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Scientists' names live on in lichens

Dec 17 2011

Two newly-discovered lichens will be named after a botanist, who died of brain cancer in 2005, and a biologist, who died in a car accident in January.

An auction for the right to name the lichens raised $17,900 for The Land Conservancy and $4,000 for the Ancient Forest Alliance.

Artist Anne Hansen, of Victoria, made the winning bid on the hairlike bryoria lichen, which will be known as Bryoria kockiana in memory of her husband, Henry Kock. "Henry was a tireless champion of biodiversity and inconspicuous species like toads, lichens and sedges," Hansen said.

Kock ran programs at the University of Guelph Arboretum for 20 years.

"Naming a species after a beloved forest defender is my idea of a fabulous solstice celebration," Hansen said. "I'm not the only one who's noticed that the lichen looks like Henry's beard."

Ken Wu, of the Ancient Forest Alliance, said funds raised will be used to map old-growth forest on Vancouver Island and produce old-growth status reports. "This is about eight per cent of our entire year's funding," said Wu, who hopes auctioning off the names of newly-discovered species will become more common in Canada.

The second lichen, a two-toned, more leafy variety, will be named Parmelia Sulymae in honour of Randy Sulyma, a forester and biologist who was 43 when he died in a vehicle accident in Chetwynd.

The campaign to come up with the winning bid was co-ordinated by Sylvia Sulyma, Randy's mother. "For all who knew Randy, this is such a fitting legacy," Sulyma said. "The whole family is excited and overwhelmed today."

The $17,900 raised will go toward creating a wildlife corridor, in Wells Gray Provincial Park, for large mammals migrating from winter to summer ranges across the Clearwater Valley.

The two lichens were discovered by Trevor Goward, curator of lichens at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum at the University of B.C., who offered them for auction. "Future auctions of this kind will garner even more support as Canadians awaken to the honour of being linked, if only in name, to other living species," Goward said.

jlavoie@timescolonist.com

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