Validating Your Records

Before records are sent in to the BLS database, or to a county recorder or local records centre, some basic checks must be carried out.

The first step is obvious but often overlooked, and that is to check that the location, grid reference, vice county and date are given correctly, and that for any species of interest the substrate has also been noted.

The next step is to check that the identification is as reliable as it can be without reference to an expert:

  • Does the species occur on that substrate?
  • Does it occur in the habitat and geographic area where it was found? Check the distribution maps on the NBN Gateway or in recent publications.
  • Do all the characters match the full description of the species in the appropriate literature (e.g. Smith et al. 2009, 2011)? Photographs can be misleading, the distinguishing features must be checked as well.

If the answer to any of those is no, or if you are unsure, the identification may still be correct but the specimen should be checked by a more experienced lichenologist before the record can be accepted.

A voucher specimen should be retained if the record is new to the country or vice-county, or remarkable in some other way.

Using Referees

Referees are experienced in lichen identification, and are willing to help others to ensure that their records are accurate. There are general and specialist referees. The general referees include habitat specialists, and there are some that are particularly willing to help beginners. Specialist referees may have research experience of one or more groups, and they should only be consulted for their expertise in identifying unusual specimens.

Beginners should start by making contact with a 1st stage referee from their area. Don't be afraid of sending what may turn out to be "just common species". If you can identify these correctly, the referee’s confirmation will be a tremendous boost to your confidence, and if not their corrections will help you to learn.

Always have a go at naming the specimen yourself before sending it off. It should be carefully packed to avoid damage in the post, and sent with:

  • the packet, clearly labelled (preferably printed) with full details of location, date collected, and the name of the collector
  • notes on chemical tests and microscopic details (spore sizes, drawings etc.)
  • a note of the numbered stages you have followed when using identification keys
  • a label with your name and address, plus return postage, if you want the specimen returned.

Please note that referees are busy people, often with day jobs and with their own collections to deal with, so they may not always be able to respond quickly. Contact them by email before sending specimens to check that they can deal with your request, and to confirm the postal address to use.

Do not send too many specimens at once, or many of the same species. Two or three may be returned to you quickly but more than that and you may have a long wait.

When submitting records to any database, determinations by referees must be acknowledged, indicating which specimens have been verified and by whom. For the BLS database the name of the individual who determined the specimen is required, it is not enough to refer it to a particular group or society.


1st Stage Referees

We don't have a formal system of first stage referees so please try your local contact or request help through one of our training groups. Details are on the Local Contacts page. 

2nd Stage Referees

Bacidia, Micarea, general British & W Europe

Brian Coppins -

Biatora, corticolous 'Lecidea'

Christian Printzen, Abteilung Botanik und Molekulare Evolutionsforschung, Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg, Senckenberganlage 25, D-60325 Frankfurt/Main, Germany


Christoph Scheidegger, Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and landscape Research, CH-8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland -

Calicioid lichens & fungi

Leif Tibell, Norbyvägen 18D, S-75236 Uppsala, Sweden -

Catapyrenium & segregates e.g. Placidium, Placidiopsis & Endocarpon

Othmar Breuss, Abteilung Botanik, Naturhistorisches Museum, Burgring 7, A-1014 Wien, Austria -

Corticolous sterile crusts

Tor Tønsberg, Department of Botany, University of Bergen, Allégaten 41, N-5007, Bergen, Norway -

Heavy metal, general

Steve Chambers -

Hypocenomyce, Psora, Toninia

Einar Timdal, Botanical Museum, University of Oslo, Sars'gate 1, N-0562 Oslo, Norway -


John Douglass, 171 Murray Drive, Stonehouse, Larkhall, South Lanarkshire, ML9 3NJ -

Lichenicolous fungi

Paul Diederich, Musée National d'Histoire Naturelle, 25 Rue Munster, L-2160 Luxembourg, Luxembourg - and David Hawkworth (Department of Botany, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD) -


Burkhard Büdel, Abteilung Allgemeine Botanik, Fachbereich Biologie, Universität Kaiserslautern, D-67653 Kaiserlautern, Germany -


Per Magnus Jørgensen, Department of Botany, University of Bergen, Allégaten 41, N-5007, Bergen, Norway -


Roland Moberg, The Museum of Evolution, Uppsala University, Villavägen 6, S-752 36 Uppsala, Sweden

Rhizocarpon, crustose saxicolous lichens, montane lichens

Alan Fryday, Herbarium, Dept. of Plant Biology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1312, USA -

Usnea in W Europe, Macaronesia & eastern North America

Philippe Clerc -