The Lecanomics Project
facilitating communication between citizen scientists and taxonomists
LECANOMICS - new ways to identify and delimit species of the genus Lecanora
Lichens are fascinating symbioses of fungi and algae with amazing properties. If necessary, they can survive for months without water. When dry, they tolerate cosmic radiation, years of freezing or a bath in acetone. At a closer view, many species are also beautiful. Nevertheless, only a few scientists and amateurs worldwide are interested in them. Consequently, there are still huge gaps in our knowledge. Especially in the case of inconspicuous crustose lichens, we do not even know how many species there are in many regions. Nowadays genetic methods can help to discover new species or to distinguish similar species from each other. Lecanomics is trying to share these new methods with amateurs and scientists around the world so that we can identify and distinguish lichen species more quickly.
What is it all about?
The project focuses on the widespread crustose lichen genus Lecanora with almost 1000 species worldwide. In the last 50 years alone, 250 new species have been added. In this project, we, a consortium of more than 20 specialists and laboratories, want to develop new molecular genetic markers in order to split the genus into more natural units and to study species delimitation together with amateurs and scientists who do not have these methods at their disposal.
Why do we need amateurs?
Amateurs and lichenologists without access to molecular genetic methods are often the first to collect interesting material and find new species. Their collections then often lie in (private) collections for decades before they are scientifically described. The project aims to tear down the wall between amateurs and molecular methods and provide access to these methods for everyone interested in lichen taxonomy. By connecting people and methods, the big problems with the genus Lecanora will be solved faster and more thoroughly than is currently the case.
Who can participate?
Anyone can register in the LECANOMICS portal and follow the progress of the project. Amateurs and lichen systematists or phylogeneticists with scientific interest in the genus Lecanora are paticularly encouraged to register.
Specialists indicate their special fields of interest with the registration. If you think you have collected a new or interesting, rare Lecanora species, you should upload images and data to the portal.
What happens then?
The specialists involved are notified by the portal if collections of interest to them have been reported. They can contact the collector via the portal and/or suggest samples for DNA sequencing. The collectors will then receive an invitation to send the material to one of the participating laboratories. As soon as the data is available, collectors and experts are notified and can freely dispose of the data. They can exchange data via the portal, share data with other cooperation partners or generate additional data. Interesting collections and results can be discussed in the forum or presented to the public. The LECANOMICS team can also use the data in larger summary publications. Anyone who has contributed to the work through collections, data or analyses will be asked to co-author such publications.