Announcements from the October 2020 Chapter Meeting

Highlights from the October Chapter Meeting

The Announcements
View the full set of October announcements by clicking here. With so much going on, only announcement highlights were presented at the chapter meeting. More opportunities and contacts, websites, and other details are available here.

A COVID-19 reminder: NTMN requires face masks at in-person chapter activities    Our TPWD Chapter Advisor Sam Kieschnick explains it this way: When we wear the badge, we wear the mask.

Highlights of the meeting

Thanks to our many guests for participating. We hope everyone felt welcome at NTMN. A special thank you to the 45 (wow!) who took time to fill out the Take Home Message survey following the meeting. Your feedback is very helpful.

Lichens 101

We are grateful to Dr. Manuela dal Forno for an engaging presentation on lichenology. A Research Botanist at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, Manuela brings a wealth of experience to this topic, having conducted lichen research in eight countries. Her current work focuses on lichen systematics, microbiome evolution, and genomics.

She began with what makes up a lichen: the combination of a fungus and an alga, along with the complex lichen microbiome. Taken as the whole, these composite organisms comprise some 20,000 species.

The discussion covered a range of uses for lichens, from food chains to consumer products. Harvesting for these products, especially for decorative purposes, is a primary conservation concern. Among the beautiful images illustrating ecological roles, Manuela showed how lichens provide habitat, nest materials, and camouflage backgrounds. This last led into a fun series of Where’s Waldo? challenges.

Other lichen roles include rock weathering and serving as bioindicators. Over 1,000 compounds have been identified in lichens. Some serve as sunscreen, water control, and inhibitors to other species; yet many are not well understood.

She also contrasted the classic and modern concepts of lichens. The contemporary view brings more focus on the microbiome and the range of bacteria interacting with fungal and algal components to recycle nutrients, fix nitrogen, and provide resilience.

Another set of images that begs following up in the field showed how several species fluoresce, some in very bright colors. Apparently similar species can show major differences under ultraviolet light. Pick up a loupe, black light, and head outside!

To help us get started in the field, Manuela led us through brief identification guide to lichen groups, helping us distinguish the crusty (crustose), leafy (foliose), and branching (fruticose) types.

Key takeaways: Manuela stressed her reasons that learning more about lichens is important: being curious about biodiversity; increasing base knowledge and how that supports conservation; understanding the planet, its ecology and patterns; and applied research – possible solutions for treating diseases and helping agriculture.

For more information: Manueladalforno.com, provides access to much more about lichens, research, and publications. An interesting profile, “We Are All Lichens,” stresses interconnectedness at several levels.

Several participants  requested an email address for follow-up questions; it is mdalforno@brit.org

In case you missed the meeting or wish to revisit this presentation, the video recording will be posted soon.

Further reading: Ways of EnlichenmentAmong the many online resources to learn more about lichen, consider this one, if for no other reason than its stunning 11,000+ image lichen photo gallery.

How Lichens Explain and Re-explain the WorldPublished in The Atlantic, this not-so-technical review reinforces several points in this week’s meeting.

Thank you for your participation!

Take care,

Scott Hudson
President
North Texas Master Naturalist

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