What on earth is a Bryologist?

Friday, 24 February, 2017

Ela Sarah Moss 2

In this next instalment, we talk to one of ELA’s newest recruits, Sarah Stevens who joined the ELA Newcastle team as a Graduate Ecologist late last year.

1. So your passion is Bryology… what is it?

It’s a collective study of Bryophytes which includes mosses, liverworts (like tiny lily pads but without stems and leaf veins) and hornworts (like liverworts but with a horn-like structure). The majority of field work is spent laying on the forest floor, admiring (and identifying) secret, hidden and beautiful ecosystems that most people unfortunately don’t even see, or simply only use as a comfy green cushion for a rest.

2. What did you study at uni?

After moving around Australia lots, my degree of choice was Environmental Science, which I started at JCU in Townsville, and completed at the University of Newcastle with a Bachelor in Enviro Science and Management (Biodiversity and Ecosystems).

3. Have you always been interested in moss? Why the fascination?

Yes, I loved all things Botanical, but fancied mosses most. I love that they’re fussy and don’t like living where their feet weren’t born. And that they’re brave pioneer species after fire or disturbance, setting up a water source for other successional species.

4. Tell us about your favourite moss or most interesting moss find.

The first moss I was ever able to identify was in the Dawsonia genus. They’re the biggest or tallest of the mosses reaching up to 50 cm in height and I’ve found this species in weird places like growing out of leaking tap handles

Laying Low Res

5. What do you love most about what you do?

I love being able to contribute to something on the planet that matters and being around people that care and are really good at what they do. I’m grateful to be able to see and touch places that aren’t accessible to everyone like Offset sites or private land. 

6. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve worked on since starting with ELA?

I have a project coming up that involves assessing a client’s private land and simply helping the owner increase biodiversity and resilience through sharing bush regeneration advice and knowledge. Bush regen is special, and doing this project feels good inside.

7. What advice would you give to someone wanting to start a career in ecology?

Don’t ever stop volunteering. Not ever. Even after you get that first chance job in to the Industry. Always share your knowledge and then volunteer some more!