The Duke University Herbarium houses samples of roughly half of the known mosses in North America. It total, it holds 800,000 specimens. Soon, they will all be available to explore online.
A collaboration between Duke and 24 other universities across the country has received a $3.6 million National Science Foundation grant to digitize and study nearly 1.2 million specimens of lichens and mosses housed in their collections.
The project will allow for deeper investigation of species that “have global relevance and perform essential functions on our planet,” according to the grant’s abstract. “The biological soil crusts that harbor these communities form a ‘living skin’ covering approximately 12% of Earth's terrestrial surface.”
By integrating data from all of the 25 partner institutions, the investigators hope to build an essential new resource for evolutionary and ecological studies.