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Cladia aggregata;
drawing by Rod Seppelt, scale-bar = 5mm

Episodes in Australian lichenology - After the first century

Newsletter and journal

The first issue of the Australian Lichenological Newsletter appeared in August 1976. It was just one page long and was sent out by Rex Filson from the Melbourne herbarium. With issue 5, in August 1978, the name was changed to the Australasian Lichenological Newsletter and the newsletter was now three pages. In July 1997 (the 40-page issue number 41) the name changed yet again to Australasian Lichenology. There has been just one issue number sequence through the name changes, with no restarting at 1 upon a name change. The publication evolved from a typescript newsletter to a scientific journal with good quality illustrations, in both black and white and colour. Jack Elix took over editorship with issue 11 (August 1982) and continued as editor until issue 39 of June 1996, though with editorial help in the latter part of his editorship, and since then the journal has had an editorial board. The initial editorial board was composed of Bill Malcolm, Jack Elix, Gintaras Kantvilas and Patrick McCarthy - with Simone Louwhoff becoming a member a little later. Bill Malcolm, who lives in New Zealand, is also the publisher. The high quality presentation, with colour photos now a standard feature in each issue, is a tribute to Bill Malcolm's desktop publishing skills and equipment. The journal is published twice yearly (January and July) and is now distributed to most subscribers electronically. Here you will find links to issues 58 and later.

On this page I will give extracts from various pre-2000 issues of the newsletter or journal. These extracts will deal with people and their activities, so giving you some idea of what was going on in those years. This is not an exhaustive list of activities for I have been selective. I have aimed to present a variety of people and a variety of activities, so emphasizing range rather than depth in both. So, I won't list every visit to Australia made by an overseas lichenologist, nor will I mention every project that any given person has reported. Nevertheless, with the selections I give you will be able to get an idea of the range of people involved in studying Australian lichens and of the types of studies being undertaken.

With the passing years, as the newsletter evolved towards a journal, an increasing proportion of the content was taken up by reports of findings and less on reports of what people were planning or doing. This reflects the development of Australian lichenology over that time. In the earlier years Australian lichenology was getting re-started and so while people had plans of what they were going to do, they had as yet little in the way of results. Over a couple of decades that changed and so the newsletter began to include more results and less in the way of plans. For that reason I have used the end of 1999 as a stopping point. By then Australian lichenology was well and truly alive and healthy. The research, visits and collaborations that are illustrated by the pre-2000 extracts have continued into the 21st century.

Occasionally I will add some explanatory words (or give a name) to help the extracts make sense. Sometimes I will present a summary of a published report or make some comments. My words will always appear within square brackets. All else is as it appeared in the relevant issue (except that I have italicised all species names and monograph titles, not always done in the early issues).

Now to the extracts...

Issue No. 2: October 1976

...we have some very good news from Nathan. He has been given a grant from CSIRO, Science and Industry Endowment Fund to visit Geneva and London. The grant is specifically to study type specimens in these two institutions. He will be away for two months from the end of December...

[Nathan Sammy was then employed as a biologist with Dampier Salt in Dampier, Western Australia. The type specimen for any species is the collection on which the original description of that species was based. Type specimens are of fundamental importance as the ultimate court of appeal. If, for example, there is some vagueness in the original published description or if some later person has doubts as to the validity of a species then it is necessary to re-examine the type specimen carefully to resolve any doubts.]

No.3: June 1977

[This issue included suggested rules for a proposed Australian Lichen Society. A few later Newsletters included more on the subject but no Australian, nor Australasian, Lichen Society ever eventuated. The Australasian lichenologists just continued to work and meet and get along fine without any Society.]

Rex Filson - spent four days with Rod Rogers in Brisbane working on the Handbook to the Lichens of South Australia. This joint effort is now approaching finality. While Rod is on Sabbatical Rex will be tidying up the manuscript, selecting figures and photographs for inclusion, and supervising the final typing. It is expected to be sent to the South Australian Handbooks Committee before the end of 1977.

