Acharius Medallists

Ana Crespo

Ana Crespo, Professor of Botany at Universidad Complutense of Madrid, did her PhD in 1973 under supervision of the phyto-sociologist Salvador Rivas Martinez, and her lichenological teachers included Gerhard Follmann, Josef Poelt and George Clauzade. Born in Tenerife in the Canary Islands in 1948, she has always been interested in nature and her early career was devoted to phytosociology, taxonomy and floristics of Mediterranean lichens.

Needless to say her scientific achievements and her contribution to lichenology are widely known. Her first paper in 1973 was the first about lichens by a Spanish botanist for almost one century. To date she has published more than 120 scientific contributions (mainly articles and books) and is currently publishing more than 10 per annum in international reputed journals. Cresponea, Cresporaphis and seven species have been dedicated to her name. Some of the most prominent colleagues among Spanish lichenologist have been taught by her, including Eva Barreno and Leopoldo G. Sancho.

After spending 10 years in the Spanish Ministry of Science, she returned to science in 1993 and started to employ molecular techniques, spending two years in the Genetic Department of Universidad Complutense and more than one year at the International Mycological Institute (at CABI) in the UK to learn these. As a result she developed a strong international research group called SYSTEMOL at Universidad Complutense. Even during her administrative positions at the ministry she promoted the development of lichen studies.

If you search the citation index you will find an overwhelming long list. Her research has revolutionized Parmeliaceae systematics and provides a model for other groups. She was one of those who first discovered cryptic species in lichens and its relevance to lichen biodiversity and conservation; this topic is now one of the burning research topics in lichens and fungi in general. Her research contributions have changed generic and species concepts and she has provided a new perspective for Parmeliaceae. Her scientific contributions towards evolutionary biology are noteworthy and include several evolutionary hypothesis, such as high substitution rates in the tropics related to the shift in environmental conditions (high precipitation); most of the parmelioid lineages have evolved and diversified in the southern hemisphere etc. She has also made a recent advance in the evolution and estimated divergence time of Parmeliaceae.

Undoubtedly Ana Crespo is one of most influential botanists in Spain, being the only botanist recently elected to be the only full member of the prestigious Spanish Royal Academy of Sciences. She had an important role in Spanish development of science being Director General of Universities and General Secretary for the evaluation of the scientific activities of the Spanish researchers. From these positions she made a great effort to stimulate the public budget in support research of high quality, including basic sciences and the development of the biology of organisms and ecosystems and the preparation of monographic works on flora and fauna of the Iberian Peninsula.

Last but not least, Ana Crespo is a generous leader, and always shows concern for students and colleagues. Probably a secret in her successful life is that she is always works from 7.30 am to 7.30 pm with no siesta! Due to her scientific and administrative achievements, her awareness of almost everything about lichens, her openness to innovation in science, and her enthusiastic support to colleagues, friends and students make her a deserving recipient of the Acharius Medal.

Pradeep K. Divakar, Madrid

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