|BOTANICAL ELECTRONIC NEWS|
|No. 543 November 27, firstname.lastname@example.org||Victoria, B.C.|
John Packer was born in Reading, England, on September 27, 1929. He spent his formative years in Aylesbury, Bucks.
After doing his compulsory national service, he obtained a BSc and PhD from the University of London. In 1957 he joined the Botany Department at the University of Alberta as professor and Curator of the Vascular Plant Herbarium.
His research interest in the taxonomy and systematics of Arctic and Alpine plants lead him to spend time collecting in Alberta's mountain National Parks as well as throughout Alaska, Yukon and Northwest Territories. He leaves as his legacy many papers relating to this topic, a number of graduate students scattered around the world, and the revised 2nd edition of the Flora of Alberta.
After his retirement in 1988, as professor emeritus, John continued this interest as a contributing author and regional reviewer to the Flora of North America project, and as an editor of the multi-volume Flora of the Russian Arctic. More recently, John was also at work on a new Flora, Vascular Plants of Alberta with Joyce Gould, of which Volume 1 was published in 2017. [Note: This volume is available as a pdf file from https://prism.ucalgary.ca/bitstream/handle/1880/51799/9781552386835_web.pdf ]
John was passionately interested in human rights as well as progressive politics, and was a long-time member of the New Democratic Party, having run as a candidate in 1972.
The whole family spent many years building a log cabin on the sandhills northeast of Edmonton. It was the center of many family events until its most unfortunate loss during the wildfires of 2008.
John passed away on November 4th, 2019, at 90 years of age. He is survived by his wife Anne, sons Keir (Judy), Tom (Bette), and Jim, as well as grandchildren Valerie, Stephen, Clare and Seth, and his brother David and family in England. He was predeceased by his daughter Naomi.
With regret, I pass on the news of the passing of John Packer on November 4.
My first interactions with John Packer occurred when I was an undergrad at the University of Alberta, so he was undoubtedly my longest-serving and longest-suffering botanical mentor.
John Packer was a sometimes irascible old school gentleman with a penchant for big cigars. He was also a humorous intellectual, generous with his time and knowledge. After receiving his PhD from the University of London, in 1957, John Packer took up an academic position at the University of Alberta, where he remained throughout his academic life, studying the local and regional flora and most especially arctic and alpine plants. He was a pioneer in the field of plant cytotaxonomy and was a co-author with Albert Johnson of many landmark papers during the 1960s describing the relationship between the distribution of polyploidy and the arctic environment. He has since published numerous articles detailing the taxonomy of various species complexes found in northwestern North America and mentored many graduate students who continue to work within the botanical community.
In 1983 John published a revised edition of E.H. Moss' Flora of Alberta, Which remains an indispensable tool for botanists in the region. One volume of a new update, co-authored with Joyce Gould, was published in 2017 before John's failing health prevented further work on the project.
After his retirement in 1988, John remained active in the systematic community as a contributor to the Flora of North America project, serving on the editorial committee and the advisory panel. In 1976 Askell and Doris Löve recognized the aureoid Senecio species as a distinct genus, naming it Packera "in honour of ... an old-time friend who has contributed much to the clarification of the status of the arctic-alpine North American members of the taxon."
John was a sometimes reluctant undergraduate teacher, partly I believe because he acquired his love of plants and plant taxonomy as a child, so it was a shock to him that some of the students he faced were similarly reluctant in their role. Still, I recall with great respect how one semester he got caught up and spent too much time during his undergrad plant taxonomy class exploring the fine points of the Durian Theory of the origin of angiosperms, to the point where the topic of Classification could only be dealt with in the last lecture of the semester. He accomplished this quite efficiently by writing the word CLASSIFICATION in big block letters across the blackboard and leaving it at that. I am sure I am not the only student from that year who remains fond of durians, in spite of their marginal position in modern theory, and perhaps just a little bit ignorant of the fine points of classification. [For the Durian Theory, see http://arboritecture.org/pdf_uploads/corner/durian-theory-or-the-origin-of-t he-modern-tree-corner-1949.pdf!]
By the time I had completed my graduate education, I was able to appreciate John's breadth of knowledge and joy in discussing the many fascinations woven into the arctic-alpine flora. Although we never spent time in the field together, we shared stories of places we had both visited and the plants we had seen. He taught me how to count chromosomes in the morning and how to not bid a grand slam with only 16 high card points at noon.
He was a memorable character and an influential mentor.
On August 19, 2019, Hon. Catherine McKenna, Canada Minister of Environment and Climate Change at that time, announced the creation of the Uplands National Historic Site.
Uplands is a residential subdivision of 188 hectares located in the northeastern section of Oak Bay, the oldest suburban municipality in Greater Victoria.
Designed in 1908 by John C. Olmsted, senior partner at Olmsted Brothers, for Winnipeg real estate developer William Gardner, it is an exceptional example of subdivision design and planning and is among the finest works of a renowned landscape architect.
