A Biological Spar Box

Lichens Daylight Lichens UV

Covered in dust, in a neglected storage area in one of our laboratories  is a box labelled “AHLC Rock Lichens”.  As you might expect, the box contains collection of rocks, but each one is embellished with a Lichen colony. These beautiful, almost crystalline life forms blend seamlessly with the rocks as if in this instance, geology and biology were a single entity.  I’ve discovered that many Lichens fluoresce under ultraviolet light, that is they absorb its energy and then re-emit it at a different and visible wavelength. In simpler terms, they glow in many different colours when exposed to UV light and their appearance is transformed entirely so that they now look like precious minerals or gems rather than biological life.  I am minded of Spar-Boxes , a type of folk art unique to the North Pennines, and which were simple cabinets built by miners to  display glittering fluorspar crystals and other minerals unearthed during lead mining. This is my Biological Spar Box, made using Lichens and the property of fluorescence, and is an impromptu memorial to the late Dr Tony Chamberlain whose Lichen samples they were.

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