Janice Glime

Janice Glime

Janice Glime’s Bryological journey:

I began my bryological journey in Maryland in the eastern United States.  As an undergraduate I was disappointed that none of the professors of botany could answer my questions about bryophytes or help me identify them.  When I began my Master’s degree, I intended to tackle the flora at the Girl Scout camp where I served as nature counselor in the summer, but I soon became much more interested in the bryophytes than in the flowering plants and ferns.  I had always liked little things, revelling in miniature trains and doll houses and miniature Christmas villages.

But other factors soon became important as well.  I don’t like the pressure of competition and biochemistry was just coming into its own as a very competitive field, needing to be the first to describe some pathway.  That wasn’t for me.  As a Master’s candidate at West Virginia University, I made friends with another grad student who was working on aquatic insects.  I eagerly accepted her invitation to join her on her field trips because I had always loved streams.  I discovered a whole new world of insects that lived among the mosses in the stream and soon found out that at that time little was published about them.  After contacting a number of potential Ph. D. advisors, I found William Drew at Michigan State University who was willing to advise an interdisciplinary project.  And by then I knew I loved teaching college students.  My committee members represented bryology, aquatic entomology, plant ecology, limnology, invertebrate biology, and phycology. 

When I finished my degree, I began teaching college in New Hampshire, where rocky streams were ideal habitats for aquatic mosses, especially species of Fontinalis.  I experimented with these plants, looking for their limits of tolerance.  One of my friends asked why, if I liked Fontinalis so much, was I always trying to kill it? 

But my general skills in bryophyte taxonomy were poor.  I knew the eastern acid stream species, but not much else.  I tried, but I had only Conard’s How to Know the Mosses and Liverworts book, and Jennings book on mosses of Pennsylvania that relied heavily on sporophytes that I usually did not have.  I had no herbarium available to me, and I had never had a course on bryophyte taxonomy.  I never taught a course on bryophytes, and I was discouraged by my lack of ability to verify it when I did identify something.

After five years I moved to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and everything changed.  Howard Crum had just published the first edition of The Mosses of the Great Lakes Forest.  The department had a bryophyte herbarium, largely courtesy of Bill Steere, and Bob Linn was in the department as a Park Service Scientist and an interest in bryophytes. 

The very best boost to my career as a bryophyte ecologist came when Nancy Slack invited me to the first Andrews Foray.  I learned so many bryophytes on that trip and made good contacts that I finally felt I had the tools to become a real bryologist.  I could explore other habitats and not restrict myself to the limited species of acid streams.  Two of my favorite memories, ones that kept me going, were finding that it was okay to be wrong, especially in the field.  First, Bill Steere was arguing with another bryologist over the identity of a moss.  Then, Richard Zander was elaborating on how to recognize Barbula species.  I picked up one that he had pointed to, looked at it with my hand lens, and asked how can I tell it from Ceratodon?  He looked at it, threw it on the ground, and said it is Ceratodon.  I figured if the experts could make mistakes, it was okay for me to make some as well.  So, this time, with a few more forays under my belt, I finally considered myself a bryologist, teaching it and advising graduate students.  I am not a systematist.  I am a bryophyte ecologist.  And that often means I can’t ignore the scruffy little bits that don’t seem to fit the keys.

I love going to a variety of interesting habitats, joining other bryologists who share their experiences and interesting stories, and contributing to our knowledge of the many roles these organisms bring to the ecosystem.  I think the most valuable aspect of my bryological journey is that the bryologists have always been so helpful.  I never felt competition, only helpful comments.  There is no other career path I would even consider!