Introducing a long term longitudinal survey of some bryophytes, lichens, and Lycopodium individuals

(Update 2021-01-15.)

Future updates will be made in separate blog posts. These will all link back here.

On 29th November 2020, I began and committed to a long term longitudinal survey of four botanical sites near my home, a survey of some bryophytes, lichens, and a few individuals of Lycopodium obscurum. The purpose is to record the life cycle of these patches and individuals at a relatively frequent rate, roughly a week apart, and to begin a compendium of observations which may serve for phenological study.

I welcome comments and questions from students, experts, and fellow bryophyte enthusiasts!

While mosses and lichens are not typically chosen as subjects for phenology, e.g., the National Phenology Network hasn’t any bryophytes or lichens among its index subjects, this is precisely why beginning such a project is attractive. Moreover, there is supporting literature, e.g.,

Gignac, L. Dennis. "Bryophytes as indicators of climate change." The bryologist 104, no. 3 (2001): 410-420.

Tuba, Zoltán, Nancy G. Slack, and Lloyd R. Stark, eds. Bryophyte ecology and climate change. Cambridge University Press, 2011.

The sites themselves are depicted on this map:

There are 5 subsites or patches at Site 1, 4 subsites at Site 2, 5 subsites at Site 3, and 4 subsites at Site 4. Sites 1, 3, and 4 are wet environs, with Site 3 actually being a running stream. Site 2 is a bank adjacent to a building. Three of the Sites are within the Hale Reservation. While the Sites are excellent and interesting, weather and programming at Hale may constrain sampling during certain seasons. Site 3 can flood. All Sites could be snow-covered. Hale Reservation serves as a children’s Summer camp from June-September and, so, imposes understandable restrictions on outsider visits. These are standard problems for field surveys.

I am working to obtain written permissions from Hale, but, before I do, I want to amass a corpus of data to establish commitment and minimal expertise.

I’m writing to Hale Reservation to share this information shortly.

Great thanks to Hale Reservation and to their Director of Operations, Tyler Simpson, for giving permission on 2021-01-15 to continue the field survey year ’round.

In general, bryophytes and lichens demand microscopic examination to permit keying to species level, so physical samples are required at the outset. However, thereafter, the means of survey is photographic, primarily through macrophotography using a Google Pixel 2 and the Manual Camera DSLR Pro software app, V1.11 (12) made by Lenses Inc. The maximum photo resolution on the Google Pixel 2 is 12.2 megapixels, 4032×3024. The video resolution is 3840×2160 (4K). I typically use it in Macro Focus mode.

I have three Bausch & Lomb Hastings Triplets, a 10X, a 14X, and a 20X. (I’ve had the 10X since my Botany course in 1973!) These are useful both in field work and at home.

I have learned that for field work, a bright light source is crucial, so carry a Fenix HM50R head-mountable lamp powered by a Li-On rechargeable battery.

I also use two microscopes:

  • Steindorff Shop Scope Portable Microscope, with 20X and 100X front magnifiers
  • Carson MP-250 MicroFlip, 100x – 250x LED and UV Lighted Pocket Microscope with Flip Down Slide Base

I also use two camera adapters for these:

I previously tried a Carson HookUpz 2.0 Smartphone Optics Adapter, but I wasn’t happy with the results it produced. It was difficult to keep the camera aligned with the boresight of the microscope.

The primary records are photographs of specimens kept in Google Photos Albums. Accompanying these is a spreadsheet chronicling visits to sites and recording specific photos of specimens and subjects, as well as timestamps and metadata describing the encounters. For example, snow cover doesn’t inhibit a survey visit, but is documented with a photograph of the area, and a timestamp recording the visit. There is also a “snow covered” attribute. There is also a “flooded” attribute.

Note that the spreadsheet is in the Apache OpenOffice ods format, not a Microsoft xlsx format.

Backing the photographs and spreadsheet up with notes and organization is a handwritten notebook, a hardcover medium (145 mm by 210 mm) Leuchtturm1917 lined notebook. Whereas it is my intent to place the spreadsheet and photographs as open as I can, I don’t know what I’m going to do with the notebook.

Indeed, eventually, I hope to be able to put the survey in a database form where it can be accessed by date, site, and genus of specimen, and all information and materials pertaining to these made public. Right now, the photographs are still in publicly accessible Google Photo Albums (see below) and the spreadsheet is separate.

