Digitization TCN: Collaborative Research: Building a global consortium of bryophytes and lichens: keystones of cryptobiotic communities

Project: Research project

Project Details


Digitization TCN: Collaborative Research: Building a global consortium of bryophytes and lichens: keystones of cryptobiotic communities Digitization TCN: Collaborative Research: Building a global consortium of bryophytes and lichens: keystones of cryptobiotic communities Overview: We establish a novel cryptobiotic consortium integrating information about bryophytes and lichens with each other, 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. The global consortium of bryophytes and lichens: keystones of cryptobiotic communities (GLOBAL) TCN will image over 1.17 million herbarium bryophyte and lichen 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% of the planets terrestrial surface and peat bogs that store the equivalent of 67% percent of all the CO2 in the air. GLOBAL includes ten core institutions, 11 sub-award partners, and three contributors that will make their data broadly accessible to the research community, K-16 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, for interacting with these digital datasets; using the bio-collaborative environment Symbiota we provide a hub for integrating future cryptobiotic digital assets, including over five million pre-existing bryophyte and lichen records. All GLOBAL data will be served to databasing aggregators including iDigBio, Global Biodiversity Information Facility, and Encyclopedia of Life. Intellectual Merit: Lichens represent an iconic example of mutualistic interactions and bryophytes include three early diverging extant land plant lineages essential to testing hypotheses on the coevolution of land plants and the earth. Lichens and bryophytes are united by ecological and physiological criteria. GLOBE works towards the overarching objective of striving towards a next-generation of natural history collections, or extended specimens network, focusing on Cryptobiotic communities enabling generations of research on the complex and dynamic interactions among organisms, communities, and species. GLOBE will allow unprecedented synthesis of data and information beyond bryophytes and lichens, including fungi, algae and other organisms. These integrated data will be critical tools for a number of evolutionary and ecological studies, including novel insights into multi-species symbioses; lichen symbiosis in time and space identifying universal patterns associated with niche width; a deeper understanding of how biocrusts perform their myriad ecosystem function; interdisciplinary approaches to determine both the historical and contemporary drivers of variation in community assembly and function in rapidly changing ecosystems; bryophyte-associated N fixation; and bryophytes-microarthropod interactions. Deep learning approaches using repurposed digital images can also provide powerful new investigative tools. Broader Impacts: Professional training and funding will be provided for a large number of undergraduates, with a focus on leveraging local resources to promote under-represented students in STEM fields. The students will be trained in image capture and processing, digitization, databasing, and collections management, and will contribute to the GLOBE's education and public outreach components. We leverage the diversity and expertise of collaborating institutions with a multi-pronged approach to broader impact that spans from K-12 to participatory citizen science initiatives. These include diverse digital, interactive, and object-based learning outreach programs, online lesson plans, science youth groups, public educator workshops, and a series of videos - using Learning Glass - collapsing the perspectives of viewer and presenter into one shared perspective. In addition, PI and collaborating institutions will host WeDigBio and K-12 clubs hosting label transcription crowdsourcing events during the award period. The project also partners with Zooniverse, leaders in online citizen Science where we will develop an online platform for citizen scientists to make observations on character traits that can then enhance metadata that is not always on the scientific label data.
Effective start/end date9/15/208/31/23


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $344,384.00


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