Roderick Rogers - Work on the lichens of the tree trunks in the Brisbane area is continuing. The collecting program has been completed (for the time any way) and sorting and determination finished for the genera bearing true apothecia. About 170 species have been determined, although names for many of the crustose species are very tentative.

Nell Stevens - at present doing a taxonomic study of lichens on the bark of Mangroves on the coast of Eastern Australia, with main emphasis on the macro-lichen flora.

No. 4: April 1978

Vale Geoff Bratt: It is with deep regret that we record the death of Dr Geoffrey C. Bratt after a long illness. Geoff was one of the driving forces behind the study of lichens in Australia and a keen supporter of the formation of an Australian Lichen Society.

NATHAN SAMMY: Had a letter from Nathan, his job at Dampier is very demanding, with a result that he does not get much time for lichenology. He is unable to attend the meeting this year as he will be on a field trip to Mt. Mulu in Borneo collecting lichens. This trip was arranged whilst he was at BM [British Museum] last year and is in connection with an environmental assessment to be made by the Malaysian Government.

REX FILSON: Has completed the text on [sic] the Handbook to the Lichens of South Australia. All of the Black & White illustrations are complete, one or two colour plates have yet to be finalised.

No. 5: August 1978

This newsletter heralds a change of name [to Australasian Lichenological Newsletter]. At the 3rd Lichenological meeting it was decided to change the name of the Society to the Australasian Lichen Society. [But, as noted above, no such society has ever eventuated!]

DOUG VERDON: Doug is interested in revising the Australian Leptogium sp.

ROD SEPPELT: Hopes to continue his work on the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic lichens...this summer. Work on classification of recent collections is slowly continuing.

NELL STEVENS: Is planning a revision of Ramalina in Australia...

No. 6: November 1978

JACK ELIX is undertaking a revision of Xanthoparmelia in NSW. He is working in conjunction with Mason Hale at the Smithsonian Institution [Washington] who will be incorporating a number of new species in his world monograph of the genus. Also investigating the application of chemotaxonomy to the genus Physcia in Australia.

DAVID GALLOWAY will be back in New Zealand at the end of November after a very profitable stay in London...He has made a start on the Australian Pseudocyphellaria, Sticta and Lobaria...

ROD ROGERS has returned from his sabbatical year in Britain. Whilst there he visited British Museum (Natural History) and Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum to search for Stirton types of Australian lichens and has notes concerning all of those he located. [He also spent two weeks in Geneva studying the Australian lichens sent to Jean Müller in the later 1800s.]

ROD SEPPELT departs on 7th December on board Nella Dan bound for Davis on the Antarctic continent.

DOUG VERDON returned from a field trip north to Queensland border collecting rainforest lichens and especially Leptogium. Dry rainforest areas at the back of the dunes yielded the most number of species.

Lichens of South Australia, published 1st November, 1979. The cover shows a species of Teloschistes.

No. 7: August 1979

Nik Donner recently spent two days in MEL [the National Herbarium of Victoria] discussing recent collections from the far North-west of South Australia.

This publication [Lichens of South Australia, by Rex Filson & Rod Rogers] has already passed through the page proof stage so it should not be too long before it is off the press. [It was published on 1st November 1979.]

No. 9: August 1980

As mentioned in the last Newsletter we are involved in the convening of four symposia at the [International Botanical] Congress. Preparations for these are well underway; all of the speakers have been approached and most have replied. It looks as though most of the prominent lichenologists will be in Australia for the Congress.

[An International Botanical Congress, held every six years, is a large scale meeting of botanical scientists. The 13th such Congress was held in Sydney, in August 1981, and attracted many prominent overseas lichenologists to Australia. As well as formal lectures the organisers of each congress also organise a variety of field excursions in the host country to cater for the participants' varied interests.]

ROD SEPPELT is off to Macquarie Island again.

