From the Introduction:
The Mendenhall Glacier is truly an awe-inspiring sight: a wall of craggy blue
ice flanked by steep snow-clad peaks, with an iceberg-strewn lake at its feet.
Towering Sitka spruce and western hemlock march up the mountain sides, and
cottonwood, alder and willow thickets fringe the far shores of the lake. Closer to
the glacier, where the land is still raw and new, purple-blue lupines dot the flats
in the springtime, and showy magenta fireweed blossoms late in the summer.
Waterfalls thunder down the mountainsides. Bears, salmon, and beavers splash
in the streams and ponds. The occasional deer ambles by, and mountain goats
venture down the rocky slopes above the waterfall. Each spring Arctic terns fly
all the way from Antarctica to nest in the sandy flats in front of the glacier, then
make the long trek south with their offspring in the fall. Gulls nest in the cliffs to
the left of the glacier, and the sky is often filled with wheeling, screeching gulls
and terns. The life and landscape of the Mendenhall Glacier area exist at a grand
scale, and superlatives abound.
Now draw your eyes away from the vibrant landscape around you, and cast
them downward. Down past the dazzling glacier to the branches and trunks of
shrubby willows and alder. Down to the ground itself. A closer look at the tiny
organisms surrounding the glacier reveals a Lilliputian world all its own. This is
the magical world of the mushrooms, mosses, liverworts, and lichens.
In this book we’ll explore the rich and abundant world of lichens in the
Mendenhall Glacier area. We’ll help you understand what a lichen is (and isn’t),
what lichens look like, where they live, how they get nutrients, and how they reproduce.
We’ll also introduce you to some of the vital ecosystem roles lichens
play, how animals (including humans) use them, and how they provide nutrients
for pioneering plants. We’ll show you pictures of common lichens near the
glacier, and tell you where to look for them. Be prepared to peer at tree trunks
and amid tufts of plants and moss, and even get down on your hands and knees
to enter this beautiful and fascinating world.
Our sincere hope is that we inspire you to enjoy the world around you at its
many scales. Who knows? Maybe when you get back home you’ll take a hand
lens (a magnifying glass will work) and head for the hills, the beach, or even a