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The Lichencosm: Small Fungi, Big Roles, Important Insights into Obligate Symbiosis

Friday, December 20, 2019

11 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Symbioses are interactions between organisms and these biotic interactions abound in the natural world. Likewise, diversity, in all its forms, relates in some way to such interactions. Despite this, interactions between organisms are difficult to fully characterize and study in nature. Lichens are obligate symbioses formed between fungi and organisms that photosynthesize. They are a candidate model system in which to study how interactions between organisms, and their environments, govern the abundance and distribution of life on Earth. Beyond such broad scale themes, lichens are remarkable and dynamic fungi whose presence is critical to healthy ecosystems. Yet, they are highly threatened and have been extirpated from vast areas of the United States, including New York City.

This presentation will focus on research carried out during the last four years that aims to elevate lichens from objects of beauty and curiosity, to microcosms that exemplify our changing world.

Support for the Humanities Institute provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation