Daniel Stanton's (EEB postdoctoral researcher) research on "The secret lives of lichen" has been featured in National Geographic's "Explorer Moment of the Week." Staton is also a National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration grantee.
"Our project aims to understand how organisms such as lichens can not only survive but diversify in the world's driest desert. Part of this involves identifying where different species grow, and what characteristics they share that might allow them to survive. For this we are characterizing the details of each location (sand, rock or soil; slope; microclimate) as well as the characteristc traits of each lichen species (choice of algal partner, shape, chemistry). Of course, this also means looking where lichens don't grow to determine what makes those places different. The empty patch of sand that Peter Nelson (University of Maine Fort Kent) is marking would be home to some spectacularly unique endemic lichens if it were just a bit further upslope, where the coastal fog brings regular moisture. Down here, however, only a few rugged species cling to the rocks that Reinaldo Vargas (Universidad Metropolitana de Ciencias de la Educación) is collecting off in the distance. It made for a quick site to study, but a tough climb back to our base at the top of the ridge, the steep loose sand in the photo is especially hard going." —Daniel Stanton