Lichen Auction Closes December 15

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 5, 2011

Researcher challenges Canadians to give something back to Canada and at the same time honour a loved one – or favourite hockey team – in the name of a native species: the perfect Canadian Christmas gift.

VICTORIA, BC – Public auctions for naming rights to two recently discovered lichens will close on 15 December, with proceeds going to two B.C. environmental groups: The Land Conservancy (TLC) of British Columbia (http://blog.conservancy.bc.ca/), working to create a much-needed wildlife corridor for Wells Gray Provincial Park; and the Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA) (http://www.ancientforestalliance.org/), gearing up to protect B.C.’s remaining oldgrowth forests.

The two lichen species were discovered in B.C.’s rainforests by botanical researcher Trevor Goward. According to scientific protocol, the right to give a new species its scientific name goes to the person who describes it. However, an online auction running on each organization’s website since June will earn the highest bidders the right to name these lichens – whether after loved ones, themselves, or whomever they choose.

“This is as Canadian as it gets,” says Trevor. “With Christmas coming, here’s a perfect opportunity to give something back to Canada and at the same time honour a loved one – or a favourite hockey team – by naming a Canadian lichen after them”. “It’s been almost three centuries since Carolus Linnaeus invented the modern biological classification system; and even now the names of the people he honoured in the name of various plants and animals are still with us. With any luck, your name will last at least as long as Canada does.”

Lichens are small organisms often mistaken for plants, but perhaps better thought of as cooperative (symbiotic) unions of fungi and algae: fungi that have discovered agriculture http://www.waysofenlichenment.net/.

The lichen being donated to the Ancient Forest Alliance is a “Horsehair Lichen” or Bryoria, which forms elegant black tresses on the branches of trees. “These are the lichens that provide winter food for the Mountain Caribou, British Columbia’s version of Santa’s reindeer,” says Trevor. “Without lichens, caribou and reindeer would soon disappear; and where would Santa Clause be then”?

For the Land Conservancy, Trevor chose an undescribed “Crottle Lichen,” or Parmelia, consisting of strap-like lobes pale greyish above and black below. Hummingbirds use Crottle Lichens to camouflage their tiny nests, fastening it to the outside using strands of spider web. It too inhabits the branches of trees, and grows in the Clearwater Valley, where Trevor is working with TLC Goward on a Christmas present for BC Parks: a wildlife corridor linking the two southern lobes of Wells Gray Provincial Park: http://www.waysofenlichenment.net/. TLC and its partners need to raise $350,000 for this project.

Recently Trevor decided to auction off the naming rights to some of his newly discovered species in an initiative he calls “taxonomic tithing”: http://www.waysofenlichenment.net/. “Thousands of new species are described every year,” notes Trevor. “If our auction is successful, it could inspire taxonomists around the world to get involved in auctions of this kind: a whole new niche for conservation fundraising! My dream is that Canadians will lead the way on this initiative!

“I whole-heartedly support efforts to set aside biologically critical portions of B.C.’s forestlands. Putting my new species up for auction for two highly-deserving environmental organizations – one working to protect public lands and the other private lands – allows me to give something back to my home province,” says Goward. “Lately Canadians haven’t been very good at looking after their country. I believe we can do better. What better time to begin than at Christmas”?

Goward is an internationally acclaimed lichenologist who has described about two dozen species and genera of lichens, mostly in western Canada. He is curator of lichens at the University of British Columbia and author of more than 100 scientific papers and several books. His work can be found at: http://www.waysofenlichenment.net/. Goward lives in the Clearwater Valley near Wells Gray Provincial Park north of Kamloops, B.C.

To make a bid, visit the Ancient Forest Alliance’s website www.ancientforestalliance.org or phone 250-896-4007, or contact The Land Conservancy at www.conservancy.bc.ca or phone 1-877-485-2422. The auction closes on December 15.

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For more information, please contact:

Trevor Goward, Lichenologist, 250-674-2553, trevor.goward@botany.ubc.ca

Barry Booth, TLC Northern Regional Manager, 250-564-2064, bbooth@conservancy.bc.ca

Ken Wu, Ancient Forest Alliance Executive Director, 250-514-9910, kenwukenwu@gmail.com