Growing Black Roots: The Black Botanical LegacySeeing Red: How Plants Influence Coloration in Birds


Wed., Aug. 11, 2021, 7:00 PM-8:30 PM



Since the 1950’s, many non-native honeysuckle species (Lonicera spp.) have spread throughout Northeast America and eastern Canada. Producing attractive berries, the seeds of honeysuckles are spread by birds and other wildlife giving them an advantage of early establishment and in some cases, allowing them to out–compete native plants.

This talk will describe how Rhodoxanthin, a xanthophyll pigment found in nonnative honeysuckle species, has been shown to produce deep reds and was pinned as the culprit of unusual plumage coloration found in Cedar Waxwings, Baltimore Orioles, Northern Flickers, and many other fruit loving birds. Ms. Fontaine will discuss the importance of dietary carotenoids in avian biology, and show how the presence of alien pigments introduced to the landscapes of Northeast America and eastern Canada present an interesting potential problem for bird conservation.

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Natasza Fontaine

Natasza Fontaine

Florida State University, Curator R.K. Godfrey Herbarium

Currently a biology graduate student at Florida State University, Ms. Fontaine’s research is focused on elucidating the symbiotic relationships between plants and birds, and how understanding patterns of plant diversity across the landscape combined with bioacoustics monitoring can inform the conservation and management of bird diversity. Her experiences working at the New York Botanical Garden which now translates into her work at the FSU herbarium, has ignited her passion for collections. In addition, she brings a diversity of other skills to her research program that speak directly to her interest of public engagement, as she holds a visual arts degree from Norfolk State University (B.A.), a communication degree in television production from the New York Institute of Technology (M.A.) and she participated in the inaugural Cultivo Field Artist Residency Art+Bio Collaborative in 2019, where she combined her herbarium and artistic skills in an exploration of New Mexico landscapes. These interdisciplinary skills in science and visual art communication are also combined in her work volunteering as a Shorebird Steward for Florida Audubon and as a board member of the Apalachee Audubon chapter.

About the Growing Black Roots: The Black Botanical Legacy Series

A groundbreaking FREE virtual lecture series highlighting Black Botanists who will inspire others to pursue a career in plants and highlight pathways to diversity and inclusion in botanical sciences.

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