Francesco Dal Grande
Mason E Hale Award for 2012 is given to Francesco Dal Grande for his thesis “Phylogeny\n and co-phylogeography of a photobiont-mediated guild in the lichen family Lobariaceae” which was accepted for the degree by the Universität Bern in June 2011. Although there have been several studies examining either the fungal or the photosynthetic partners in lichens using molecular biology at the population level, none have studied both at the same time. Francesco has done this, and in depth, for Lobaria pulmonaria and at a variety of geographical scales, from the continental to the local population.
Microsatellite data were obtained from an amazing 9000 or so specimens – and in 3.5 years. He found that Dictyochloriopsis reticulata was not confined to the species, and that it was clonal and dispersed vertically in populations through dual propagules. Sexual recombination in the fungus did occur, but rather rarely, and in Macaronesia, for example, different Lobaria species in a particular habitat were found to share the same algal genotype. A hot-spot for diversity in the lichen was identified using a centroid approach, new for lichenology; this was in southern Italy and the Balkan area which seem to have been a refugium for the species.
The following comments from the supporting letters and committee members indicate the high regard in which Francesco’s study is held: “This is among the most solid Ph.D. dissertations on lichen biology that I had the opportunity to read.” “The magnitude of the work accomplished here is phenomenal.” “This work sets a new standard on how to analyze molecular data to understand lichen ecological genetics.” “The discussion is sound, demonstrating high logical skills and profound knowledge of the literature.” “The work of Dal Grande may influence our way of thinking about lichens.” “Francesco’s research bespeaks an utmost adherence to the highest levels of quality and promises that this young scientist will continue in the tradition of leadership in excellence that has been the hallmark of past awardees.”
I thank my colleagues on the IAL Mason E Hale Award Committee 2010-12 (Richard Beckett, Martin Grube & Christian Printzen) for their assistance in reaching this conclusion, and wish Francesco all success in the post-doctoral position he started in November in Frankfurt-am-Main. I will personally look forward to his future elucidations of population biology in lichens, and only regret that personal circumstances preventing my being present on this occasion.
– Martin Grube