Laura Briscoe, Barbara Thiers, and collaborators
This project establishes a novel cryptobiotic consortium integrating information about bryophytes and lichens, and with their commensal organisms, including fungi, on a worldwide scale. Lichens and bryophytes form minute “forests” and provide the matrix that structures these communities. This project will image more than 1.18 million bryophyte and lichen herbarium specimens held in U.S. institutions, and digitize their associated metadata. Imaging the physical specimens of these organisms is unprecedented on this scale. These communities have global relevance and play an essential role on our planet (e.g., biological soil crusts that harbor these communities form a “living skin” covering approximately 12%). The consortium consists of ten core institutions, 11 sub-award partners, and four contributors that will make their data broadly accessible to the research community, K-12 education, and society at large. Recognizing the growing demand for linked data environments and cyber infrastructure, these data will be integrated and presented via a single user interface that will feature new tools (e.g., search and automatic linking of genetic resources). Using the bio-collaborative environment Symbiota, the project will provide a hub for integrating future cryptobiotic digital assets, including over six million pre-existing bryophyte and lichen records from contributors to the current portals and this project. All project data will be served to databasing aggregators including iDigBio, Global Biodiversity Information Facility, and Encyclopedia of Life.