A Decade of Success for the Macroalgae Portal–What’s Next?

With over 400 users, many members of the Phycological Society are likely familiar with the Macroalgae Portal (macroalgae.org), which has served as the central repository for the Macroalgal Herbarium Consortium since 2013. As one of the original Thematic Collections Networks (TCNs) funded by the US National Science Foundation (NSF Award #1304924 and others), the consortium set out to catalyze phycological research by digitizing major macroalgal collections in the United States. Key leaders in the portal’s inception included the University of New Hampshire (led by PI, Dr. Christopher Neefus) and collaborators from University of California, University of Michigan, University of North Carolina, University of Washington, and the New York Botanical Garden. Nearly ten years, 50+ collections, 290k views, 862k records later, the TCN’s legacy lives on through its contributions to the portal and phycological research.

While funding for this TCN ended in 2019, the Macroalgae Portal continues to play a critical role in expanding the known distribution of various algal species in time and space. Publications citing data from the portal have ranged from short descriptive works to broader, more synthetic ecological analyses disseminated in high impact journals. A selection of recent publications that cite specimens from the portal include:

  • Bringloe et al. (2022, Global Change Biology) and Bringloe, Verbruggen, & Saunders (2020, PNAS) used occurrences of Laminaria solidungula and Odonthalia dentata from the portal in their assessment of Arctic marine forests in the context of global climate change (view the dataset on macroalgae.org).
  • Schneider, Peterson, & Saunders (2020, Phycologia) assessed historic collections of Solieriaceae from Bermuda documented in the portal to enhance the the description of a new species of red algae, Tepoztequiella muriamans (see paratype MICH 641029, UM Herbarium Data Group, IPT Admin L, 2022).
  • Assis et al. (2020a, Scientific Data) compiled and normalized over 2 million occurrence records of brown algae and seagrasses, including a large number of records from the Macroalgae Portal (see Assis et al., 2020b for the complete dataset).
  • O’Brien, Neefus, & Dijkstra (2019, 2022) used the maximum entropy (“MaxEnt”) method to model the potential spread of invasive algal species using historical occurrence records from the portal.
  • Karol & Sleith (2017, Journal of Phycology) located the oldest vouchered observation of Nitellopsis obtusa, an invasive green alga collected from the St. Lawrence Seaway near Montréal that is now widespread in the Great Lakes region (see NY 02318193, Ramirez et al., 2022).
  • Melton, García-Soto, & López-Bautista (2016, Algas) extended the distribution of the tropical-subtropical species of green algae to the Caribbean with a new record of Ulva ohnoi, now vouchered in the University of Alabama’s herbarium (see UNA00072658).

Financial support for the Macroalgae Portal concluded with the TCN. Yet, the portal lives on, and in April 2022, it was transferred to servers at Arizona State University (ASU) for co-administration between the University of New Hampshire and iDigBio’s Symbiota Support Hub. This transfer enables the Support Hub, based at ASU, to better assist the portal community with technical requests and increases their capacity to contribute to future portal developments. As numerous collections documented in the portal form the foundation for many phycological studies, this move to sustain the portal was crucial, and clearly aligns with the Phycological Society’s mission “to promote the advancement of Phycology and to foster phycological research”.

Because the Macroalgae Portal’s research and teaching potential will only increase as collections are added and existing records are refined, the Symbiota Support Hub has chosen to work with this community during an upcoming Portal Advancement Campaign. This month-long webinar series is designed to increase the accessibility of the portal’s collections by refreshing existing datasets, adding new collections, and empowering the community to sustain its digitization activities. If you manage an algal collection, please consider participating in the campaign this August (register here). Campaign documentation will also be shared on the Support Hub’s website for asynchronous viewing. If you are aware of collections that have yet to join the portal, but could be added–regardless of their digitization status–please let us know. The Support Hub is eager to engage with the macroalgae community through the portal campaign and beyond.

