A California researcher has named a new species of lichen after President Barack Obama. Kerry Knudsen from the University of California-Riverside (UCR) named the lichen Caloplaca obamae.
“I discovered the new species in 2007 while doing a survey for lichen diversity on Santa Rosa Island in California,” Knudsen told the university’s paper. “I named it Caloplaca obamae to show my appreciation for the president’s support of science and science education.”
The discovery of the new species was published in last months issue of Opuscula Philolichenum.
“I made the final collections of C. obamae during the suspenseful final weeks of President Obama’s campaign for the United States presidency, and this paper was written during the international jubilation over his election,” Knudsen continued. “Indeed, the final draft was completed on the very day of President Obama’s inauguration.”
Knudsen says that the new species nearly went extinct. Endemic to Santa Rosa Island, the second largest island off California’s coast, the species almost disappeared due to cattle ranching there. However, the removal of cattle due to a lawsuit by the National Parks Conservation Association in 1996 has allowed the lichen room to recover.
“A new lichen validates the value of the public support for preserving public lands as ecological sanctuaries,” Knudsen said. “C. obamae teaches us that possibly other species of lichens and plants unique to Santa Rosa Island may have disappeared, without ever being known to science, since sheep ranching began there in the 1850s.”
A retired construction worker, Knudsen is the lichen curator at the UCR Herbarium.
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