The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently granted me an award to study the lichen biodiversity of the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain (MACP) of North America. Here is a link to the official public abstract for the award:
[DEB-1145511; "Lichen biodiversity in the threatened Middle Atlantic Coastal Plain of North America: Improving classification, conservation, and communication;" PI: Brendan P. Hodkinson, Co-PI: James C. Lendemer, Co-PI: Richard C. Harris]
Although the focus of the project is a lichen diversity survey of the MACP, the project has many additional facets, including ecological hypothesis-testing (to obtain information relevant to pressing conservation issues), molecular phylogenetic work (to resolve species boundaries and place incertae sedis taxa), outreach (to grade-schoolers, undergraduates, graduate students, land managers, etc.), and the production of two major book-length taxonomic works. The taxonomic, floristic, and ecological research will be informed by the collections housed at the New York Botanical Garden's herbarium (NY; totaling ~1/4 of a million specimens) as well as 35,000 new specimens that we will collect from the study area as part of this project.
Here is the full text of the award abstract:
"Lichens are fungi with a unique lifestyle involving a semi-parasitic relationship with an alga and/or cyanobacterium. Although lichens are critical to maintaining healthy ecosystems on land, they remain chronically understudied. This project centers on a survey of lichen diversity in the environmentally threatened Middle Atlantic Coastal Plain of the United States and represents an efficient, comprehensive means of addressing a critical information gap for one of the least known and most environmentally sensitive organismal groups. The survey data will be used to resolve numerous problems related to conservation and ecology through a unique system that integrates newly written computer scripts and programs.
"The project will set conservation priorities in the region and will result in two book-length works on lichens. While preparing these treatments, the authors will depart from traditional approaches by using dynamic online resources to incorporate the insights of professionals and amateurs alike. The investigators will teach a series of courses, mentor a diverse cohort of high school and undergraduate students, and train a PhD student. Extensive interactions and collaborations with regional land managers and naturalists, including a three-day workshop led by the investigators, will ensure that this project has the maximum impact on conservation efforts."
As we make progress in the later stages of the project, we will update the NYBG Southeastern Coastal Plain Lichens website:
If you have any interest in Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain lichens, please let me know and we can stay in touch!