Over 150 lichen species thrive here at UCSC, mainly due to a mild foggy climate and a diversity of ideal growing surfaces such as tree bark and old fenceposts. Often mistaken for mosses and other non-vascular plants, lichens are actually dual organisms made up of both a fungus and an alga living in a symbiotic relationship. The next time you walk past a tree on your way across campus, take the time to stop and look closely at the trunk. You may find that what you thought was bark was actually several species of lichen covering the entire surface of the tree! These complex and beautiful life forms can be found nearly everywhere on campus.

In the Spring of 2004, the Kenneth S. Norris Center for Natural History and the California Lichen Society teamed up to conduct a survey of UCSC campus lichens.  The lichen society volunteers collected over 150 different lichens in two days from a variety of locations around campus.  Specimens of most of the species are housed at the Norris Center.  Currently, the Norris Center is collaborating with Environmental Studies Professor Greg Gilbert and his undergraduate researchers to inventory and collect voucher specimens of lichens living in the Forest Ecology Research Plot located on upper campus.