This research generates a series of observations about the work mycologists are doing to reconcile new and old species concepts within biology and the larger biodiversity conservation community. Mycologists are discovering new species that are only identified through DNA sequencing. Using a mixed methods, multi-sited project approach, this project follows scientists in the field, the laboratory, and at international conference settings; as they encounter, process, package, name, classify, and ultimately give biological value to the genetic sequences determined to represent unique organisms and species. Examining the practices of knowledge production simultaneously at multiple scales shows increasing points of tension between the biological scientists and those focused on species conservation as the biologists promote the idea of preserving fungal diversity.. Microbial conservation lags far behind floral and faunal conservation worldwide. Is it worth preserving all or some of this rapidly increasing numbers of species that are not observable to humans without the use of special technologies?.
Broader Impact A constructivist approach to microbial diversity has the potential to transform our understanding of the roles of genetics, scientific nomenclature, and bioinformatics in biodiversity conservation. Specifically, this research builds on an ongoing collaboration across the natural and social sciences, and engages with and contributes to three fields: mycology, science and technology studies, and geography. It will (1) establish training guidelines for interdisciplinary scholars to work at the interface of microbiology, conservation biology, and policy; (2) increase interdisciplinary cross-talk and collaboration among disciplines of geography, mycology, and conservation biology; (3) and generate policy recommendations about how to use new kinds of statistical and genetic data in conservation policy.