The Lichen Database Project

In May 2003 we began a 3 year project, financed by the NSF (Award No. DBI-0237401), to computerize the label data from our entire lichen collection and make it available and searchable on-line. Because of the geographic scope of the collection, which includes many remote, sub-antarctic islands, the Caribbean, western North America, and Michigan, the database will be extremely useful to researchers working on all aspects of the natural environment of these areas. The availability of the data on the Internet will serve as a form of data repatriation to the many countries, especially developing ones, from which the collections were made. It will also impact the ongoing biodiversity crisis that affects, in particular, many of the tropical and subtropical regions represented among the collections.

We used SPECIFY to enter the data and, after overcoming the initial problems involved with learning a new system and customizing the data entry form to suit our purposes, data entry proceeded rapidy. These include all data associated with the specimens (collector, collection date, locality, and habitat), along with any additional information added as annotations, (e.g. chemistry, spore dimensions, apothecial pigments). All name changes and additional species present on the specimen are also being recorded. Data are being entered mostly by student workers and are verified by MSU Herbarium staff. So far eight undergraduate students, two graduate students, and one additional full-time, temporary staff member have received training in herbarium procedures and gained experience with lichens as part of this project.

We can query the database by any field using any of the usual operators. We have already responded to requests for information on chemical content of a lichen species across its geographical range, and lichens collected from specific areas.

If you require any data from our database, or have any other questions concerning this project, please contact Alan Fryday

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