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ATM meets MET – Assembling a Taxonomic Monograph using Modern Electronic Tools

Taxonomic monographs provide baseline information for many questions related to environmental and human health issues, such as biodiversity assessment and conservation, as well as ecosystem services and bioprospecting to discover new drugs. Monographs are considered a "dusty" and outdated field of biological sciences, but with the advent of new tools such as DNA sequencing, electronic data dissemination, and social media, have entered a new era which allows for a much broader impact of such revisionary work. Monographs are now more important than ever, considering that a large number of species on earth remain to be discovered and are at the same time at the brink of extinction due to the continuous loss of natural habitats.

Research methods and techniques: REU participants will be working on a specific, small group of the lichen family Graphidaceae (about 10–20 species) to produce a monographic treatment for that group. By doing so, they will be trained and work with a broad array of basic and modern techniques required to assemble a monograph, including nomenclature and revision of type specimens, specimen curation, light microscopy and thin-layer chromatography for chemical analysis, producing and analyzing DNA sequence data, assemble phenotype datasets for automated generation of taxonomic keys and descriptions using DELTA and similar programs, imaging and image editing, and using web tools and social media (KE EMu, Symbiota, EOL, LifeDesks, DiscoverLife, Tree of Life, Zooniverse Microplants, FaceBook) to disseminate their data. The monograph will be published in an international journal with the REU student as lead author.

Advisors: Dr. Robert Lücking (Adjunct Curator and Collections Manager, Botany) and Dr. Thorsten Lumbsch (Curator, Botany and Associate Director, Integrative Research Center)