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Cryptobiotic Soils and Lichens of Joshua Tree National Park

Categorized as: Nature & Outdoors, Science & Technology
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The desert floor may look like dirt and sand but it is full of living microscopic organisms vital to the park’s ecosystem. Many of these organisms live in biological highly active soil crusts that cover the first inch of the desert soil surface. In this field class Nicole Pietrasiak and Kerry Knudsen will introduce biological soil crusts with an emphasis on soil algae and lichens. Participants will study the secret life of these microscopic organisms as they demystify this thin layer of soil. Nicole and Kerry will discuss the components of crusts such as cyanobacteria (one of the oldest known life forms on earth), green algae, diatoms, bacteria, fungi, lichens, and mosses. The instructors also present on why these organisms are important. During the lab session, participants will see the biodiversity of the park’s crusts up close through two different types of microscopes. The second day, the class will go into the field to identify and assess the conditions of some of the algal and lichen soil crusts found in JTNP.

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