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About the project

Project number: LUAUS23118
Project title: The evolution, diversity and hybridization of Acarosporaceae in southwestern North America: an integrative study using classical taxonomy, phylogenetics, and genomics
?Provider: Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports
Programme: INTER-EXCELLENCE sub-programme INTER-ACTION
?Project coordinator: CZU
Project partners:  Brigham Young University (BYU)
Researcher: doc. RNDr. Jana Kocourková CSc.
Contact person: Michaela Kopřivová Stejskalová
Project schedule: 2023-2026
Budget: 11 039 000 CZK
Budget for CZU: 11 039 000 CZK

Desert lichens are already rare and almost entirely absent in the lowest elevations of North America. With the climate change, they are threatened with extinction. The goal is to collect as much diverse material as possible and to examine the biodiversity of Acarosporaceae in the southwestern part of North America, in southern California and Utah, and identify material from Nevada and the BYU herbarium. Our main goal is to clarify interspecific relationships of the Acarosporaceae family, describe new species and study evolutionary processes among selected representatives of the Acarospora strigata group in southwestern North America using classical taxonomy and the latest molecular methods. In the genetically highly variable A. strigata group, hybridization between species and/or introgression probably occurs. We will carry out a genomic study to elucidate evolutionary processes in a group with an American co-research team led by S. Leavitt (BYU, Utah). We will provide a comprehensive insight into the evolutionary processes affecting the diversity of this group and provide a reference genome of A. peltastica and test the hybridization process in approx. 100 samples of the A. strigata group. The co-research team will be in charge of whole-genome sequencing and will organize two workshops (2023 and 2024) on genomic data analysis and hybridization study approaches. We will publish the results in prestigious impact journals (11 IF and 1 Scopus publication). We will revise the keys to the genera and species of the family and the taxon descriptions for the correct identification of species in the deserts of southwestern North America for use by the scientific lichenological public. Type specimens will be sent to public herbaria PRM, BYU-C and SBBG to be accessible to researchers. We will present our results at conferences and the world lichenological congress IAL10, Trieste in Italy. As part of the grant, we plan to involve students at different levels of study.

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