Monday, October 31, 2011

Visiting Harvard

Last week I visited Harvard University and gave a talk on my research into the consortia of bacteria associated with lichens. I was invited by Anne Pringle and was really excited to see some of the great research going on in her lab. One highlight of the visit was a tour of the Farlow Herbarium with Don Pfister. It was interesting to discuss how the herbarium would implement procedures for the NSF-funded TCN North American Lichens and Bryophytes project, for which I am the coodinator at the New York Botanical Garden (NSF Awards - NYBG: EF-1115086; Harvard: EF-1114957). Soon we will be putting online YouTube videos detailing procedures and workflows for this project, which will hopefully help other institutions such as the Farlow Herbarium to get the project up and running quickly once they are ready to begin. I hope that this visit will represent the first step in establishing lasting collaborations with some of the biologists at Harvard!

- Brendan

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Lichen Conservation

I saw this story in the news and thought that it was interesting:
It talks about cutting down trees at a location in Wales in order to engineer a park so that it will remain an optimal location for lichen growth. I am very interested in lichen conservation, but I typically take the stance that we should just "leave it alone" (i.e., let the preserved places evolve naturally) rather than actively attempting to create, maintain, or otherwise engineer a suitable habitat for lichens. But perhaps in parts of the world where there are only a few small, fragmented pieces of land on which lichens can thrive, a different approach must be taken (so that the preserved places remain more or less static instead of evolving naturally into old-growth habitats).  It's not something that I would jump into without reservations, but perhaps this instance will be a good test case.  I still instinctively remain wary of anything that could set off a chain of interventions that may lead us where we never intended to go!  What are your thoughts?

- Brendan