H: Hello and welcome to the Scishow talk show - that day on Scishow where we talk to interesting people about interesting stuff. Today our interesting person is Rebecca Durham, a botanist who studies plants, and also fungi, and also algae, and also...no?
H: Lichens. Well what is a lichen?
R: A lichen is a symbiosis between a fungi and an algae and/or cyanobacteria.
H: Ok. So - but - ok. I feel like I got close enough!
R: That was good.
H: So you are - right now your active area of study is biocrusts.
R: That's right.
H: Living soil matrix things...that I do not understand. And they look like they came from another planet, and they're like these tiny little forests that tiny fairies live in, and I think they're beautiful... Are these from around here?
R: They are. Yes. They're from just -
H: Oh wow I didn't even know we had such things!
R: Yeah! Biological soil crusts are really important all around the world in arid and semiarid environments. These are about, y'know, from 20 miles south of Missoula and y'know a lot of the grassland and sage steppe areas...the biological soil crust plays a really big component in the ecosystem.
R: So ours are a little - most people are only aware of biocrusts in the southwest like in Canyonlands and in that area, because of all the signage and things like that.
R: Here they are just as important. They're probably a little bit less fragile here than they are down there, because down there you can have just, just a thin layer of biocrust species and then like dirt and sand and it's like kind of humped up. And if you step on it, it shatters.
R: Now here are crusts - you know obviously - are - they've evolved with larger ungulates and things like that, that you know, the elk can walk on some of these crusts and they won't just, you know, fall apart.