Lichen Yoga in the California Alpine: Yoking the creative and scientific parts of self

Lichen taxonomy is really exciting to some people. And I’ll be honest, I’m not one of them. I prefer the meta-stories — ones about how land and climate barriers have propelled speciation into many divergent paths, how species assemblages shift along different environmental gradients, and ways in which the lichen symbiosis can inform a more balanced way of living in the world.

A little story is being suggested here: check out the line of yellow lichens on the lower level of the boulders. This and the surrounding soil suggests that water collects here during spring snowmelt, and that the level of the standing water/ice is probably at the level of the line of black (Verrucaria sp.) and yellow (Rhizocarpon sp.) lichens. What a tiny, linear microhabitat to thrive in! A little niche most of us would probably never even consider if these lichens weren’t shining so brightly.

That being said, I often feel like there’s not much room for me in the sciences, apart the field. The well worn paths of most lichenologists are paths that focus strongly on taxonomy, much less on narrative.

This taxonomic focus is mainly out of necessity: the frontiers of the unknown-unknowns in lichenology are so vast, and understanding and furthering taxonomy is like carrying a torch into that vast darkness.

Common Alpine Lichens of the High Sierras – California

What are the common alpine lichens found in the High Sierras of California? This handy six page guide just might answer that question. Jason and I made it for naturalists, alpine enthusiasts, and citizen scientists, with the hope that it will be helpful in field identification of common alpine lichen species or species groups. Rarity is indicated, so if anyone observes any of these rare lichens on a summit in the High Sierras, we encourage you to take a photo, a GPS location with elevation, and email us.

The guide is gleaned from 924 records of lichens found at four locations: Mt. Whitney, Kearsarge Pass, Bishop Pass, and Mt. Dana. These sites are all siliceous, above 11,700ft, and restricted to the summit or pass. Continue reading “Common Alpine Lichens of the High Sierras – California”