The integrated use of design elements such as a gently curving street pattern, sensitivity to local topography and flora, large, irregular lot shapes, ample provision of parks, and the use of protective deed restrictions helped preserve the subdivision's character and changed the way suburbs were planned well into the 20th century. The subdivision's heterogeneous collection of high-quality, architect and builder designed single-family houses illustrates a variety of trends in Canadian suburban housing, from the Arts and Crafts to 21st century Neo-Modern styles.
Uplands also preserves elements of First Nations archaeology and landscape practices. Uplands Park contains several First Nations burial cairns, and the preservation of the Garry oak meadows within the park and subdivision are attributed, in part, to the seasonal burning practices of the Songhees First Nation that preceded European colonization.
Uplands contains 600 single-family dwellings housing roughly 2,000 people. Its idyllic coastal site is bordered by the Salish Sea, the Uplands Golf Course, the Municipality of Saanich to the north, and Oak Bay to the southeast. Uplands is among the earliest subdivisions in Canada wholly planned as a residential park - a group of houses arranged in a pastoral setting. The Olmsted firm designed Uplands in the tradition of naturalistic or garden suburbs like Llewellyn Park, New Jersey (1853) and Riverside, Illinois (1869). Novel in Canada at the turn of the century, the residential park typology proved deeply influential.
Uplands' organic design sits in dramatic contrast with the surrounding municipalities of Greater Victoria, whose boundaries encompass a patchwork of gridiron subdivisions with small, rectangular lots. Like other planned subdivisions in Canada and around the world, Uplands developed in phases. The first house was completed in 1912, and construction continued until 1976, by which time every lot had been built on. A number of the houses in Uplands were designed by Canada's and British Columbia's leading architects.
John Charles Olmsted's respect for local landscapes and his technique of planning "with the land" had the benefit of preserving elements of First Nations archaeology and landscape practices. The Garry oak savannahs that John Olmsted found on site when he first visited in 1907 have successfully been protected and can be seen in yards, parklets, and in Uplands Park, a large natural park covering 31 hectares of land deeded by William Gardner to the municipality in 1946.
Major range extensions for Canadian lichens and allied fungi are presented. Six species are reported for the first time from Canada: Chaenothecopsis lecanactidis, Chaenothecopsis nigripunctata, Chrysothrix insulizans, Julella lactea, Parmotrema stuppeum, and Porina scabrida. New reports are made for the first time from six provinces and one territory: British Columbia (Bryoria furcellata, Chaenothecopsis lecanactidis, Chaenothecopsis nigripunctata), New Brunswick (Julella lactea), Nova Scotia (Bacidia polychroa, Chaenothecopsis tsugae, Chaenothecopsis insulizans, Cladonia cryptochlorophaea, Diplotomma venustum, Herteliana schuyleriana, Julella lactea, Lepraria hodkinsoniana, L. humida, L. oxybapha, Megalaria pulverea, Parmotrema stuppeum, Plectocarpon lichenum), Ontario (Chaenothecopsis consociate, Parmotrema stuppeum, Porina scabrida), Nunavut (Nephroma parile, Ochrolechia mahluensis), Prince Edward Island (Cladonia merochlorophaea, Lepraria eburnean, Physcia alnophila, Thelotrema suecicum, Trapeliopsis gelatinosa, Xylographa pallens) and Quebec (Japewia subaurifera). Parmelia fraudans is reported for the first time from southern Ontario, and five species are reported new to the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (Bryoria furcellata, Icmadophila ericetorum, Parmeliopsis ambigua, P. hyperopta, Vulpicida pinastri).
A new murder mystery series takes place at the University of Michigan Biological Station (UMBS). They are written by Eric M. Howe, a professor of Science Education at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts. The series introduces Erasmus "Rick" Parsons, the protagonist who is a phycology professor at UMBS. He assists the local police officer, Abigail Bennett. His romantic interest is Heather Wilkins, a pollination ecologist, also on the UMBS faculty.
In the first of the series, Deadly Restoration: A Douglas Lake Mystery (2019; ISBN: 9781729469538; 205 p.), a researcher at the University of Michigan Biological Station is murdered when studying the possible effects of removing a dam from a small stream for it to run wild. Rick Parsons finds that the drowned researcher has a different diatom assemblage in her lungs than the assemblage in the water in which she was found. This leads to the actual site of the murder, and ultimately, its resolution.
In the second of the series, Gathering Moss: A Douglas Lake Mystery (2019; ISBN: 9781096631439; 174 p.), Rick Parsons is looking into resurrecting the bryophyte class at UMBS. A skeletonized corpse is discovered in the forest, and a moss (spoiler alert: it's Leptodictyum riparium) is found on the skull. By counting annual growth segments, Parsons can estimate the time of death, which was several years earlier than previously assumed by the police. This allows the corpse to be identified, and the killer discovered.
For anyone who has ever been to the University of Michigan Biological Station, these books will bring back memories. The Station and surrounding area are accurately described, and many of the places described in the mysteries will immediately be familiar to anyone who has spent a summer at "Bug Camp." A third mystery is in the works. The books are self-published and available from Amazon.com. The first is available in both hardcopy ($7.99) and a Kindle version, but the second is only available as hardcopy ($6.99).
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