Daniel Stanton (Plant-environment interactions)


This week’s featured scientist is a former board member with 5 years of experience with Market Science! Daniel Stanton is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior in the College of Biological Sciences. He studies plants and lichens in extreme environments, from the world’s driest desert to high mountains and Minnesota winters (we may be used to them, but they are quite extreme for most organisms). He focuses on how these organisms adapt to difficult conditions, and how those adaptations change the places where they grow. Moss and lichens are particular favorites, since they are some of the toughest multicellular organisms that we know, in some cases even able to survive in space.

Fun Facts:

Did you know…

  • The orange lichens on North Shore rocks have been shown to survive more than 18 months in space!
  • Some lichens glow under uv light. Fluorescence is not just pretty colors, its a way of dissipating harmful uv rays, just like sunscreen.
  • Mosses and lichens were the first stages in rebuilding our forests and prairies after the glaciers retreated, since they are some of the only plants capable of growing on bare rock.
  • Bacteria living in mosses help fertilize our northern forests.
  • Peat moss (Sphagnum) in bogs is one of the largest stores of carbon on the planet, more than any kind of tree. North of Red Lake/Miskwaagamiiwi-zaaga’igan, here in Minnesota, is the largest peat-land in the lower 48.


Studying moss and lichen is incredibly interesting, but can also seem confusing. Daniel Stanton gives a brief introduction to his research as well as moss and lichen biology in the videos below


We have several useful videos for you! Watch how you can observe lichens in your own communities. Then, test your skills by counting and identifying the different lichens on a tree and stick along with Dr. Stanton. Finally, check out the lichen key we have available and identify the lichens near your home. We also have some coloring sheets of different lichens for younger learners. You can find all of the activities and the full videos linked below!

Activities: https://z.umn.edu/Stanton_Activities

Video Activities:


Website: www.dstantonlab.com

Blog post of National Geographic funded work on desert lichens: https://chilelichenfogdesert.weebly.com/blog

Q&A response: