Harrogate, Tennessee —Lincoln Memorial University (LMU)’s Cumberland Mountain Research Center (CMRC) hosted the 2016 Myxoblitz and Symposium in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park last month. The international summit attracted participants from five countries, representing 10 universities, to study, discuss and collect myxomycetes, also known as plasmodial slime molds.
LMU Associate Professor of Biology and CMRC Director Adam Rollins teamed with University of Arkansas Research Professor Steven Stephenson to organize the event, which was aimed at promoting the study of slime molds by bringing together a wide range of participants. Hailing from Brazil, Costa Rica, Honduras, Philippines and the United States, the group included university researchers, graduate students, citizen scientists, nature photographers, a nature illustrator, a high school teacher and two young children.
The three-day symposium opened with a day of presentations and round table discussions at the National Park Service’s Twin Creeks Science and Education Center. LMU Master of Science in Life Science Research student Iann Herrell delivered a presentation entitled, “Experimental evaluation of Badhamia melanospora along a precipitation gradient.” LMU-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine student Vancy Zora contributed to the project and was a co-author of the paper.
The following two days consisted of field study to collect, identify and photograph myxomycetes. The group collected from high elevation spruce-fir forests near Clingmans Dome and low elevation forested sites near Cades Cove. The field work resulted in several specimens and observations which contributed valuable information to the National Park’s All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory effort, which seeks to document every living organism that occurs in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
More than 900 species of slime mold occur all over the world and play an important role in ecosystems from lush forests to barren deserts. Drawing their common name from the organisms’ life cycle where they appear as gelatinous slime, slime molds are primarily bacterivores, preying on bacteria and other microorganisms, which in turn enriches the nutrients in soil. Both Rollins and Stephenson are leading researchers of myxomycetes and have discovered and cataloged new species.
Rollns and Stephenson are already planning for the second Myxoblitz and Symposium to be held in the summer of 2018. The CMRC is administrated by the LMU Department of Biology to provide research opportunities for students in the ecological sciences.
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CAPTION: Participants of the 2016 Myxoblitz and Symposium are pictured at a collection stop near Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.