Visit the Macroalgae Portal: https://macroalgae.org/portal/ 

Learn more about Symbiota Portal Campaigns: https://symbiota.org/portal-advancement-campaigns/ 

Works Cited

Assis, J., Fragkopoulou, E., Frade, D., Neiva, J., Oliveira, A., Abecasis, D., Faugeron, S., & Serrão, E. A. (2020a). A fine-tuned global distribution dataset of marine forests. Scientific Data, 7(1), 119. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41597-020-0459-x

Assis, J., Fragkopoulou, E., Frade, D., Neiva, J., Oliveira, A., Abecasis, D., Faugeron, S., & A. Serrão, E. (2020b). A fine-tuned global distribution dataset of marine forests (Version1). figshare. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.7854767.v1

Bringloe, T. T., Wilkinson, D. P., Goldsmit, J., Savoie, A. M., Filbee-Dexter, K., Macgregor, K. A., Howland, K. L., McKindsey, C. W., & Verbruggen, H. (2022). Arctic marine forest distribution models showcase potentially severe habitat losses for cryophilic species under climate change. Global Change Biology, 28(11), 3711–3727. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.16142

Bringloe, T. T., Verbruggen, H., & Saunders, G. W. (2020). Unique biodiversity in Arctic marine forests is shaped by diverse recolonization pathways and far northern glacial refugia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(36), 22590–22596. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2002753117

Karol, K. G., & Sleith, R. S. (2017). Discovery of the oldest record of Nitellopsis obtusa (Charophyceae, Charophyta) in North America. Journal of Phycology, 53(5), 1106–1108. https://doi.org/10.1111/jpy.12557

Melton, J. T., García-Soto, G. C., & López-Bautista, J. M. (2016). A new record of the bloom-forming green algal species Ulva ohnoi (Ulvales, Chlorophyta) in the Caribbean Sea. Algas, 51, 62–64.

Melton, J. T., García-Soto, G. C., & López-Bautista, J. M. (2016). A new record of the bloom-forming green algal species Ulva ohnoi (Ulvales, Chlorophyta) in the Caribbean Sea. Algas, 51, 62–64. http://www.sefalgas.org/images/pdf/boletines/ALGAS51.pdf

O’Brien, B., Neefus, C., & Dijkstra, J. (2019). Global domination: Understanding the spread of two invasive seaweeds using habitat suitability models. iDigBio’s 3rd Annual Digital Data Conference, New Haven. https://www.idigbio.org/wiki/images/d/d3/IB_OBrien.pdf

O’Brien, B., Neefus, C., & Dijkstra, J. (2022). Biogeography and invasion potential of five invasive seaweeds under projected ocean warming. 50th Annual Benthic Ecology Meeting, Portsmouth.

Ramirez J, Watson K, McMillin L, Gjieli E (2022). The New York Botanical Garden Herbarium (NY). Version 1.47. The New York Botanical Garden. Occurrence dataset https://doi.org/10.15468/6e8nje accessed via GBIF.org on 2022-06-21. https://www.gbif.org/occurrence/1930526116

Schneider, C. W., Peterson, E. S., & Saunders, G. W. (2020). Two new species of Solieriaceae (Rhodophyta, Gigartinales) from the euphotic and mesophotic zones off Bermuda, Meristotheca odontoloma and Tepoztequiella muriamans. Phycologia, 59(2), 177–185. https://doi.org/10.1080/00318884.2020.1719326

The Phycological Society of America, Inc. Bylaws. (2019, June 12). Phycological Society of America. https://www.psaalgae.org/society-bylawsUM Herbarium Data Group, IPT Admin L (2022). University of Michigan Herbarium. Version 1.41. University of Michigan Herbarium. Occurrence dataset https://doi.org/10.15468/nl8bvi  accessed via GBIF.org on 2022-06-21. https://www.gbif.org/occurrence/1988631087

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