Competition: US & Canada
University of Waterloo
I was born in 1933 in Liverpool, England, and grew up and enjoyed an excellent education in that grimy city. My mother and father encouraged my interest in biology, and made financial sacrifices to further my education, for which I will always be more than grateful. I had excellent teachers at the Liverpool Institute High School for Boys, and am especially grateful to Mr. Smith, my English teacher. I was an early beneficiary of the postwar Labour Government’s legislation opening higher education to students from lower-income families. Indeed, I may well be the first professional in my family. I completed my Ph.D. in Mycology at the University of Liverpool at the age of 24. (I acknowledge a great deal of support from Dr. Dennis Parkinson, who on at least one occasion persuaded me not to give up my studies.)
Jobs being scarce in Britain at that time, I sailed for Canada, where I had been awarded a Postdoctoral Fellowship of the National Research Council.While working on moulds in Ottawa, I was offered a position by the Federal Government, and spent the next six years at the Biosystematics Research Centre, on the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa, picking the brains of my senior colleagues and acquiring the rudiments of mycology (I soon learned that a Ph.D. is only the beginning of one’s professional education). During this time, I gradually came to love and respect my colleague and mentor, Dr. Luella Weresub, whose friendship I treasured until she died in 1979. Her love of the English language was exceeded only by her ability to play the devil’s advocate, and she must have the credit for whatever small powers of analysis and thought I may have developed.
Eventually, I developed a strong aversion to the bureaucracy, and left the government in 1965 to take up a teaching position in the Department of Biology at the University of Waterloo. This was certainly one of the best decisions I ever made. My interests broadened, research support grew, and I was made a full Professor in 1971. For almost thirty years I revelled in the freedom and responsibility of the job, and was involved in a ferment of teaching, research, writing, and environmental activism. For several years I think I spent more time working for the newly spawned Pollution Probe than on my academic studies. Fortunately, I organized a couple of very successful specialist conferences, and my laboratory produced over 300 mycological publications. This total includes twelve books, three of which are university textbooks, and one a children’s book. My mycological textbook, The Fifth Kingdom, has enjoyed a modest success, seventeen thousand copies having been sold so far, and it may be the most widely used mycology text in North America. I had a total of twenty-five successful graduate students over the years, some of whom are still close friends.
I took "early retirement" in 1994, partly to move to the beautiful waterfront property we had found on Vancouver Island, partly to expand my activities in other areas and enjoy a new spectrum of living organisms. I did, however, continue to teach and to supervise graduate students. I am very proud that some of my former graduate students now hold professorial appointments on the faculties of many North American universities.
Although I am in many ways a generalist, with interests ranging from fungi to birds to coral reefs, my research has been primarily concerned with the fungi we call moulds C their systematics, development, and ecology. These fungi are particularly involved in the decomposition (recycling) of plant debris, and I and my students have established that they play vital roles in energy and nutrient flow in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
For several years my teaching involved correspondence (distance education), a field course, and workshops for amateurs, all of which happily furthered my own education. I have a deep commitment to communicate my enthusiasm for fungi, and this has taken me to lecture at universities in China, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, France, South Africa, the U.S.A., and Canada, as well as to many schools and natural history societies in Canada and the U.S.A.
I was awarded a D.Sc. in 1980, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1981. I served as Honourary Secretary of the Academy of Science of the Royal Society for seven years. I was twice a member of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Plant Biology Grant Selection Committee, chairing it once, and also served on the selection committee for the NSERC "1967" scholarships, Canada’s most prestigious graduate awards. In 1993 I gave an invited televised lecture in the biennial Prestige Lecture Day staged by the South African Foundation for Research Development in Pretoria, and came home via Australia, where I dived on the barrier reef and took pictures for ongoing research projects.
Following my "retirement" in 1994, I was made a Distinguished Professor Emeritus by the University of Waterloo. I was surprised and delighted to receive the 1995 Distinguished Mycologist Award of the Mycological Society of America, and was made a Centenary Fellow of the British Mycological Society in 1996. My micropublishing business, "Mycologue Publications," keeps me fairly busy, and is still producing new mycological books, laboratory manuals and databases (as can be seen on its web page: http://www.mycolog.com).
I produced a CD-ROM based on The Fifth Kingdom, which has over thousands of colour and illustrations strategically placed throughout the text, plus animations explaining developmental processes in fungi, and a few video segments derived from material I have taken in various parts of the world.
I now spend time almost every day adding material to, and updating, my CD-ROM, and I am pleased to say that copies are now being used to teach mycology in many parts of the world.
I began photographing intertidal life forms fifteen years ago when we arrived on Vancouver Island, and with the emergence of new digital technology I have been able to build a CD-ROM Seashore Life of British Columbia, which has over 600 large colour pictures of organisms to be seen along the shores of British Columbia and many video sequences.
I have been able to participate in two major multiyear fungal inventories, of Pacific Rim National Park and of Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve.
I also enjoy (not necessarily in the order given) rowing almost every day on the usually calm waters in front of my house, world travel (including diving trips to Belize and the Galapagos), the company of my lovely wife of over thirty years, Laurie, walking with her and our beautiful border collie at Island View Beach or on Mount Newton in John Dean Provincial Park, weekend visits from our adorable grandchildren, occasional SCUBA diving in warm waters, and frequent photography (which produces good teaching material), as well as writing, reading, music, movies, comedy, conversation, food, and especially wine.
I am deeply concerned about what our species is doing to the biosphere, and support a number of environmental causes, such as Planned Parenthood International, Ecojustice, The Sierra Club, The Western Canada Wilderness Committee, and the Friends of John Dean Park. I am also an active member of the Green Party. Because the necessary change will probably come only through the political system, I am a strong advocate of Proportional Representation. However, I am not particularly optimistic about the future of our species.