Feedback from KLARF fellows

For a detailed evaluation of feedback from KLARF Fellows, see the KLARF review
Gloria Barboza

The visit of some of the most important European herbaria was an extraordinary and fundamental experience to my current research on the systematics of Solanaceae. It was also an invaluable opportunity to meet and establish connections with my colleagues from different countries working not only on Solanaceae but also on other families or topics of my interest. From an institutional point of view, I had the possibility to know that some of the herbaria visited are strongly interested in initiating exchange of herbarium specimens with the institution where I work. I refer particularly to the Herbarium of Stockholm, which has a large amount of available duplicates of Asplund collections, from Bolivia and Perú. Furthermore, they are working mostly on South American Asteraceae, one of the families that is being studied since years in our institution.

I strongly believe that the extraordinary opportunity given to the young Latin American researchers through this Programme is unique in the sense that allows them to examine the most important collections of early botanists kept at the different herbaria or modern collections of a particular area (e.g. from Ecuador at S or AAU, in my case), and to get valuable information from rare publications or antique books missing in Latin America of the specialised libraries of these institutions. Another aspect I consider relevant of this Programme is the possibility the young botanists have of meeting experienced researchers with whom helpful and valuable work discussions favour our studies. Last but not least: I must say some words about the excellent efficiency of the Programme with respect of the general organization, reception of the fellowship recipients, facilities provided in all aspect during the time visit in Europe. With the invaluable help and assistance of all the members of the staff of the Committee, the work is more efficient and productive.

Cecília Ezcurra

The fellowship allowed me to meet people working in similar thematics as myself and these contacts have been and shall be very useful for my work. I think the program has been an excellent idea as it allows botanists from Latin America to use the material and facilities of European herbaria, which are absolutely necessary for their work. I do hope it continues so that more Latin American taxonomists will be able to use it.

Iris Peralta

I would like to point out the significance of the Research Fellowships Programme. This programme provides a unique opportunity for Latin America botanist to interact and do research with recognized scientists in England. Another positive aspect of this programme, is the possibility to study the important historical and critical plant collections maintained in European Herbaria.

1. Scientific collaboration
This programme allowed me to interact and collaborate with Dr. Sandra Knapp at the British Natural History Museum of London. It was a great opportunity to learn about the systematics of the Solanaceae family with a recognized expertise. I also had the opportunity to do research about wild tomato species with Sarah Darwin and Stacey Smith at the British Natural History Museum. In London, I also worked with my former Professor David Spooner, from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. During this period, I helped Sue Zmarzty to organize the Portulacaceae family at KEW. I met Dr. Judy West from CSIRO, who is an expertise of this family, and we discussed about a future project to compare the family in South America and Australia.

2. Collections:
I had the opportunity to study important historical collections, specially the type specimens described by Linnaeus and other classical botanists like Dunal and De Candolle. Numerous specimens from 21 European and American Herbaria were stored at the British Natural History Museum. Most of these specimens have been identified and organized and included in a database for the monograph. Thanks to this Programme, I visited important European herbaria to study critical collections in Montpellier (MPU) and Paris (P) (France), Geneve (G, Switzerland), and Madrid (MA, Spain). I could analyze type specimens and solve several nomenclatural problems. In the Montpellier herbarium, I had the opportunity to study the inedited and beautiful drawings of Solanum species made by Node-Veran in the 19th century. In the archives of KEW Gardens, I also could analyze the original letters that John Gillies, who lived in Mendoza (Argentina) in the 19th century (1822-1830), wrote to William Hooker. Gillies described several new native species, and his letters will help us to reconstruct the early botanical history of Mendoza.

Graça Sajo

O programa permitiu a consolidação de um acordo de colaboração entre a seção de Micromorfologia do Jodrell e departamento onde trabalho no Brasil; dessa forma, alunos brasileiros poderão desenvolver estágios e parte de suas teses de doutorado aí em Kew. Considero o programa de extrema importâcia pois permite que pesquisadores latino-americanos ampliem seus conhecimentos e estabeleçam contatos com pesquisadores de outras partes do mundo.

Victoria Sosa

My visit to Kew was very important in my tranining in molecular techniques, which I am applying now at our Molecular Laboratory in the Instituto de Ecologia, A.C. I am writing new papers with the results of our lab, based on what I learned at Kew. I think that the programme is very important for Latin American taxonomists. Usually, funding agencies do not support this kind of training. Visits to herbaria or work in different laboratories (anatomical, molecular, phytochemical, etc.) are fundamental in systematic research. The largest plant collections are outside Latin American, therefore visits to large herbaria are very important.

Martin Timaná

One of the most positive impacts this fellowship has had for my work is the experience I obtained by working in World-class institutions such as R.B.G. Kew and the British Museum. Being a "classical" taxonomist with a strong interest in the historical and bibliographical aspects of plant systematics, I was particularly enlightened by the rich archives and libraries of these two institutions. During my visit I realized the tremendous importance of researching unpublished material such as correspondance and journal diaries as well as illustrations.

On a more practical side, my visit to these institutions speeded up tremendously the gathering of all relevant literature (original descriptions and 'historical' literature); I think it would have taken me several months to do it without the fellowship.

Thanks to this fellowship I was also able to study historical specimens that are not available for loan, such as those at the Florence herbarium and the Humboldt herbarium in Paris.

Through this fellowship I was able to contact (and personally meet) a network of researchers in Europe that have collaborated tremendously in my project by helping me obtain plant specimens from the most remote places on Earth.

I consider my visit to Europe as one of the main highlights and a turning point in my career, for I was able to learn new "things" beyond my expectations (by "things" I mean for example, researching archival documents). It also reinforced my desire of focusing my future career on the historical and bibliographical aspects of botany and natural history. I strongly believe the Programme should continue for it will have a deep impact on young Latin American botanists. I will always be grateful for the honor and the opportunity the Programme offered me.