Analyzing Lichen for Stable Nitrogen Isotope Ratios

Submitted by Brianna Palmer on June 18, 2013
Location: Wasatch Front


During my experience with iFellows, I have been at the University of Utah training with Dave Bowling to learn how to identify, grind and eventually analyze lichen for stable nitrogen isotope ratios. Larry St. Clair, from Brigham Young University, taught us how to identify various lichen in the Wasatch Front. Lichens are composite organisms made up of both fungi and photosynthetic organism, and can often be found on trees. They are also a good indicator of pollution in the atmosphere and are useful when analyzing the effect of the inversions on the ecosystem.


These little organisms have proved to be an interesting project and I learn something new every day. For instance, I learned that "normal'" people think a girl staring at a tree at Liberty Park through a hand lens is odd, and that sometimes it is better to say “the orange stuff” instead of Xanthomendoza Monatana. But everyone seems to “lichen” puns.


“You lichen what you see?”


I have also helped out with some water sampling at the Jordan River, pumped water out of wells in Red Butte Canyon and built some muscle setting up a weather tower near Red Butte Reservoir. I am also learning how to use Twitter like a scientist.


I look forward to more long days in the field, sampling lichen and gathering data for the iUTAH Symposium in July. 


Lichen on a tree
Lichen on a tree.
Brianna Palmer
iFellow Brianna Palmer

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