NELL STEVENS: Nell is revising Ramalina in Australia for her PhD and wonders whether anyone living in Western Australia or going there on holidays would collect some for her. She has good representative collections from all states except the west.

No. 10: February 1982

REX FILSON: The 13th International Botanical Congress was a great success. From the reports that I have received back everyone enjoyed the field excursions and the symposia. Following the congress we had an influx of visitors to MEL [international acronym for the National Herbarium of Victoria]. Immediately following the Congress Ted and Leana Ahti [ Finland] came to look at the Cladonia species. Three days later we were joined by Peter James [UK], Per Magnus Jørgenson [Norway], Aino Henssen [Germany], Ernie Brodo [Canada], Shirley Tucker [USA] and Ove Almborn [Sweden].

JACK ELIX: We were very privileged to have Dr Leif Tibell [Sweden] spend ten days in Canberra earlier this year...Leif drew attention to and collected many Caliciales in the ACT and southern NSW. His visit has certainly provided a stimulus to this long neglected group of lichens. ... Dr. Volkmar Wirth [Germany]...identified a number of our alpine Lecideaceae and Lecanoraceae. [Jack Elix also listed the following visitors to Canberra after the International Botanical Congress: Ernie Brodo, Ove Almborn, Per Magnus Jørgenson, Aino Henssen, Shirley Tucker, Louis Brako (USA), Bill Buck (USA) and Tom Nash (USA).]

ROD ROGERS: [Brisbane was visited by Mason Hale (USA), Hilda Krog (Norway), Helmut Mayrhofer (Austria) and Mike Seaward (UK)]. Helmut was introduced to the surf at Moolooaba [sic] on the Sunshine Coast during what was one of his very few non-lichenological days in Australia. As a result of his influence Rod has started to collect saxicolous lichens in Queensland for the first time. Hilda Krog is familiar with African floras from similar latitudes, and was able to help Nell [Stevens] in particular with the genus Ramalina, which, as Nell suspected does have similarities with the African floras.

No. 11: August 1982

Rod [Seppelt] is also working on lichen collections from Heard Island. Heard Island is one of the last sub-antarctic islands to be studied in detail and the collections would help considerably in understanding the biogeographical relationships of the southern land masses and islands.

No. 12: February 1983

[From Western Australia Nathan Sammy reported:] Bauxite mining companies in the south-west of the state are using lichens as indicators of SO2 pollution. Recently a paper was presented at a Sampling Techniques Workshop conducted by the W.A. Chamber of Mines in Perth. The paper "Bioindicators of Pollution - The use of lichens for monitoring Gases and Particulates" was presented by Mike LeRoy of Alcoa. This presentation generated much interest. It was revealed during the meet that Western Mining is conducting a similar survey at Kambalda using soil lichens to monitor SO 2 outfall from their nickel smelter. Both projects were initiated by Dr. Denis Kidby, Department of Soil Science, University of Western Australia. [Nathan also noted that the following lichenologists had visited Western Australia after the International Botanical Congress: Aino Henssen, Tom Nash, Peter James, Ludger Kappen of Germany and E. Niebor of Canada].

David [Galloway] reports on the very successful meeting of the British Lichen Society for its 25th Anniversary: "A day of invited lectures - the afternoon of which Rod Rogers, Rex Filson and David spieled about South Pacific lichenology which went down very well."

No. 13: September 1983

Associate Prof. Mel Sargent, Organic Chemistry Department, UWA [University of Western Australia], is currently investigating the synthesis of lichen dibenzofurans. A Ph.D. student, Chris Carvalo has synthesized melacarpic acid and is well on the way to didymic acid. Albert Russo in his honours year, will be attempting the synthesis of porphyrilic acid.

Associate Prof. Jack Cannon, Organic Chemistry Department, UWA, has a general interest in lichens. He has been associated with the Prince Songkla University in southern Thailand for approximately 10 years. This period has also seen an interest in lichens, and Jack reports active collection is now taking place. Dr. Kan Chantrapromma is actively investigating lichen chemistry and slowly coming to grips with the taxonomy. Kan is anticipating to visit W.A. next year.

