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Citizen scientists aid in discovering new species

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By Katie Smith Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation

HELENA – Citizen scientists working with Dr. Loren Bahls of the Montana Diatom Collection have discovered two new species.

Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation, a Bozeman-based nonprofit that facilitates partnerships between outdoor enthusiasts and researchers, paired several hikers traveling to high alpine lakes with Dr. Bahls’ quest to sample the single celled organisms throughout the Northwest.

Diatoms are responsible for 40 percent of carbon fixation and oxygen production worldwide, according to Bahls. While there are an estimated 200,000 species globally, only 24,000 have been identified. The Northwest is the least sampled area in the U.S.

“Samples collected by ASC volunteers from remote regions of the Northwest have a high probability of including new species, some of them endemic to a single pond or lake,” Bahls said.

The new species were discovered in samples collected by Ryan Davis and Beverly Boyton. Dr. Bahls honored their efforts by naming the species after them.

Davis’s diatom, Cavinula davisiae, was found in a lake near Mt. Rainier. Boynton found the diatom Stauroneis boyntoniae while hiking in the Wind River Range in Wyoming. For Davis, finding a new diatom was the icing on the cake.

“It gave me an excuse to visit new places, and made me feel useful and less selfish for wanting to get to far flung areas.”

Over the summer, ASC volunteers submitted 50 samples to Dr. Bahls. In addition to the new species, the samples included species not been previously documented in North America and helped provide a more complete understanding of diatoms in North American alpine environments.

Dr. Bahls’ article is approved for publication in an upcoming issue of Phytotaxa.

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