Happy International Day of Biological Diversity! This is the 31st in our 50 Days of Chicago Nature. Read previous posts here.
It was on a volunteer work day a few years ago when Edward Warden realized he didn't know a thing about moss.
"Here I was doing work where at least basic knowledge of flora was kind of important," Edward says. "I figured I'd just do some googling around when I get home and find the answers I sought. Turns out it wasn't such a simple search."
The search engine failed to turn up a whole lot of resources that were current. It turns out it's much harder to find information on moss, than say birds or trees. So Edward, who serves as President of Chicago Ornithological Society and Conservation Stewardship Coordinator at Shedd Aquarium, started in on what he later called an "obsession" with bryology. To look up information about the moss of the Chicago region, he'd have to search for all sorts of publications and articles, and comb through papers dating all the way to 1878.
In December 2018, Edward concluded an almost two-year project by posting a checklist of 414 mosses documented in the 34-county Chicago Wilderness region. It ends up that some counties have a lot of mosses documented, like Cook County for instance. Rural Ford County has just two. As Edward wrote in 2018, "there is a lot to unpack in this thing." Moss make up a huge portion of the Kingdom Plantae.
"It can be really discouraging when you have no idea where to go [for research]," Edward says. "But it can also be really thrilling when you do make headway because you're likely unearthing information very few other people know about."
You can find Edward's checklist for the mosses of the Chicago region by clicking here.
One great way to identify most any living thing, including mosses, is to download the iNaturalist app.