Tag: OPAL Project

I’m lichen it

by on Dec.03, 2009, under Natural History

If there’s a prize for worst blogpost title then I must be in the running with this one.  What makes it even worse is that I thought of it on Friday night last week and have only just got round to using it now.  Perhaps my subconscious was suppressing it?

Anyhow, last Friday I attended one of the Natural History Society of Northumbria’s indoor meetings.  The speaker for the evening was Janet Simkin, a lichenologist.  Now that’s quite a thing…lichens are widespread, they can be studied all year round and they are fascinating indicators of the cleanliness, or otherwise, of the air around us, yet some of my clients who have deep interests in many branches of natural history have always issued dire warnings about lichenologists; “they’re a bit strange”, “if you have one on one of your trips, you’ll be lucky if they leave the carpark”, “they move in a geological timeframe” are some of the kinder words spoken.

So why am I blogging about lichens?  Well, a few weeks ago I was visiting an elderly friend, who has a remarkable personal library, and we were looking through his collection of books on lower plants.  Tucked in amongst them was a guide to identifying lichens, which he removed from the shelf, handed to me and said “here, life’s too short…if I’d started 50 years ago this may have been some use”.  I’d started to take notice of the lichens report in the excellent British Wildlife as well, some mouth-watering images and tales of rare and remote species stimulating my interest.

Dr Simkin’s talk was fascinating , detailing how lichen species have appeared and then vanished with changes in air quality.  There was then a short presentation by Katy Barnard about the OPAL Air Survey. Now this is a bit of fieldwork/research that anyone can participate in.  The results can be viewed online, and it gives you an excuse to get outdoors and get some fresh air (assuming that’s what the lichens you find indicate…)

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