Welcome to the GLOBAL Bryophyte & Lichen TCN Project Website!

“Building a Global Consortium of Bryophytes and Lichens: Keystones of Cryptobiotic Communities,” also known as the GLOBAL Bryophyte & Lichen Thematic Collections Network (TCN), is a collaboration of 25 universities, museums, and gardens located across the United States and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). This project will integrate information about bryophytes and lichens, with each other and with their commensal organisms, on a worldwide scale. The GLOBAL herbaria will image and digitize almost 1.2 million bryophyte and lichen herbarium specimens while providing students with professional training in digitization and collections management. Imaging the physical specimens of these organisms and integrating data from comparative genomics, nucleotide sequence data, and other resources is unprecedented on this scale. Digitized data will be shared freely online, making these specimens available to researchers, teachers, students, and communities across the world.

Bryophytes and lichens are functionally related as the main hosts for cryptobiotic communities forming minute “forests” that provide a matrix of habitats for many microscopic organisms, including tardigrades, mites, rotifers, micro-mollusks, microalgae, microfungi, and prokaryotes. These communities have global relevance and perform essential functions on our planet, for example, the biological soil crusts that harbor these communities form a “living skin” covering approximately 12% of Earth’s terrestrial surface.

Photos By: Laura Briscoe2,6,11, Jessica Budke4,8,13,15, Frank Bungartz1,3,7,10,16, Patrick Sweeney5,12,17, Todd Wildhelm9,14

GLOBAL Progress *As of June 30, 2021

39,230 Specimens Imaged

39,749 Specimens Transcribed

78,773 Specimens Georeferenced

Photos By: Frank Bungartz1,3, Margaret Oliver2

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  • Happy Anniversary, GLOBAL!

    September 2021 marks one year since the start of our GLOBAL TCN project. This same month in 2020 saw a virtual kick-off, with a slow and staggered start under significant COVID-19 restrictions. Most collaborating institutions had limited to no access to their collections and many student workers were away from campus studying virtually. In spite of these challenges, the GLOBAL team made important headway toward our digitization goals during Year 1. Adapting to limited access, photography stations were set up at home, labels were transcribed remotely, and many, many Zoom meetings were held to stay connected across the country.

    In September 2020, only 5 collaborators were able to start work on the project, imaging 800 labels and 500 specimens (see dark blue bars below). As our teams improved their processes and access restrictions eased, we saw continuous gains in our efforts throughout Year 1. We now have 20 institutions actively digitizing and during our last reporting period over 25,000 labels and 29,000 specimens were imaged (see purple bars below)!

    Over 100 people have been involved in the GLOBAL TCN so far across the collaboration. More than 40 students gained skills in the proper care and handling of specimens, photography, image processing, accurate data entry and management, and geolocation. Several had the opportunity to actively participate in workflow development, outreach, and the training of other students and volunteers. Many valuable digitization resources and best practices were developed and are shared online with the wider collections community.

    Over 50,000 new bryophyte and lichen specimen records were uploaded to the Bryophyte and Lichen Portals in Year 1. These data will enhance research in many areas including biodiversity, community ecology, plant biology, systematics, and knowledge of rare and endangered species. As we move into Year 2, we plan to continue to learn, adapt, and work together to make even more of these amazing GLOBAL specimens accessible to users around the world.

  • Sharing GLOBAL at BL2021

    Today marks the start of the BL2021 Online Conference: Bryophytes, lichens, and northern ecosystems in a changing world, bringing together four major bryological, lichenological and botanical societies: the International Association of Bryologists (IAB), the American Bryological and Lichenological Society (ABLS), the Canadian Botanical Association (CBA-ABC) and the Société québécoise de bryologie (SQB). The conference runs from July 6-9 and seeks to address diverse topics including “climate change, genomics of model organisms, conservation, biogeography, ecology, genetics, phylogenetics and physiology together with newer areas like epigenomics, environmental DNA studies and cryptogamic polar biology.” An overview of the GLOBAL TCN project will be presented by Matt von Konrat on Wednesday, July 7 at 1:30 pm Eastern in Room 3. The abstract is included in the special issue of The Bryological Times: BT_152_special_issue.pdf (conferium.com).

  • Going GLOBAL

    In 2011, the North American Lichens and Bryophytes: Sensitive Indicators of Environmental Quality and Change (LBCC) TCN began work to digitize bryophyte and lichen specimens collected in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The project grew to include over 100 institutions and posted 5 million specimens on public data portals for Bryophytes (CNABH) and Lichens (CNALH). North America is only one small part of the picture, and bryophytes and lichens play important and interconnected roles in diverse ecosystems on every continent of the globe. Ten years later, the GLOBAL Bryophyte & Lichen TCN is building upon the LBCC foundation to add specimens from areas outside of North America, and to create a new interface connecting data from bryophytes, lichens, and their associated organisms in one place. It is the hope of this collaboration that the project will improve our understanding of these communities, develop and share new digitization resources and tools, and help to educate and inspire the next generation.