Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Alice Algae and Freddy Fungi took a LICHEN to each other.
Lichens are unique organisms. Traditional definitions describe them as a close relationship of fungi (the mycobiont) living together with algae (the photobiont). The fungi protects the algae, and the algae uses photosynthesis to make food. Recent research, however, highlights that this symbiosis is far more complex than we thought. It turns out that there may be even more organisms involved, forming a micro-ecosystem in every lichen.
Even though lichens are biologically fascinating and ecologically important, they are regularly overlooked. People often associate lichens with lush fairy-tale forests of the Pacific Northwest, where these organisms are large, conspicuous and abundant. But even in hostile desert habitats of the Southwest, lichens are an extremely diverse and very common element of the landscape. In fact, the Greater Sonoran Desert Region supports more than a third of all lichen species found on the North American continent.
In this Speaker Series talk by lichen expert Dr. Frank Bungartz, learn all about what lichens are, what they look like and where they can be found, as well as the fundamental role they play in ecosystems. Dr. Bungartz will share his research on lichen diversity and function in the Sonoran regions, Galapagos, and Ecuador.
Doors open at 6:30pm.
Dr. Frank Bungartz is the Collections Manager of Lichens and Digital Data at the Lichen Herbarium of the Arizona State University Natural History Collections. His research focuses on biodiversity, evolution, ecology and conservation of lichenized fungi in the Sonoran Desert Region, Central America, and the Galapagos. He has been a contributor and editor to the Lichen Flora of the Greater Sonoran Desert Region and has published numerous treatments of lichens from the Galapagos, where he continues to work on a comprehensive inventory of the lichen biota of this archipelago. Dr. Bungartz always had a strong interest in how lichens affect rock surfaces that they grow on. With his graduate student Guillermo Ortiz, he has recently been using photogrammetry to create 3D models of lichen communities from high-resolution macro photos to better understand the dynamics of biodeterioration and biomineralization caused by these organisms.