Field work is going great despite some early setbacks. But that’s how it goes…nothing really goes as planned when you are in the field, especially in a far away land.
Our local collaborators were ill when we got here. I was a little worried, but they are back on track and we are on the road. We have been in the field for a week surveying lichens in the Northeastern parts of South Africa. We finished our first round of surveying lichens on and off of serpentinite rocks in the Barberton region in the Mpumalanga Province and have just arrived in Burgersfort in Limpopo Province to survey lichens on sandstone and pyroxenite substrates.
We will be here for three days and then we go back to the Barberton region for more sampling on the serpentinites. After Feb. 15, we will be traveling in the Northern Cape Province, sampling on a range of non-serpentinite geologies.
So far we are all healthy and enjoying our work. Long days in the field and I think we are all a bit exhausted but work is moving along and we hope to be done with our sampling at the end of the month. Ian is doing great and having a wonderful time surveying lichens. I am amazed at how quickly he can identify them to genus/family. His skills are impressive!
Ian is having a great time working alongside Dr. Alan Fryday, our lichen expert from Michigan State University. We are collecting a lot of “unknowns” and it will take some time for us to figure out what they are—other experts and genetic work will help confirm their IDs (if they are known). We are hoping we will find some new species from these very under-explored regions and substrates in South Africa.
I am also very happy to have Nate Pope along with us. Nate was a former student of mine and is now pursuing his Ph.D. at the University of Texas in Austin. His expertise in field-ecological methods and statistical analyses are key during the sampling phase and the later analysis/writing phase. It has been fun working with current and former students doing what we all love to do!