Jack Elix writes about a visit from Mason and Bea Hale....The wealth of Xanthoparmelia throughout southern Australia generally led Mason to conclude that we must have at least 100 species in our flora! Any advance on 100? [Australian species of the genus Xanthoparmelia were documented in Volume 55 of the Flora of Australia series, published in 1994. At that time 150 species were recorded for Australia and by 2009 the count was a little over 300. One reason for the great increase between 1994 and 2009 was that a few genera once thought to be distinct from Xanthoparmelia have been shown not to be so.]

No. 14: February 1984

[Nell Stevens reported on a lichen safari to Cape York. The party included Mason Hale from the Smithsonian Institution. The Newsletter also reported on a 6-week visit to Australia by Peter James of the British Museum. His main reasons for coming to Australia were to collect specimens of several genera he was studying and to advance his collaboration with Gintaras Kantvilas on the study of Tasmania's temperate rainforest lichens.]

No. 15: August 1984

An 'Introduction to Lichenology' course will be run at the University of Queensland from 27-31 August, 1984. The course is designed to introduce participants to the study of lichens, and especially to develop the skills to name them.

[The Newsletter devoted four pages to the 6th meeting of Australasian Lichenologists, held in Melbourne in May of 1984. The main purpose of the meeting was to organize the material and authors for the lichen volumes of the Flora of Australia series. Naturally the lichen volumes in that series were discussed at later meetings of the Australasian Lichenologists, but I won't note such future discussions.] The meeting was officially opened at 2.20 p.m. by the Victorian Minister for Conservation, Forests and Lands, the Hon. R.A. Mackenzie. The Minister gave a short opening address in which he surprised everyone by his knowledge of lichens - and in fact disclosed that he had made several collections in the Antarctic whilst there in 1973. These specimens are in the ANARE [Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions] collection in Hobart.

No. 16: February 1985

[Rod Rogers reported on his "Introduction to Lichenology" course:] A total of 14 people were involved...The course allowed those attending to become familiar with some lichenological terminology, to become acquainted with some of the literature, and to see a range of lichens both in the laboratory and in the field. In addition to the classical techniques, Jen Johnston introduced the group to Thin Layer Chromatography with a degree of expertise that no one in Brisbane could match...It was interesting to watch people struggle with keys I had written - and most profitable. As a result of the wrangling in the lab ... it was clear that the key to Foliose Lichens in The Genera of Australian Lichens needed revising. A revised set is now available on request.

Jack [Elix] and Jen Johnston are now putting the finishing touches to the magnum opus on Australasian Xanthoparmeliae - incorporating 117 species from Australia, 45 from New Zealand, 3 from Papua New Guinea, 1 from Fiji and 1 from Norfolk Island.

Alan Archer [writing about his and his wife's recent visit to China and Europe noted that]... the Finnish countryside can only be described as being saturated with lichen... Finland must be the only country in the world to publish comic post-cards featuring lichens! (right, click to enlarge)

No. 17: August 1985

Gintaras Kantvilas [in Hobart] reports that so far 1985 has been a bumper year for visitors. Mason and Bea Hale [USA] January. They were followed in February by Hannes Hertel [Germany] and Helmut Mayrhofer [Austria] . Their desire for sites with "a subantarctic influence" was satisfied by two days of torrential rain.

No. 18: February 1986

[Tom Nash (USA), Gerhard Rambold (Germany) and Göran Thor (Sweden) visited Australia for extended periods, both to undertake field work and to collaborate in bench work with Australian colleagues.]

No. 19: August 1986

Alistair Wilkins (University of Waikato) arrived in Canberra in early July and is spending 12 months on sabbatical leave at ANU with Jack Elix's group. He will supply some much needed triterpenoid expertise and plans to extend his work on Pseudocyphellaria triterpenes in an attempt to interrelate the pattern of variation with geographic distribution - hopefully to provide some insight to the dispersal and evolution of this genus.

