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Lichens: an overlooked and threatened aspect of biodiversity

Written by Tineke Kuiper, program chair MVFN

Lichens: an overlooked and threatened aspect of biodiversity

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) will feature Dr. Irwin Brodo, a renowned author and authority on lichens, as their speaker for the 6th lecture in the series on Biodiversity.

Dr Irwin Brodo, recently retired from the Canadian Museum of Nature, has dedicated his entire career to the study of lichens and has published over 70 research papers, mainly in the fields of lichen taxonomy and ecology. Dr. Brodo is currently President of the International Association for Lichenology and was their Bulletin editor for twelve years. He has served as President of both the American Bryological and Lichenological Society and the Canadian Botanical Association, and has received several awards for his contributions to lichenology.

Together with photographer/naturalists Stephen and Sylvia Sharnoff, he has recently written a popular guidebook, Lichens of North America, covering 1500 species and illustrated with over 920 beautiful colour photographs, each of which are a work of art. Among his many other contributions is also an identification guidebook on the lichens of the Ottawa Region, now in its second edition.

Dr. Brodo will present lichens as fascinating colourful organisms, made up in part of fungi and in part of an organism capable of photosynthesis (such as algae), which live together in a relationship that is beneficial to both. Often appearing together with mosses and liverworts, Brodo will explain how they can form miniature gardens that demand a close-up view. In a preview comment, he stated “We have seen them grow on various rock surfaces, but they can also grow on trees, gravestones, old cars, etc, as long as they are not disturbed. In fact, lichens are all around us, forming an important part of the diversity of living things. Just like the rings of trees, they can give us information about the past, and they form an important ecological indicator of our natural landscape”.

Dr. Brodo’s talk will be amply illustrated with beautiful colour slides and will give some background on the fascinating biology of lichens and their place in the ecosystem. He will show many of the common species that can be encountered in Eastern and Southern Ontario and nearby regions, but also will discuss some aspects of boreal lichens.

Long interested in popularizing lichenology for the general public, Dr. Brodo frequently gives lectures and workshops and leads field trips for amateur groups. With his strong interest in environmental conservation and natural history of all kinds, he has been active in many Canadian conservation organizations, especially the Ottawa Field Naturalists’ Club and the Ottawa-Hull Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, having served both as President.

Dr Brodo’s talk will appeal to both naturalists and photographers, and is open to the general public. This event will be held at The Almonte United Church, Elgin Street, on Thursday, March 17, 2005, at 7:30 P.M. There will be a non-member charge of $5.

For more information, please contact Tine Kuiper, 256-8241 and, visit the MVFN Website at


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