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This lichen identification course consists of a blend of field and laboratory sessions, focusing on morphology, biology, ecology and chemistry of lichens.

The course will include a series of field visits to local sites around the FSC centre, in the iconic and clean habitats of the English Lake District. With the rich lichen diversity at Blencathra, the centre is perfectly situated for an introductory course to lichens, especially with the spectacular variety that can be found in the uplands. The knowledge and skill set acquired over the duration of this course will equip you with the confidence to delve further into lichens as a group, with follow-up support on offer by the course tutor.

The identification methods for lichens will be explored. The huge range of species and complex ecology make lichens an initially challenging group but through this course their life cycles and structures are demonstrated.

Your course will take place in our centre which occupies a dramatic setting at 300m up the south facing slope of Blencathra in the Lake District National Park.

PLEASE NOTE the course fee is for tuition only. If you would like to book accommodation and meals, including packed lunches, at FSC Blencathra please email [email protected]  Please book early to ensure availability of accommodation.

Who Should Attend?

Natural history enthusiasts, students, rangers, ecologists, environmental professionals. This intermediate level course is open to anyone with some knowledge of the subject.

Knowledge Level – Intermediate. Level descriptors can be found on the following webpage: Framework and Course Level Descriptors

What will be covered during this course?

The course will be delivered through a combination of seminars, laboratory identification sessions and practical field work. Field work will involve visiting a range of habitats where the specimens can be identified within an ecological context.

  • Defining the lichens – how their life cycle and ecology differs from other groups, with a brief introduction to their structure and function.
  • Identification, description, ecology and distribution of a range of lichens.
  • Particular emphasis on ecologically important groups, including those which may be bioindicators.
  • How to use a lens in the field to look for characteristic structures.
  • Climatological, geological and other factors which affect lichen distribution.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Identify, and justify the identification of a selection of common lichen species using a range of identification resources.
  • Evaluate the role that lichens have as ecological indicators and their use in indicating air and habitat quality.


This is one of a series of courses (Units) run jointly with Manchester Metropolitan University contributing to the MSc Biological Recording and Ecological Monitoring and the Postgraduate Certificate in Biological Recording. MMU students complete assessed work after the course. For further details about Manchester Metropolitan University degree programmes please contact:

Department of Natural Sciences, Manchester Metropolitan University, (Shrewsbury Office). Email: [email protected]

  • See the ‘Example Timetable’ and ‘What’s Included’ sections below for more information about this course.
  • Upon booking you will need to provide individual details of all attendees
  • Please email [email protected] if you have any questions.


For Manchester Metropolitan University students, the Unit will be assessed through, for example, identification tests, survey reports, field journals, production of keys, essays or other forms of assessment. In course tests are optional and less formal for participants who are not MMU students.

MMU students will be required to complete a portfolio comprising of two parts:

Part 1: A test, OR annotated notebook with a range of specimens. Points will likely be awarded for correct identification, critical comparison between specimens and comparisons between superficially similar/related species (Equivalent to 1000 words).

Part 2: A literature review style essay on the importance of lichens as biological indicators, including their use to indicate air quality, pollutants etc. You should also discuss the problems of identification, and issues this can cause (1000 words).

Tutor: April Windle

April Windle is a naturalist with a particular interest in lichens. She is currently self-employed and involved in a variety of lichen education and conservation projects, alongside co-chairing the Education & Promotions Committee of the British Lichen Society.  Her previous employment history includes Plantlife International, the Natural History Museum, Exmoor National Park Authority and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. LinkedIn: April Windle / Twitter: @aprilwindle

Example Timetable

Example Timetable

Please note that this course runs Thursday – Sunday, rather than the usual Friday – Monday.

This timetable is subject to change but should give an outline of what to expect.

If you have booked accommodation and meals with the centre your bedroom will be ready from 3.00 pm onwards on the day of arrival and we ask that you vacate by 9.30 am on the morning of departure.

The evening meal is at 6.30 pm (not included in the course fee - please book separately).

The course starts after dinner with a classroom session 7.30 pm - 9.00 pm

The course ends at 4.00 pm on the final day.

Time will be made available for eating packed lunches during the day (not included in the course fee - please book separately).

Accrediting Agency

Manchester Metropolitan University

What's Included

  • Expert Tuition
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Hot and Cold Drinks

What’s included?

  • Classroom learning covering the theory of the subject
  • Field excursions to apply new knowledge
  • Expert tuition for which the FSC is renowned
  • Clear objectives and progression

You can rest assured that the absolute best content from an expert in environmental education will be provided. In choosing an FSC course, you will be joining thousands of people who learn with us each year.

PLEASE NOTE the course fee is for tuition and refreshments only. If you would like to book accommodation and meals, including packed lunches, at FSC Blencathra please email [email protected]  Please book early to ensure availability of accommodation.

Before You Attend

There will be a member of staff with first aid training and access to a first aid kit on site. If you have special medical or access requirements, please let us know as soon as possible so we can make any necessary adjustments.

What to bring

  • You own ID books, hand lens & field notebook will be useful.
  • Warm clothing is essential.
  • Waterproof jacket and waterproof trousers (can be borrowed from the Centre).
  • Outdoor footwear (walking boots and wellies can be borrowed from the Centre).
  • Day rucksack, warm hat and gloves
  • A torch, water bottle, thermos flask and lunch box.

Recommended Reading

  • Dobson, F. (1981) Lichens: an illustrated guide. 2nd Edition. Richmond
  • Ferry, B.W., Baddeley, M.S. and Hawksworth, D.L. (1973) Air Pollution and Lichens. Athlone
  • FSC Lichens wildlife pack identification charts