Sunday, June 4, 2023
Mitochondrial Health

Conservation, Comparative Genomics, and Species Delimitation of the Reindeer Lichens

The NYBG Graduate Studies Program trains Master’s and Ph.D. students in Plant Science in partnership with six affiliated universities. At the time of their thesis defense, Ph.D. students are required to present a public seminar to explain the context, methods, results, and significance of their dissertation research. The presentations are evaluated by the thesis defense committee, a combination of university professors, and NYBG scientists. Dissertation defense seminars offer great exposure to modern botanical research, and students employ a diversity of techniques during the five-year dissertation research project.

The genus Cladonia is one of the most diverse genera of lichenized fungi, with over 500 known species encompassing an array of morphologies and habits. These lichens form keystone species in many habitats and serve a variety of ecological roles. As in most lichens, phylogenetic study has been limited by the loci used, and adoption of next-generation sequence methods has been slow. Cladonia is also understudied in terms of conservation, with only a handful of species in the genus assessed with IUCN Red List guidelines. In this seminar, Ph.D. candidate Jordan Hoffman presents his dissertation research aimed at addressing gaps in the scientific understanding of this important lichen genus. The results of his work include assembling mitochondrial genomes and other molecular data for Cladonia; providing the first intraspecific comparison of lichen mitochondrial genomes and homing endonuclease genes; establishing molecular support for multiple distinct species including one new to science; and contributing to a steadily growing body of conservation assessments, of which lichens are desperately in need.


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