No. 20: February 1987

Gintaras Kantvilas...was fortunate in being awarded a National Research Fellowship. This provides for 3 years funding continue work on the rainforest lichen flora. The initial emphasis will be phytosociological associations. Subsequently it is intended to apply this data to an investigation of the effect of forest fragmentation on the lichens. Hopefully further progress can be made on the taxonomy of some of the species, as the majority of crustose lichens reported so far still await accurate identification. One project currently underway with Dr. Antonin Vĕzda [Czechoslovakia] deals with new species of Ostropacaceae from Tasmania.

[In Canberra] Alistair Wilkins is discovering new fernene triterpenes in several Pseudocyphellaria species at an amazing rate, and is enjoying his access to the University MR Centre as a means of confirming structural features of various lichen triterpenes by modern 2D techniques.

No. 21: August 1987

[The 14th International Botanical Congress was held in Berlin in July/August. Nell Stevens presented a paper on taxonomic problems in the genus Ramalina and Jack Elix spoke on lichen chemotaxonomy.]

No. 22: February 1988

[This issue contained a report by the 'Marburg Travelling Troupe' (right) - a group of students from the Philipps University of Marburg who visited Australia for six weeks in 1987 under the supervision of Aino Henssen. The accompanying photo shows some of that group taking a break during fieldwork with Australian colleagues in the Gudgenby area of the Australian Capital Territory.]

No. 23: August 1988

[Jack Elix, David Galloway and Heinar Streimann participated in the Kimberley Research Project of 1988. This lasted from April to July of 1988, with participants from various disciplines staying for varying lengths of time and was supported by a mix of sponsors from Australia and the UK. Helmut and Michaela Mayrhofer (Austria) and Klaus Kalb (Germany) visited Australia to collect specimens and meet with Australian colleagues.]

No. 24: February 1989

Gintaras Kantvilas is now settled into his new position as curator of cryptogamic botany at the Tasmanian Herbarium...Gintaras continues his research on the rainforest lichen flora. Currently he is involved in a joint project with the Forestry Commission on the phytosociology and floristics of Tasmanian rainforests as part of the National Rainforest Conservation Program. Lichen work is proceeding steadily, but with many taxonomic headaches [sic] species being continually discovered amongst the crustose genera.

No. 25: August 1989

From December, 1988 to March, 1989 I [Rod Seppelt] was at Casey Station, Antarctica...Photosynthetic physiology of Usnea species is being pursued in Antarctica and Australia. Particular emphasis is being placed on the effects of airborne alkaline cement dust fallout from a concrete batching plant on the physiology of Usnea sphacelata and Umbilicaria decussata...Range extensions for a number of lichens were obtained and several new species were discovered...Work on morphological variation in Umbilicaria is continuing. There are a number of distinct phenotypes of Umbilicaria decussata and despite the efforts of Rex Filson to clarify the problem the situation is far from clear.

Bill Ewers is spending five months at ANU with Jack Elix, while on study leave from the Warrnambool Institute of Advanced Education. He is working on an annotated checklist of lichens from south-west Victoria. This interest was sparked by the desirability to monitor pollution from a new aluminium smelter at Portland.

I [Patrick McCarthy] arrived in Melbourne in April, 1989 to begin work at the National Herbarium of Victoria as successor to Rex Filson. It seemed that my first year in Australia would be well spent if devoted primarily to those groups with which I am most familiar, namely Verrucariaceae and other saxicolous pyrenocarps...In contrast to the macrolichens, only a handful of microlichen genera have been investigated in detail in Australia. The Verrucariaceae, comparatively inconspicuous and much abused by taxonomists elsewhere, must be among the most unrecorded here...[initially the collections were virtually inaccessible, awaiting a move to a new extension, and were]...packed on and between ceiling-high shelves. However, by using manoeuvres more suited to an alpinist than a lichenologist, it was possible to reach a reasonable number of specimens. The unorthodox herbarium practices yielded a wealth of exciting material. Some Verrucariae...without doubt, undescribed...additional fascinating finds among such genera as Endocarpon, Porina, Thelenella and Thelidium...The lichen collections have recently been rehoused in their impressive new accomodation [sic] and their renewed accessibility has meant the [sic] interesting finds can be made almost daily. Thus it is always rewarding to browse among Rex Filson's Macquarie Island or mainland collections or to explore one of the dozens of boxes holding John Whinray's specimens from the Bass Strait Islands. Field work has become redundant, at least for the present.

