International Association for Lichenology

Peter Crittenden

Peter Crittenden

The Acharius medal is awarded for a lifetime of achievement in lichenology, and is thus often awarded to researchers who have retired or are nearing retirement. That Prof. Peter Crittenden, awarded the Acharius medal during the 10th International Mycological Congress at Bangok, Thailand is indeed just about to retire might come as a surprise to many due to his youthful looks!

Peter became interested in lichens whilst at school and went to study Botany at the University of London (Westfield College), graduating in 1971. Whilst in London he became a regular visitor to the Cryptogamic Herbarium at the Natural History Museum and held two summer vacation studentships under the guidance of Peter James. However, his principal interest was ecology and he then moved to Sheffield (UK) where he studied for a PhD under Prof. David Read, studying the effect of sulphur dioxide pollution on pasture grasses. His research career in lichenology then really began when he travelled to Canada to work as an NERC/NATO overseas research fellow at McMaster University with Ken Kershaw on a project investigating the role of lichens in the nitrogen cycle in boreal-arctic ecosystems. This included pioneering work investigating nitrogenase activity in Stereocaulon paschale, an important mat-forming lichen in boreal forests, and this set the scene for the focus of much of his future work. After a return spell as a Junior Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield, Peter then took up a lectureship at the University of Nottingham (UK) in 1981 where he has remained ever since.

During his time at Nottingham Peter has developed an international reputation for research into various aspects of lichenology. These include, principally, research into the ecophysiology of lichens – investigating the activity and importance of nitrogen and phosphorous uptake in both natural and polluted ecosystems. As well, he refined methods for the axenic culture of lichen-forming fungi, and their possible applications in biotechnology. With colleagues at the University of Nottingham he has also applied molecular genetic techniques to study the nature of sex and variation in lichen-forming fungi, and most recently the genomics of Xanthoria parietina.

In connection with all this work, Peter has travelled widely from ‘Pole-to-Pole’ including work in the Antarctic, Arctic, Namibia, Tasmania and throughout Europe. In all of his work, he has been associated with the application of new techniques to study lichen biology, most recently including the use of X-ray computed tomography (X-ray CT) and 3D-printing to analyse the 3D-structure and growth of lichens. He has always led a vibrant team of post- graduate students and post-doctoral workers, of whom he has been very supportive and many have pursued careers in ecological research.

Peter has published over 50 articles in a variety of journal including Nature, The New Phytologist, and the Lichenologist. Indeed it is in the context of the Lichenologist that most will be familiar with Peter as he has been the senior editor since 2000. He inherited a journal of high standard and by his extraordinary dedication and commitment has improved it further, increasing its volume and status and steering it into the modern era. The high standard of finished copy owes much to the fact that Peter personally oversees every paper to publication. He is known for editing manuscript proofs on public transport, in bed, over meals and even at local cinemas whilst waiting for films to start! He is also on the editorial board of Fungal Ecology.

Peter Crittenden has made many other contributions related to lichenology. He was president of the British Lichen Society (BLS) from 1998–1999 and has remained on the Council of the BLS in connection with editing of the Lichenologist; he has been a member of Council of the British Mycological Society, and was a Council member of the International Association of Lichenology (IAL) before taking on the major role of President of the IAL from 2008–2012. He is also a current member of the IAL nominations committee.

In his private life, Peter is a dedicated family man, with wife Margaret and sons Richard and Tim. When younger, Peter hoped to enthuse an interest in lichenology in his sons by taking them on many field collecting trips. Since then they have both become IT specialists! During part of his sabbatical based in Tasmania at the Australian Antarctic Division, Peter was converted to the pursuit of ‘peak-bagging’ and continues to enjoy ascending mountains when opportunity and a walking companion present themselves. Peter is also a dedicated cyclist, part of a group of keen cycling biologists from the University of Nottingham. His achievements in cycling include completing the UK ‘coast-to-coast’ route and a Tour-de-France Alpine mountain stage. Indeed, once in his bright blue lycra cycling clothing, this has led to Peter being affectionately known by the acronym a ‘MAMIL’ i.e. a Middle Aged Man in Lycra.

Peter Crittenden is a most worthy recipient of the Acharius Medal. We wish him many healthy and productive years ahead and look forward to his continued service to lichenology.

– Paul S. Dyer, University of Nottingham, UK
– Gintaras Kantvilas, Tasmanian Herbarium