Public Workshops

Free Virtual Workshop for the public:

Wonders of a drylands moss: Syntrichia from genomes to ecosystems

***View recordings of workshop presentations here!***

Saturday, January 30, 2021, 1 pm – 5 pm, on Zoom

Brent D. Mishler, Kirsten Fisher, and Jenna Ekwealor, plus guest appearances by other members of the 3D Moss research group

This workshop will look at multiple levels of biological organization in the desiccation-tolerant moss genus Syntrichia, the subject of an integrated National Science Foundation grant (  Short presentations will be given on different aspects of our project, including genomics, population genetics, reproductive biology, physiology, systematics, and ecosystem function in the biotic soil crust.  These will be interspersed with hands-on activities and discussion, and will give participants an unusually holistic picture of biology and how seemingly different subdisciplines interact.  Literature and other materials for use in the workshop will be mailed to participants ahead of time.

Registration: The registration fees will be paid by the 3D Moss NSF grant, so there is no charge to participants (but registration is required).  Register here.


Past Workshops


Charismatic Microflora: The Ecology and Management of Biological Soil Crusts

February 20-23, 2020

Instructors: Matt Bowker (NAU), Tom Carlberg, Kirsten Fisher (CSULA), Brent Mishler (UCB), and Mandy Slate,

The workshop was held at the Desert Studies Center, Zzyzx, California, in the Mojave National Preserve. 
The workshop was led by crust experts Matt Bowker, Tom Carlberg, Kirsten Fisher, Brent Mishler, and Mandy Slate, and was funded by the NSF grant, with logistical coordination by the Jepson Herbarium (UC Berkeley). The workshop combined classroom lectures with hands-on activities at the microscope, and visits to the field. Basic questions addressed include: What is a biocrust? What are biocrusts composed of? How are biocrust organisms identified? Where are biocrusts found? How do the organisms in biocrusts manage to survive and reproduce in such a seemingly harsh environment? What role do biocrusts play in ecosystems? How can biocrusts be managed?
The diverse group of 32 participants included land managers, consultants, agency botanists, ecologists and amateur plant enthusiasts. Shared meals and evening discussions allowed a wide-ranging exchange of knowledge about both basic science and applications to conservation and restoration of soil biocrusts. Here are a few pictures of group activities and some of the many charismatic crust organisms seen.

Biocrust Workshop at the 15th Biennial Conference of Science & Management on the Colorado Plateau & Southwest Region

September, 2019

Instructors: Theresa Clark (UNLV), Cristina Rengifo (NAU),  Anita Antoninka (NAU), Matt Bowker (NAU)

Northern Arizona University (NAU) and University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) 3D Mossers led a full day education & outreach workshop at the 15th Biennial Conference of Science & Management on the Colorado Plateau & Southwest Region at NAU.

Check out the photo album for a taste of workshop activities! Theresa Clark of Llo Stark’s lab at UNLV led a biocrust organism microscope session. Cristina Rengifo of Matt Bowker’s lab at NAU demonstrated seed retention by mossy crusts with a hair dryer. Anita Antoninka, also of NAU, highlighted a learning activity about climate change that she developed with a 6th grade teacher. And finally, Matt Bowker gave a Biocrust 101 lecture and a module titled ‘Holding the Place in Place’ where he demonstrated how to make a low tech experiment on the role of biocrusts in erosion resistance using a Herrick’s soil aggregate stability kit. Many workshop participants were from the Sonoran McDowell preserve, a city funded nature reserve near Phoenix and all participated enthusiastically and seemed to enjoy the workshop!

The Living Skin of the Earth at Expanding Your Horizons Youth STEM Conference

March, 2019

Instructors: Jenna Ekwealor (UCB) and Ixchel Gonzalez (UCB)

Jenna & fellow Mishler Lab grad student Ixchel Gonzalez led a workshop at the Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) workshop. EYH is a STEM conference for middle-school girls in the Bay Area. They attend a full day conference complete with keynote speakers and hands-on science, technology, engineering, & mathematics workshops.

The workshop was called “The Living Skin of the Earth.” In it the girls learned about the importance of biocrust communities, learned to recognize major organisms in them, and experimented to test the soil aggregate stability of different biocrust samples. They tested the hypothesis that increasing functional group diversity in biocrust communities results in increasing soil aggregate stability.

Biological Soil Crusts of Joshua Tree National Park, CA

March 17-18, 2018

Instructors: Dr. Nicole Pietrasiak (NMSU), Theresa Clark (UNLV)

Fig 2a. Soil Crust

  • Participants studied the secret life of these microscopic organisms as they demystify this thin layer of soil.
  • We dissected and observed biocrust mosses, lichens, and algae under the microscope and saw their beauty firsthand!
  • Participants learned why these organisms are important to biodiversity and ecological function in arid lands!

No experience in biology was necessary!




Biocrust Ecology and Diversity Workshop, Argentina

August 23-25, 2017

Instructors: Dr. Nicole Pietrasiak (NMSU), Theresa Clark (UNLV), Dr. Paul Deley (UCR)

A 3-day workshop was held at the CONICET-IANIGLA (Instituto Argentino de Nivología, Glaciología, y Ciencias Ambientales) research institute in Mendoza, Argentina. Between 10 and 20 participants (students and faculty) attended lectures, two field-forays, and microscope activities focused on learning the roles & basic identification for common genera and species of semi-arid biocrust mosses, lichens, green algae, cyanobacteria, and microarthropods.

Introduction to Bryophytes, Berkeley

March 4-5, 2017

PI Mishler (UCB) co-instructed a basic bryophyte biology and systematics workshop, emphasizing the biology of poikilohydry and desiccation tolerance for 20 participants. Powerpoints and handouts provided.

Biocrust Ecology in Joshua Tree National Park, CA

March 18-19, 2017

Instructors: Dr. Nicole Pietrasiak (NMSU), Theresa Clark (UNLV), Dr. Kerry Knudsen (UCR Herbarium)

A fun-filled 2-day workshop on biocrust ecology and identification with lab and field sessions in the park for twelve participants ranging from ecology students to retired naturalists. A biocrust field guide (by Clark) and powerpoint (co-created by all instructors) were provided to participants.