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The lichenologist

6 minutes

How LSD helped a scientist find beauty in a peculiar and overlooked form of life

Kerry Knudsen, curator of lichens at the University of California Riverside, is one of the world’s leading authorities on the composite organisms in which algae or cyanobacteria grow symbiotically inside a fungus. The Lichenologist finds Knudsen in the lab and on excursions to Santa Cruz Island and Joshua Tree National Park, where he describes his abiding love of nature, partially precipitated by experimentation with LSD, and of working in the field, a joy he attributes to ‘the intense feeling of reality, of just being here’. Shot and scored with an appropriately psychedelic flair, the UK director Matthew Killip’s film finds much to marvel at in both Knudsen and the lichens themselves.

Director: Matthew Killip

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