A full house turned up at the Ray Bradfield rooms for the FOBIF AGM last Monday to hear Sarah Lloyd talk about slime moulds , mysterious life forms which are neither slime nor moulds. Sarah interspersed her entertaining talk with beautiful photos of these living things which are not plants, or fungi, and have some qualities which could put them in the animal world: that is, that they move about, eat things, and leave excrement behind them. She also projected a quite spectacular poster of line drawings of microscopic species by German naturalist Ernest Haekel and tossed off the information that movements of slime moulds might provide models for human transport systems. Discussion took unexpected turns when one audience member claimed to have kept one as a pet, and another drew comparisons with life forms evoked in science fiction stories. Samples were passed around the audience, and we can report that—unlike in the not quite famous Steve McQueen SF horror movie The Blob— no one was devoured by the specimens on show.
Sarah is author of the irrepressible guide, Where the slime mould creeps, obtainable from the Fungimap bookshop . In introducing Sarah, Cassia Read described her work as ‘an ode to nature’. Sarah lives in the forest on Black Sugarloaf Mountain in Tasmania, where she has been conducting detailed studies of the mountain environment for many years–a year long study of the dawn chorus, a detailed record of local fungi, and occasional publications like Life in the shadows, the natural history of Black Sugarloaf, and The Blue Tier, a natural history.
The meeting started with a photo montage on Doug Ralph, founding president of the Friends, followed by a report by FOBIF President Marie Jones. Marie thanked members for their work during the year, and gave a brief run down on the group’s activities: we are actively engaged in lobbying DELWP on forest management issues, take a keen interest in planning matters which may affect the health of our bushlands, and have lately taken on successful education programs for young people, from primary school to teenagers. Our recent field guide to mosses has almost sold out, and a second, revised edition is in preparation; we are also preparing a guide to local eucalypts. Our monthly walks continue to attract very healthy numbers.
After the treasurer’s report, Secretary/Public Officer Naomi Raftery declared all committee positions vacant, and conducted elections. Nominations had been received for all positions before the meeting, and according to the constitution, all nominees were therefore declared elected:
President: Marie Jones; Vice President: Neville Cooper; Secretary: Naomi Raftery; Treasurer: Lynette Amaterstein; Ordinary members: Elvyne Hogan, Frank Panter, Bronwyn Silver, Bernard Slattery.
Thanks to FOBIF for hosting such a great evening.
A week or so before the AGM, I was scrounging through a local op-shop and came across some old copies of the Australian Natural History magazine – a now defunct and sadly-missed publication of the Australian Museum. The lead article highlighted on the cover of the Autumn 1991 issue particularly grabbed me – “SLIME MOULDS -A Reflection of Ourselves?”. Being the nerd that I am, how could I resist doing some background reading before Sarah’s talk!
However, during her presentation I became increasingly confused. How could the scientific understanding of Slime Moulds have changed so dramatically in a ‘mere’ 24 years? Very little of what Sarah said and showed matched what I’d read. Then, right near the end, it hit me. The magazine article was about ‘cellular’ slime moulds, and Sarah’s research has been on the ‘acellular’ or ‘plasmodial’ slime moulds. Related to each. Still interesting. But quite different beasts. Serves me right for being a smart-aleck!
For those that are interested, I have uploaded a scanned copy of the 1991 ‘cellular’ slime mould article by Sussanah Eliott and Keith Williams onto the Connecting Country website (http://cdn.connectingcountry.org.au/press/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/slime-combined.pdf).