Many of the genus and species classification slots are still empty. I’m determined to classify mosses to the species, and doing so can be difficult without microscopic examination, e.g., of alar cells. In addition, and in full transparency, I haven’t done moss classification since I took Botany in college, and, even then, mosses were not the primary subjects of interest. Accordingly, my classification productivity is low. Yet having proper classification is essential to the project.

Classifications are done, except that I failed to snag a sample of one of the mosses at Site 1, Sample B. Accordingly, I have designated the Sphagnum Sample B1 and updated the spreadsheet accordingly, and will designate the dominate moss this photo B2:

I have added another specimen on the same log as Site 1, sample A, yet to be classified. What was previously Site 1, sample A is now designated Site 1, sample A1 and the new specimen is Site 1, sample A2.

Site 4 now has a Site 4, sample E which is most probably Dicranum montanum (Pope, 2016, pp. 121, 126; Jenkins, 2020, p. 72):

The spreadsheet linked above is updated.

The last classification, a Sphagnum at Site 3, sample C I called Sphagnum papillosum based upon 100x examination of a leaf, and comparison with Professor Ralf Wagner’s atlas.

My photomicrograph of the leaf:

This is taken at 100X with the Steindorff, using a Google Pixel 2 through the lens.

My only concern is that the cells from this specimen seem too large compared with Prof Wagner’s. I need to recheck the calibration of my in field vernier.

The sizes are comparable to those recorded at Professor Wagner’s site.

CALIBRATION OF VERNIER ON STEINDORFF MICROSCOPE
Magnification One Major Tick One Minor Tick
20X slightly less than 0.5 mm (500 µm) slightly less than 0.05 mm (50µm)
100X 0.1 mm (100 µm) 0.01 mm (10µm)

This is taken at 100X with the Steindorff, using a Google Pixel 2 through the lens.

My primary references and keys are:

Pope, Ralph. Mosses, Liverworts, and Hornworts: A Field Guide to Common Bryophytes of the Northeast. Comstock Publishing Associates, a division of Cornell University Press, 2016.

Jenkins, Jerry. Mosses of the Northern Forest: A Photographic Guide. Comstock Publishing Associates, a division of Cornell University Press, 2020.

McMullin, Troy, and Frances Anderson. Common Lichens of Northeastern North America: A Field Guide. New York Botanical Press, 2014.

Marshall, Nina Lovering. Mosses and lichens: a popular guide to the identification and study of our commoner mosses and lichens, their uses, and methods of preserving. Vol. 14. Doubleday, Page, 1919.

Go Botany Native Plant Trust, specifically, Dendrolycopodium obscurum (L.) A. Haines.

Kokko, Hanna. Modelling for field biologists and other interesting people. Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Tuba, Zoltán, Nancy G. Slack, and Lloyd R. Stark, eds. Bryophyte ecology and climate change. Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Yodzis, Peter. Competition for space and the structure of ecological communities. Vol. 25. Springer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg New York, 1978.

In addition there are online guides at:

I’m trying my best to classify. But as the experts in these keys suggest, many of the categories of moss, particularly Sphagnum, are plastic, and variations among instances of a species make it sometimes difficult to distinguish. See in particular Ralph Pope’s comments in the introductory sections of his book.

The albums are organized by Site, and the metadata accompanying each photograph gives the date and time of capture, and the location. Also, in most instances, the location geographic coordinates and the compass heading of the photo capture are stamped on the image itself. Occasionally when GPS is not available, such locations are absent.

Here are the links to the Albums:

  1. Site 1
  2. Site 2
  3. Site 3
  4. Site 4

And here are the subsites or patches, depicted as photos:

Site 1


Site 1, subsite A, featuring specimens A1 and A2


Site 1, subsite B, featuring specimens B1 and B2


Site 1, subsite C


Site 1, subsite D


Site 1, subsite E

Site 2


Site 2, subsite A


Site 2, subsite B


Site 2, subsite C


Site 2, subsite D

Site 3


Site 3, subsite A


Site 3, subsite B


Site 3, subsite C


Site 3, subsite D


Site 3, subsite E

Site 4


Site 4, subsite A


Site 4,subsite B


Site 4, subsite C


Site 4, subsite D


Site 4, subsite E

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This entry was posted in Botany, bryophytes, climate change, climate disruption, global warming, Lycopodium, macrophotography, microphotography, National Phenology Network, phenology. Bookmark the permalink.

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