A networking resource devoted to biological soil crusts and the researchers who study them. We will provide a means for international scientists to communicate, share their research, share important news and announcements, ask questions and find collaborators. We will also provide a space for informal writing on research, opinion, and ideas (now seeking posters!).

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Post-doc job announcement in Barger Lab, University of Colorado Boulder

Post-Doctoral Research Associate – University of Colorado Boulder – Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

A two-year post-doctoral research associate position will be available in Nichole Barger’s lab at the University of Colorado – Boulder. The successful candidate will work on a newly funded project to examine plant and soil responses to biological soil crust restoration. The post-doctoral research associate will oversee field research at Hill Air Force Base in the Great Basin and Jornada Experimental Range in the Chihuahuan Desert. This work will occur in close collaboration with an interdisciplinary team of scientists who specialize in soil microbiology (Ferran Garcia-Pichel, Arizona State University), soil ecology (Matthew Bowker, Northern Arizona University and Jayne Belnap USGS), ecosystem ecology (Sasha Reed, USG) and soil science (Mike Duniway, USGS).  We are seeking a highly motivated and energetic applicant with specialties in ecosystem ecology/biogeochemistry, plant ecology, or soil ecology. Expertise in aridland ecology is a plus.  The start date is flexible ranging from December 2014 through February 2015. If you are interested please send a brief letter of interest and a current CV to Nichole Barger at nichole.barger@colorado.edu.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Maestre Lab: Recently accepted articles from the lab

Recent biocrust work led by Raul Ochoa Hueso and Miguel Berdugo see below

Maestre Lab: Recently accepted articles from the lab: Three new papers from the lab have been accepted during the last weeks. They will be published online early during the next weeks/mont...

Friday, July 25, 2014

Biocrusts in El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico

It's that time again…photo dumps from trips taken months ago! Last Spring I joined my graduate student Jesse, and two collaborators from the National Park Service on a trip to El Malpais in New Mexico.  Jesse is working on establishing an array of monitoring plots for "unique plant communities" which are important reservoirs of biodiversity in the National Park System. 

El Malpais is a National Monument built around a series of lava flows. One cool thing about it is that the lava flows left islands of pre-existing soils. Because much of the lava is a'a, its is very difficult to traverse. The Monument resource manager, David Hayes told us there were 2 kinds of people who work at the Monument: 1. those who have hurt themselves on the lava, 2. those that will hurt themselves on the lava. This works for cows too, so the islands or "kipukas" have experienced much less disturbance historically. So in addition to selecting unique plant communities to sample, I was very intrigued to see what the biocrusts looked like in the kipukas. I had envisioned some kind of sandy soils with grasslands or woodlands. Instead, the soils were derived of older basalt, and sure enough there were plenty of biocrusts. There are a ton of places, especially in the Great Basin and Colombia Basin where basalt soils support biocrusts. But for some reason, despite much looking, I have never seen biocrusts on basalt soils on the Colorado Plateau…until El Malpais. From that moment on, I was hopelessly fascinated to see more soils. In addition to lava of different ages, there are sedimentary rocks which develop into very different soils with very different communities. Very cool place.

Maybe the coolest thing I learned was from Jesse. A Navajo story recounts the monster killing exploits of the hero twins. One of the monsters they killed was walking giant. The lava flows are the blood of walking giant. 

Appears to be a Leptogium, anyone able to ID from the picture?

Collema tenax and a Placidium species growing together as they often do.

Collema coccophorum; note the slightly reddish disks are apothecia.

A Psora species, probably globifera.

The lava flows are riddled with lava tubes. When lava is flowing the exterior may begin to harden, while the center is still liquid and able to drain out leaving tubes.

Inside a tube!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Biodiversity & Conservation: Special issue on biocrusts out now!

Hi! It's me your prodigal blogger. It's been a long hiatus…but here's some news for you:

Biodiversity & Conservation Volume 23, Issue 7 (June 2014) is a special issue entitled "Biological soil crusts in a changing world", edited by Fernando Maestre, Leopoldo Sancho & Burkhard Budel. This issue was based on the Biocrust 2013 conference in Madrid. It features 14 invited contributions from the conference, including one from me & collaborators which was one of the funnest writing assignments I've taken on. A few of the papers are open access too.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Position researching biocrusts

A PhD-level position is available at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas

30 janvier 2014

Biological Soil Crusts: The Role of Trampling, Climate Change and Nitrogen Deposition in Affecting Community Species Composition
A PhD-level position is available at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to study the species dynamics of biological soil crusts communities. The successful candidate will work on a collaborative project that will examine the natural dynamics in undisturbed communities, as well as how trampling (from both cattle and people), climate change (experimentally manipulations with heating lamps and watering treatments), drought (using rainout shelters), fire, and nitrogen deposition is or has affected the composition of biological soil crusts communities. These studies will occur on both the Colorado Plateau and in the Mojave Deserts. This position will: 1) sample current and past experiments to assess treatment effects and recovery from those treatments; 2) synthesize 15 years of data on the natural dynamics of biological soil crust communities in undisturbed areas of both the Colorado Plateau and the Mojave Deserts; 3) effectively use statistical analyses to assess effects, and 4) communicate results in presentations and peer-reviewed publications. This project offers an unparalleled opportunity to examine how species composition of biological soil crusts changes through time, as we have the longest existing data set in the world. This position will also revisit some sites and examine how treatments have affected biocrust cover and physiology, using a portable fluorometer. A background in laboratory and field methods in ecology, physiology, and/or biogeochemistry is preferred. This position will be working with Drs. Henry Sun (Desert Research Institute in Las Vegas, NV) and Jayne Belnap (USGS, Canyonlands Research Station in Moab, UT). Salary is $1800/month. Start date will be fall 2014 or spring 2015, depending on the application date. Position is expected to last 4 years. Interested individuals should submit a cover letter, curriculum vitae, and three references to Dr.
Henry Sun (henry.sun@dri.edu).

Saturday, February 15, 2014

I aim to rebuild the living skin of the Earth

Living on Earth: Using Bacteria to Heal the Desert

Follow the link to a recent radio interview I did. It's about erosion and dust issues in the western US, and the practice of biocrust restoration. I think the finished product came out good….many thanks to Living on Earth intern Clairissa Baker, for initiating the interview.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Attack of the clones!

Our Syntrichia culture collection is establishing (photo: Kyle Doherty). The older field collected Syntrichia ruralis stem is growing new green shoots, after only a couple weeks.