Welcome to The Vagrant Lichenologist

Hello! This is a blog about lichens. It’s also about climbing, geology, woodlands, mountains, ecology, sea cliffs, hillwalking, deep time, moors, running, mosses, rivers, boulders, insects… Welcome.

I wanted to start a blog for a few reasons:

  1. I’ve been feeling that I’d like to write longer articles that don’t really work on Instagram or other short-form social media. I enjoy writing and want to practice it more.
  2. I want to document some of my scientific research in a way that’s accessible, engaging, and useful to people outside of the academic bubble.
  3. I’d like to build a permanent repository of ‘interesting stuff’ to act as a resource for me and for other people.

I’ve decided to call this blog The Vagrant Lichenologist. The Wikipedia page for vagrant lichen says this:

vagrant lichen is a lichen that is either not attached to a substrate, or can become unattached then blow around, yet continue to grow and flourish. . . . Vagrant lichens generally occur in open and windswept habitats, all over the world


This is a pretty appropriate name because a) I can be kind of hard to pin down, b) I’m often found in open and windswept habitats, and c) I really, really like lichens.

There will be a lot about lichens here, but that’s not going to be the end of it. I’m also interested in how all things (including us) interact with the environment and each other. How communities, ecosystems, and landscapes grow and change over millennia. There are endless stories to be told about the planet and the things that make and inhabit it. Every aspect of our world is dependent on something else at every possible scale – the shape and form of a lichen adapted to an imperceptible microclimate or the structural and chemical properties of a rock that were determined half a billion years ago – and I find zooming in and out of these concepts super cool.

I hope this is fun. That’s the bottom line of why I’m writing this; the fact that I find learning about the natural world fun. I don’t like calling myself an expert (even in the things that I’m an expert in1) because I don’t think you need to be an expert to appreciate this stuff. I think it’s all really exciting, how everything works and fits together, and talking about exciting things is fun. The fact that I get to explore all of this when I’m out in the hills and climbing is the icing on the cake.

Finally, I would love this to become an interactive thing. Ask questions. Send me emails. Tell me about stuff I don’t know about. Tell me about your favourite rock. Ask me for a belay. Whatever.

See you out there x

  1. I don’t have and formal geology training and I’ve only been working on lichens since 2020. Sure, I know a lot about how to assemble the genome of a cyanobacterium, or analyse communities of fungi based upon fragments of their DNA, but even in these fields I still have everything to learn. ↩︎