My Research Areas

My lichenological research interests revolve around the potential of using lichens as biomonitors of climate change, air quality, and habitat condition. The ecotone between the Mojave and Great Basin Desert and the Western North American alpine flora have been my primary research areas. I am currently working on an integration of lichen biology, ecology and social change, which I’m naming Contemplative Lichenology (more on that soon!).
To learn more about lichens, click here.
Great Basin Lichens. So colorful, so diverse. Most people think that lichens are only found in rainforests, and indeed many species are limited to wet habitats. But desert lichens - they colorfully thrive..

Great Basin Desert Lichens

As part of a grant funded by the Nevada Bureau of Land Management, headed by wildlife biologist Todd Trapp, I deisgned and led a 3 year inventory of lichens along the ecotone between the Great Basin Desert and Mojave – the largest inventory of lichens conducted in Nevada.
My partner, lichenologist Jason Hollinger, and myself conducted total inventories on all substrates (e.g. rock types, soil types, tree and shrub types) at 80+ sites along the Great Basin, Ecotone, and Mojave. (Wondering what an ecotone is? Check out the article I wrote for Firefly Gathering about Ecotones in the Southern Appalachians or the blog post I wrote for ecotones in the Great Basin here on Being Lichen). Our results include more than a dozen species that are new to science, the first described flora of arid-land halotrophic (salt loving) lichens: Playa Lichens, and continuing research throughout the Great Basin Desert.
Playa lichens: A novel flora (aka lichen community). Photo by Jason Hollinger.
A playa in central Nevada. Photo by Jason Hollinger.
Publications from this project:

Hollinger, J. and N. Noell. (2020) “New Reports of Great Basin Desert Lichens in California.” Bulletin of the California Lichen Society, 27:2.

N. Noell and J. Hollinger. (2019) ”The Lichen Flora of the Caliente Field Office Lincoln County, Nevada.” Report to the Nevada Bureau of Management, 144 pages.

Jason Hollinger inventorying the lichens on Kearsarge Pass, Seqyoia-Kings National Park.

Alpine Lichens

In the 1950s, lichenologist Henry .A. Imshaug (1925-2010) inventoried lichens at 91 alpine peaks across Western North America. But until Jason and I started to inventory these peaks in 2015, no one had gone back up to see if those alpine lichens have responded to climate change.

Our primary questions are: Have alpine species disappeared from some areas? Have others shifted ranges into new locations? Can we untangle the impacts of air pollution from climate change? Can lichens be used as effective bioindicators of climate change in alpine regions?

If you are looking to learn alpine lichens, Jason and I made a handy free Illustrated Guide to Alpine Lichens in the High Sierras, most alpine lichens have a circumpolar distribution, so even if you’re not in California, there’s a good chance there’s at least a little overlap

A lovely assemblage of alpine lichens -- over a dozen species here, can you point to them all?!
Imshaug's inventory sties from Imshaug, H. 1957, "Alpine lichens of western United States and adjacent Canada" in The Bryologist.
Collection site at Kearsarge Pass, High Sierras, California, USA
Publications from the project:

Carter, O., B. Kropp, N. Noell, J. Hollinger, G. Baker, A. Tuttle, L. St. Clair and S.D. Leavitt. (2019) “A preliminary checklist of the lichens in Great Basin National Park, Nevada, USA.” Evansia, 36:2.

N. Noell and J. Hollinger. (2019) “Following in the footsteps of Henry Imshaug: Preliminary notes on California alpine lichens.” Bulletin of the California Lichen Society, 26:1.

Noell, N. and J. Hollinger. (2015) “Alpine Lichens and Climate Change on Wheeler Peak.” The Midden: The Resource Management Newsletter of Great Basin National Park, 15:1.