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Colin Freebury - Anne Hanes Natural History Award 2011

Colin is known to many club members because of his outstanding photographic skills. In fact, he was practising those skills on a lichen-hunting field trip a few years ago and became fascinated with the lichens themselves. Anyone who knows Colin wouldn't be at all surprised at this, because Colin has a passion for knowledge coupled with a keen intellect. Once started on his journey to learn more about lichens, there was no looking back.

Early on, he decided that he would explore Gatineau Park for its lichens, to contribute whatever he could to what we already knew about the flora. Armed with a collecting permit, knife, hammer, chisel and hand lens, he began to sample the lichens he found throughout the park, photographing many, thereby creating an image library that can be (and has been) used in lectures about the lichens of the park.

Each trip brought new discoveries and new names for the list of Gatineau Park lichens. With patience and a keen eye, he found many rarities, a few of them new to the Ottawa Region as a whole. He created an Excel file with information on all the lichens he collected and the ones already deposited in the lichen herbarium at the Canadian Museum of Nature. Each new record was carefully documented.

When the list reached 300 and kept on growing (it is now at 324), he thought it was time to share the information, especially since he knew that a new checklist of Quebec lichens was being finalized. The result was an excellent article in Trail & Landscape (April - June 2011) on the Lichens of Gatineau Park based on a careful study of herbarium specimens, new field work and the literature. Colin now regularly attends the annual Gatineau Park research seminars run by the NCC to give updates of his findings.

Although the publication of the Gatineau Park lichens is the main reason for the award, it is pertinent to mention other lichenological activities occupying Colin's time. He volunteers at the Canadian Museum of Nature Research and Collections Division, mounting lichen specimens, entering label data into the data processing program, preparing exchanges and loans, and helping out retired lichenologist, Irwin Brodo, in countless other ways. Colin's superb skill in communicating to the public (in both official languages) has not gone unnoticed by the Museum, and they have enlisted his help at Museum "Open Houses" and "Meet the Scientist" events.

Colin has recently deepened and broadened his interest in lichen research. A few summers ago, he travelled to Maine to take a course on crustose lichen identification at Eagle Hill taught by Irwin Brodo. He and Dr. Brodo are now collaborating on a study of the frosted rosette lichen, Physcia aipolia, and its newly discovered sister species, Physcia alnophila, and the manuscript should be submitted soon. His main lichenological project, however, is outside the Ottawa Region. Colin has been visiting and collecting lichens in Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan for several years, and he is well on his way toward the completion of this mammoth treatment. It seems that Gatineau Park was just the beginning.

All these activities, interests and accomplishments make Colin Freebury a fitting recipient of the Anne Hanes Award for 2011.

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