Sunday, March 20, 2011

Even More Florida Lichens

Two years ago the Tuckerman Foray and Workshop was held in southern Florida. 'The Tuckerman,' as it's often called, was begun by Dick Harris, and is best summarized in his own words:

"This series of workshops, aimed at amateurs interested in lichens, was initiated because of a concern over the decline in organismal lichenology in North America. The workshops were begun as a way to pass along knowledge about lichens as living organisms and their systematics to a group of amateurs who could then keep the knowledge alive until academia once again becomes interested. The first workshop in 1994 had only about 10 participants. However, as the reputation of the workshops grew, and the original participants acted as teachers themselves, the workshops grew to 30-40 participants. The 19th workshop was held in 2010 in Georgia. For several of the workshops, major keys or other publications have been written and distributed to the participants. For the first several workshops I was the only mentor, but through the years the workshops have attracted other professionals who welcome the opportunity to interact, and learn (!), from enthusiastic amateurs. There are no registration fees for the workshops and all professionals pay their own expenses." (excerpted from Harris's own NSF biographical sketch)

In 2001, Dick won the first Peter Raven Award (American Society of Plant Taxonomists), for public outreach to nonscientists, for organizing the Tuckerman Workshops. In an age when morphological studies of organisms are out of fashion, it is important to keep these traditions alive. Once the initial pizazz of molecular studies wears off (perhaps it already has?), we will really only be able to break significant new ground in lichenology if we have an integrated approach that utilizes both the old and the new. I am very much with E.S. Luttrell when he says that:

"Little progress can be made if new techniques are used only to replace, rather than complement, the old" (E.S. Luttrell, 1989).

So the Tuckerman Foray keeps some of the old traditions and techniques alive in lichenology. At the particular one referenced in this post, we had a great time exploring Fakahatchee Strand near the Everglades and collecting an amazing diversity of lichens! Over a dozen new species are described as part of the final field trip publication (Lücking et al. 2011) and nearly 100 species are newly reported for North America. Be sure to check out the amazing supplementary photos!

I'm currently working on finishing up my dissertation on lichen-associated bacteria so I might not write for a while... the defense is April 1st!

- Brendan

This article has been featured on and!


Lücking, R., F. Seavey, R. S. Common, S. Q. Beeching, O. Breuss, W. R. Buck, L. Crane, M. Hodges, B. P. Hodkinson, E. Lay, J. C. Lendemer, R. T. McMullin, J. A. Mercado-Díaz, M. P. Nelsen, E. Rivas Plata, W. Safranek, W. B. Sanders, H. P. Schaefer Jr. and J. Seavey. 2011. The lichens of Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, Florida: Proceedings from the 18th Tuckerman Workshop. Bulletin of the Florida Museum of Natural History 49(4):127-186.
Supplementary photos:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Lichen Research in Science News

OK, so I guess this is old news, but maybe it'll be new to you!  The Lutzoni Lab was featured a couple of years back in Science News.  You can check out the article here:
If for nothing else, have a look at the great spread of photos by Stephen Sharnoff!

- Brendan

Friday, March 4, 2011

Usnea Launch Project

Certain lichens need a little help.  That's the philosophy behind the Usnea Launch Project out in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States.  Their motto is "A Better Future for Usnea longissima."  From what I can glean from the promotional film, the project entails taking fallen lichens, packing them up in little latex capsules with plenty of water, and launching them high into the trees using a giant 3-person catapult.

If you haven't gotten a chance to see it yet, have a look at the video.  It will show you some of the lengths that lichenologists go to for conservation! 

- Brendan