No. 28: January 1991

[After a visit to the region, Jack Elix reported that lichenology was alive and well in South-east Asia. There was a very active group of lichen chemists at the University Kebangsaan Malaysia and lichen chemistry was also being studied in Thailand, in Bangkok and at Prince Songkla University at Hat Yai in southern Thailand. In late 1990 Chicita and Bill Culberson (lichen chemists from Duke University, USA) spent a month in Australia looking for various Cladia species.]

No. 34: January 1994

[Dr. Siegfried Huneck, the 'father' of modern lichen chemistry visited Jack Elix and his group in September 1993. Huneck undertook several field trips and also presented a lecture on "New Aspects of Lichen Chemistry" where, in Elix' words: "...he skilfully integrated his many recent results in lichen chemistry, incorporating synthetic, degradative and spectroscopic techniques to determine the structures of new dibenzofurans, amino-acid derivatives, aliphatic acids and metal complexes".]

Dr. Thitima Rukachaisirikul [Thailand] spent two months visiting Jack Elix and his research group in October and November 1993. Thitima is interested in the chemistry of lichen metabolites and lichen chemotaxonomy. [Amongst her projects in Canberra she investigated] the chemical constituents of a number of Thai lichens.

Input to a conservation management plan for a relict coastal vegetation area in metropolitan Perth, Western Australia, has resulted in the protection of limestone habitats specifically for lichens. This appears to be the first recognition of the importance of lichens in terrestrial ecosystem management in Western Australia.

No. 36: January 1995

[This became the first issue to bear the words "Official publication of the Australasian Lichen Society" on the front cover - but of course there has never been such a society! Though those words no longer appear on the front cover they are still present within the journal.

In late 1994 Thorsten Lumbsch and Andreas Dickhäuser, both from Germany, travelled and collected between Canberra and Perth, joined by various Australian colleagues for different legs of the journey. Klaus Kalb, also from Germany, visited Australia independently of Lumbsch and Dickhäuser.]

[The Parmeliaceae volume of the Flora of Australia series was published in December 1994.] Jack Elix, a major contributor to that volume wrote:

Several other 'Founding Fathers' of the Australian lichen flora volumes would understand that this was a momentous occasion for me, some 23 years and 11 months since I took the first tentative steps in studying Australia's Parmelias. However, I would stress that it has not been a lone effort. In those very early years I had significant encouragement from my mentors Eilif Dahl [Norway] and Syo Kurokawa [Japan], later reinforced by Rex Filson. Then for many years I had the fatherly figure of Mason Hale [USA] looking over my shoulder to make sure that I did not make too many taxonomic blunders.

No. 43: July 1998

It is with great sadness that we record the sudden death of Nathan Sammy ... on 11 July 1998. Nathan became interested in lichens as a student in Malaysia in the early 1970s, and later as a graduate student in Perth he worked on the lichens (especially Xanthoparmelia) of Western Australia for his M.Sc. He was a keen collector of lichens from Western Australia, the Northern Territory, and northern Queensland, and also of Malaysia/Indonesia. In recent years, he has had a responsible conservation-based position in Darwin...and finishing a Ph.D. study on Heterodermia in the South Pacific, a project substantially complete at his death.


History of Australian lichenology pages on this website

    The First Century
    After First Century
    Rex Filson