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!).

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Fort Hill site selection trip April 2013

We recently completed a recon trip to select study sites for our crust restoration studies. This one is Fort Hill Air Force Range, where we were hosted by Russ Lawrence and Aaron. Many thanks to our gracious hosts for a very successful trip. This is a beautiful cold desert area just to the west of the Great Salt Lake. Present were myself, Nichole Barger, Jayne Belnap, Mike Duniway, Ana Giraldo, and Anita Antoninka, who is away setting up experiments there as I write. I'd been to Salt Lake City a zillion times before, but due to the overcast sky this was the most beautiful plane landing. It was made all the more interesting since I was sitting next to two adult, male My Little Pony enthusiasts going to a Pony convention. I didn't know this phenomenon existed previously. They are called "bronies". Google it if you don't believe me. Oh yeah...the lake and snowcapped mountain combination was stunning. The base has that unique, lonely gray beauty that says "Great Basin!!!". It truly is the most underappreciated of North American deserts. The crusts did not disappoint either, we found lots of areas with fascinating crust flora, and all in all this seems to be a great place to work.

Due to low light and continuous hydration, these filamentous cyanobacteria have come to the soil surface. They will retreat when the soil drys or when the light increases.

This is what happens when I shout "Look happy, people!" to Ana (L) and Anita (R). Ana is about to collect some cyanobacteria to culture for her graduate project in the Garcia-Pichel lab. Anita is getting familiar with the place prior to installing hundreds of experimental plots.

Psora decipiens - what a show-off

Aspicilia rogeri - this species used to be considered A. fruticilosa, an Asian taxon, but the North American species turned out to be a new species which was named after Roger Rosentreter. It's a vagrant, just like Roger.

Catapyrenium??? I'm stumped by this. I first thought it was a Collema, but after I picked it up I'm convinced its a phycolichen with very little squamules. Maybe its Catapyrenium congestum?

On the ancient lake sediments, the biocrusts had polygonal cracks, and a Sharpei-skin surface structure.

Ditto, closer.

This is an invasive plant (bur buttercup) which loves to grow in the cracks between polygons whether or not there is crust present.

Russ chatting with Mike, Anita, and Ana.

Searching for a cheatgrass-free sandy soil. You can just make out that the salt flats in the far background are currently hosting a lake.


  1. Hi Matt, what you call Catapyrenium may be just Nostoc, can they be?

    1. Hugo! Ibisca lives!

      I see why you suggest Nostoc, I've seen pictures of the Nostoc "eggs" before. But I don't think so....just because this thing was not dark green & gelatinous, rather it was a dark brown and opaque. It was also alot tougher than I would expect of a cyano & polysaccharide blob.

      I'd say the "squamules" were about 0.5 - 1 mm diameter which was too big to be isidia of a Collema coccophorum.

      Guess I should have collected it...