Northwest Lichenologists

Tools and Chemicals

NWL does not endorse particular businesses. This list is a response to repeated requests for sources for tools and lichen reagents. Additional sources are welcome.

Lichen Curation Materials and Methods

Tools and Chemicals

  • Carbide-tipped rock chisels, UV lamps, rock hammers, Hastings triplet hand lenses: Miners Inc, 800-824-7452. Email: -- Not sure Miners Inc is still functioning. Chisels also available from Trow and Holden Co.  The 3/8" (10 mm) diam straight chisel looks perfect.
  • Good quality hand-held plug-in UV lamp with short-wave and long-wave options, performance superior to LED-type UV lamps: UVP 95-0021-12 Model UVGL-25 Compact Split Tube UV Lamp, 254/365nm Wavelength, 115V, currently (May 2017) available through for about $220. These are made by UVP in Upland, California.
  • Hastings triplet hand lenses, UV lamps, many kinds of field equipment: Forestry Suppliers, 800 647 5368 
  • Lichen candelaris hand lenses with built-in dual LEDs,10X, 14X, and 20X triplets, aplanatic, achromatic. Erich Zimmerman. See the fact sheet posted by the Bryological and Lichenological Association for Central Europe or contact Erich for details. Made in Switzerland. This is the Rolls Royce of hand lenses, both in quality and price (over 5 times the price of a typical high quality hand lens). Don't even think of buying this if you habitually lose things in the field.
  • PD reagent (para-phenylenediamine) - Photographers' Formulary, PO Box 950, Condon MT 5982.
    <>. In their 2019 catalog, this was available at $7 for 10 g; also available in larger quantities.
  • Ceramic spot plates used for spot tests can be purchased from scientific supply places, but they are unnecessarily expensive. You can use any ceramic or glass object, even a simple microscope slide. But if you use clear glass, you should put it over a white card. If you know a potter, they can make a flat plate a few inches square using white porcelain clay, make a series of smooth depressions with a finger, then fire it with a clear glaze. If someone wants to make and sell these, we can list them as a source here.
  • Spot test poster has a flow chart to identify possible substances based on spot tests for common lichen substances. Photos of example reactions for each test are connected by a logical order for the tests. Order from
  • Dropper bottles can also be purchased from science supply places. We have heard that you can also get them from pharmacists. Try to get small ones with brown glass. (The brown reduces the photo-degradation of C reagent, which can happen very quickly if you work in a sunny window). You can also just tape over a clear bottle to make it opaque, but brown glass is nice because you can see in it.
  • Forceps. It's great to have a nice pair of superfine but strong forceps (tweezers). Cheap ones are easy to come by, as are cheap imitations of good ones. Based on recommendations that surfaced on the Bryonet listserver, one supplier of good forceps is BioQuip #4524, around $20. One person has used Swiss Rubis model 4A, and found them to be great. Athough I cannot remember where I bought them. Other people sound quite happy with relatively inexpensive tweezers, such as Erem EROP5SAV Anti-Acid, Micro-Point Tweezers, available from Fry's Electronics, currently for $6.
  • Spear-point probe is also available from BioQuip (4754 or 4755, handle: #4753).
  • Lichen color chart. If you are wondering what a lichenologist means by "yellow" or "red", this color chart poster should help. Beginners often struggle with color terms as applied by lichenologists in descriptions and keys. For example, usnic acid gives a distinctive yellowish tinge to lichens, which is recognized by all lichenologists, but initially that yellow tinge can be hard to discern in comparison to the wide range in subtle tones displayed by lichens. The poster also provide an attractive and interesting visual display of the spectrum of colors seen in lichens. Order from

Online Mapping Tools

  • Google Earth -- Extremely useful for obtaining geographic coordinates and elevations. This is a free download. Just type in Google Earth into your browser search window.
  • Google Maps -- Click the "Maps" heading in the Google search page. This is a handy companion to Google Earth. In particular, try the "terrain" checkbox under the "More" heading. The main drawback to Google Maps and Google Earth is the fairly small database of searchable names.
  • Google maps lat/long tool on
  • Geographical names in Canada
  • Geography Network
  • Microsoft TerraServer-USA
  • If you want to do more serious mapping, ESRI's ArcGIS is the standard, but if you are on a tight budget, you might try QGIS, which is an open-source full-featured GIS program. Tom Carlberg pointed out a number of its attributes: 1. It's *free*. 2) It imports and exports .kml files for Google Earth (and many other file types). 3) With some web browsing, you can add ESRI satellite imagery. 4) It reprojects on the fly, for more file formats, and does a great job of that. 5) The user interface is difficult to use, especially if you are used to ArcMap, and especially in the page layout module. 6) The online support community is magnificent. 7) Scripting is more accessible than ArcMap.


  • Micro-Tech-Lab sells quality adapters for putting your digital camera on either a photo tube on a scope or an eyepiece on a scope. Some people hand hold a camera to the eyepiece, but your results will be much better and more consistent if you buy an adapter. These are not cheap, but life is short, and the pleasures of microphotography are many.
  • Lighting. Realistic colors are achieved by setting the white balance of your camera. The type of lights you use will also be important. For use under the dissecting scope, LED lights are long lasting and inexpensive but currently have uneven spectra, causing overemphasis of some colors (commonly green and violet), even after setting the white balance. Halogen lamps are more expensive but have a more continuous spectrum and provide more realistic colors in photography.
  • PhotoShop is a top-quality but expensive program for image editing. An open-source image editing program is ImageJ,  from the National Institute of Health. Tom Carlberg writes that auto image corrections look pretty good. If you photograph through the eyepiece of your scope, like he does, and include the reticle, you can set the scale and use the program for measuring, and also add a scale bar to the image. The native file format is .tif rather than .jpg.
  • If you have found other solutions that work well, send them to me and I will add them to the list.

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