Okay. So it doesn't work.
Well, actually, it did work. Vacuuming up lichen off the desert.
It just wasn't effective. Certainly not as effective as crawling around on your hands and knees and picking the stuff up by hand.
And it helps if you clear the clog of hair and Christmas tree needles out of the hose, first.
But even then, the little home shop-vacs just didn't have the suck. And most the lichen pieces were wider than the hose, so they just hung on and plugged the open end.
If you had little tiny pieces of lichen all over, too small to bother with by fingertips, the portable generator and shop vacs would have been the ticket. And the university-type people hadn't thought of my idea of a wire grate a couple inches above the bottom to catch the lichen and let the dirt and turds fall through.
But they settled on rakes and hand picking, like we had. Had almost two full garbage bags full when I left (yeah, I helped), which I guess is about 20 pounds.
They want another 80.
A fellow from our outfit happened to come along, bearing the state's lichen expert (a true lichenologist, and godfather to the children of this continent's number one lichenologist) in tow. Totally unplanned meeting. The experts had a great time sharing thoughts, questions and ideas, and I learned a few things.
As most have figured out, there's no reason to believe usnic acid is the source of elk fatality found in the lichen. The fungi that make up most of the lichen are full of all sorts of chemicals and acids, and no one knows which, or which combination, was at fault.
And, I learned, lichen can and do change the type and quantity of acids that they produce (it is basically their waste product) according to environmental conditions.
Like the amount of sunlight. Or moisture. Or ozone.
These guys are seeing lots and lots of research projects, and scientific publications. Just no dollars, yet.
Even more fascinating?
The rough areas of the lichen above? What I had assumed were just older parts of the "plant"?
They're areas infected by a parasite.
Yes, lichen have parasites.
And guess what sort of lifeform parasitizes lichen?
Yep, the rough areas are where a second "species" of lichen is invading and infecting the first. And this second form has its own chemicals, toxins, acids, etcetera, etcetera.
Our visiting state expert lichenologist was not here to check our lichen. He's more interested in our lichen's lichenous parasites, and thinks they may be what is different or unusual on this site this winter. So he was wandering around looking for rough spots on the lichen.
He also advised this species of lichen (X. chlorochroa) can be identified by the bright red colour change it exhibits when dipped in a particular mild, common acid (which I forget). And the species identity that I was guessing at has been positively confirmed by the continent's number one lichen expert.
Who happens to be the person who identified and named the species, so he should know. Heck, he identified and named the genus.
Our particular specimens of this species do not show the expected colour change when dipped in the mild acid.
Weird, huh? More research, I can tell.
In other news. We got off to a little bit of a late start on the morning's standardized lek route, and basically it failed. With the full moon, birds were leaving in large numbers just shortly after sunrise, so there were only handfuls left on the last three of the six leks.
Gotta run that route again.
On the positive note: the clouds were boiling over the Ferrises again, which was fun to watch.
And I did better on my shots of the setting moon.
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