​Butler University, where her lab group focuses on investigating evolutionary relationships among species within Ericaceae, especially Rhododendron. Dr. Gillespie uses molecular techniques and population genetics to interpret morphological traits and understand recent speciation events.

Click HERE to learn more about Dr. Gillespie's research.
Steering Committee approves 2020 Action Items
2020 promises to be a busy year for members of the Rhododendron Research Network, as we implement Action Items approved by the Steering Committee in the following key areas.

Research Resources: Building on efforts in 2019 to identify existing on-line research resources, we are taking the first steps toward developing an online tool for searching Rhododendron genomes and adding links to other on-line resources on the R-RN web site. In addition, we will work to identify potential funding sources for R-RN activities.

Conferences and networking: To address the challenges in connecting the global Rhododendron research community, we will embark on several projects aimed at facilitating communication, including: identifying new contacts for our mailing list and investigating ways to engage mailing list members, creating online chat capabilities and a blog page on the R-RN web site for members, increasing the visibility and engagement of the R-RN through Twitter, and organizing an R-RN poster session and working group discussions at the American Rhododendron Society 2020 Convention.

Integrating R-RN activities into the American Rhododendron Society (ARS): Our parent organization, ARS, brings together Rhododendron enthusiasts from all professions and walks of life, giving R-RN members a chance to share their research both with other Rhododendron scientists and a highly engaged public audience. In support of this, we invite R-RN network members to submit articles aimed at a public audience to the Journal of the American Rhododendron Society (to submit articles, contact Editor Glen Jamieson, arseditor@ars.org). 

Visit the R-RN Webpage to learn more about network governance.
Advance and inspire your research and collaborations on Rhododendron
Click Here to learn more about Rhododendron Research Network
Click Here to learn more about the American Rhododendron Society
Submit Your Newsletter Items

Submit your news items by June 15 to be included in the July edition.
Jobs, grants, publications, collaborative projects, or any news about Rhododendron research, to: Juliana Medeiros, jmedeiros@holdenfg.org

You are invited to share this newsletter via email or social media:

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The Holden Arboretum
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