Rhododendron Research Network News
July 28, 2022

In this issue...

  • Research Foundation of the American Rhododendron Society 
    • Research Grants Awarded for 2022
  • Recent Publication Highlights
    • Of mutualism and migration - novel mycorrhizal interactions and range shits
    • Mechanisms of biodiversity - the uplifting of the Hengduan Mountains
  • R-RN Literature database, now on Zotero, too!
  • 'For the Love of Rhododendron' Podcast
    • New Episode - 'As soon as the sunrays hit'
      • Featuring Dr. Shweta Basnett
    • Season 2 Teaser

Research Grants Awarded for 2022

Rhododendron survey in northern Aceh, Sumatra: diversity, population, and habitats for conservation

Northern Sumatra is an area which rich with unique Vireya species, and this project by Prof. Wendy Mustaqim will provide critical information about the condition of natural populations and their native habitats, thereby opening up opportunities for ex-situ conservation. Researchers will conduct surveys as well as collecting seeds and DNA samples for several rare species, including R. retusum (pictured above). 

Wendy Achmmad Mustaqim, Faculty of Engineering, Universitas Samudra, is the author of two new species of Rhododendron from Sulawesi in 2022 and active in IUCN Red List conservation status assessments for Indonesian plants, as well as a contributor to Taxonomic Expert Network for Ericaceae - World Flora Online.

Biogeographic perspectives on life-history strategies and functional traits of Rhododendron species across elevational gradients of Malesia

In this project, Dr. Melissa Whitman will expand on her PhD dissertation work by adding cluster analysis to determine how the traits of tropical Rhododendron relate to habitat where the plants are found, as well as phylogenetic comparative analysis to account for relatedness between species. Outcomes of the project will include publication in a peer-reviewed open-source scientific journal, making the research freely accessible to researchers worldwide, along with digital archiving of the datasets, to promote future work and international collaboration on Vireya.

Dr. Melissa Whitman, Independent investigator, earned a PhD in biology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with an emphasis in ecology. Her research incorporates concepts from macroecology and ecological modeling to investigate mechanisms that shape global patterns of plant distributions, community assembly, and functional traits along environmental gradients.


Rhododendron loerzingii, R. bryophilum, R. dianthosmum, R. leucogigas, and R. wrigthianum var. cyclopense survey in Indonesia for conservation of the species and its habitats

This project led by Michael Mambrasar seeks to rediscover Vireya populations documented during the 1900’s in regions now face rapid rates of deforestation. Surveys and specimen collections, to be deposited at the Herbarium Bogoriense and Herbarium Wisconsin, will be used make recommendations to scientific community as well as to initiate conservation action in cooperation with local stakeholders in Indonesia.

Yasper Michael Mambrasar, MS Student, University of Wisconsin-Madison, is currently preparing a manuscript on The Rhododendron of Java and Rhododendron of Bali with a new subspecies, and has implemented more than seven research projects for Rhododendron Vireya including authorship of two new species from Indonesia, the rediscovery of Rhododendron jasminiflorum var. heuserii, and publication of two new species from Sulawesi.

Learn more about grants from the ARS Research Foundation>>

For the Love of Rhododendron
Episode 12: A soon as the sunrays hit

In this episode Juliana and Ryan meet Dr. Shweta Basnett, who shares stories from her PhD work on the pollination biology of Rhododendron in Sikkim Himalaya. We learn how she left her bed well-before dawn to trek up a mountainside and survey many different Rhododendron species and their pollinators, including sunbirds who start drinking the nectar as soon as the sunrays hit the ground, and how the difficult task of climbing a mountain day after day led to stunning views and a chance to expand from local to global Rhododendron studies as a Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Maryland. Thus, illustrating the words of author William Arthur Ward, “Opportunities are like sunrises, if you wait too long, you’ll miss them."

Listen to Episode 12>>

Season 2
Starts September 1st!

Here are just a few of the great stories we'll be bringing your way in Season 2:

The Exbury Rhododendron Legacy with Thomas Clarke - Head Gardener, Exbury Gardens

Native Rhododendrons of Armenia with Dr. Anna Asatryan - Senior Researcher, National Academy of Sciences of Armenia

Rhododendron microbiomes and disease resistance with Dr. Jean Burns (Associate Professor) and Yu Liu (PhD Candidate), Case Western Reserve University

Catch up on Season 1 >>
Suggest a topic for a future episode>>

Recent Publication Highlights

Of mutualism and migration: will interactions with novel ericoid
mycorrhizal communities help or hinder northward Rhododendron
range shifts? Mueller et al. 2022

"Our results suggest that seedling establishment of R. catawbiense in northern regions outside its native range could be facilitated by the presence of extant congeners like R. maximum and their associated soil microbiota. These findings have direct relevance to the potential for successful poleward migration or future assisted colonization efforts."

View Article Online >>

The uplift of the Hengduan Mountains contributed to the
speciation of three Rhododendron species Wang et al. 2022

"We found that there was high interspecific differentiation, low gene flow, and a high genetic drift among three Rhododendron species, suggesting that founder effects might play a key role in their differentiation. (These) three Rhododendron species diverged between 15.5 Mya and 3.13 Mya, which might be associated with the uplift of the Hengduan Mountains. "

View Article Online >>
Interested to see your publication featured in our Newsletter?
Send a link to the journal webpage or a PDF of your paper, along with a compelling photo and a one or two sentence summary of the major findings to

Research Resources

Our massive Rhododendron literature database is now available on Zotero, too!

For the past five years we have been building a database of Rhododendron scientific literature, hosted on Mendeley. To date, our database has grown to over 3200 references, including many that you won't find on the typical scientific search engines.

Recently Mendeley removed the option to host a Public Group, and as part of that process our R-RN Public Group was eliminated, and thereby eliminating the potential for new researchers to discover this resource. Our Mendeley Private Group is still active, which allows sharing of PDFs among Group members. You can request an invitation to join the Mendeley Private Group by clicking the link below.

In order to restore public access to our great literature database, we created a new Public Group on Zotero. The Zotero Public Group will be updated quarterly to contain all of the same references as the Mendeley Private Group. Anyone can join our Zotero Public Group, just search for us using the Group name (pictured above) from inside your Zotero web-interface, or click on the link below.

View Zotero Public Literature Database >>
Request Invitation to Mendeley Private Group with sharing of PDFs >>

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