Lichens 101 with Dr. Manuela Dal Forno, research botanist, BRIT

Lichens 101 

Wednesday, October 7 — 7 pm

Dr. Manuela Dal Forno, research botanist, Botanical Research Institute of Texas

Zoom link   

Our presenter for October is Manuela Dal Forno, aka Manu, a research botanist at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT). In this presentation, you will learn what lichens are and what they are not, how to identify them, where to look for them, and so much more.

Lichens are complex symbiotic systems formed by a main fungal partner (the mycobiont), a green algal and/or a cyanobacterial partner (the photobiont), along with a diverse community of microorganisms formed primarily of bacteria and fungi (the microbiome). Lichenization is a fungal lifestyle, based on nutritional strategy, which has evolved multiple times throughout the fungal tree of life. There are approximately 20,000 species of lichenized fungi recognized so far and many more yet to be discovered.

For a preview of her research, check out her website and this 3-minute video.

For more information on local lichens, check out this iNaturalist page and BRIT’s Lichen Study Guide for Oklahoma and Surrounding States.

Manuela Dal Forno is originally from Santa Cruz do Sul, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, where she also went to school for a B.S. in Biology. Later she did her masters in Botany in Curitiba, Paraná, Brazil working on the diversity of Graphidaceae (a family of crustose lichen-forming fungi in Ascomycota) in Restinga (a type of coastal vegetation) in Southern Brazil. She moved to the United Stated in 2009 to become a land management intern at the Audubon Center of the North Woods, Sandstone, MN. While there, she applied and was selected for a PhD at George Mason University to work with the systematics of the Dictyonema clade (a group of lichen-forming fungi in Basidiomycota). She completed her degree in 2015 and in 2016 was awarded a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship in Biology to work on the microbiome of lichen specimens.  Before joining BRIT in late 2019, Manu was a Peter Buck Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Botany Department at the National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution) working with whole genome sequencing of both symbionts of the lichen symbiosis Cora-Rhizonema.

Dal Forno’s work focuses on multiple aspects of the evolution, diversity, genome and microbiome of lichens. She has carried out fieldwork in Brazil (South, Southeast, Northeast); Colombia (Central Andes); Costa Rica; Ecuador (Continental and Galapagos Islands); Jamaica; Puerto Rico; United States; and Thailand.

Triple-pane photo of Manuela Dal Forno provided courtesy of Audubon Naturalist Society. Additional photo provided by Dal Forno. Photos of lichens at Southwest Nature Preserve’s Iron Ore Knob by Amy Martin.

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