Episode 21

The Study of Moss

Dec 1, 2020 | Nature

Where can we find moss in the city? What’s the difference between moss and lichen? Is there such a thing as a toxic moss? Alison Haynes, a biologist and writer who’s studying urban moss joins me to answer these questions, and more!

About This Episode

In this episode, I speak with urban moss researcher, Alison Haynes. We talk about where moss can be found in cities, how research about urban moss can help design new sustainable options, and we learn a bit more about Alison switch from journalist to scientist, to the research she did in Antarctica!

About Alison Haynes (Biologist/Writer)

Originally from England, Alison Haynes has lived in Australia for over 30 years. She began her career in Law, but quickly switched over to journalism and now, she’s finishing up a PhD in science, investigating urban moss. We talk about this career transition, why studying urban moss is important and where she’d love to travel to next (once the pandemic is over!).

Follow Alison Haynes on Twitter: https://twitter.com/alisonhaynes1

Visit Alison Haynes’ website: https://alisonhaynes.wordpress.com/


Visit Planet B612 on the web: https://planetb612.fm/

Follow Planet B612 on Twitter: https://twitter.com/PlanetB612fm

Support Planet B612 on Patreon: https://patreon.com/juliesworld

Topics and Timestamps


  • Alison’s research interests in moss (0:00:54)
  • Awareness of moss (0:03:28)
  • The beauty of moss (0:04:33)
  • Moss in Australia (0:05:35)
  • Moss in deserts (0:06:54)
  • Looking for Tardigrades in moss (0:07:41)
  • Creatures in moss (0:08:50)
  • Where to find moss in a city (0:10:45)
  • Invasive moss (0:12:00)
  • The applications of researching urban moss (0:13:09)
  • Moss carpets (0:14:52)
  • International examples of using moss in green architecture (0:15:55)
  • Moss and biodesign (0:17:10)
  • Studying moss propagation with tiles (0:18:04)
  • “Microtopography” (0:20:00)
  • Creating cement environments (0:20:30)
  • Can moss be microscopic? (0:21:53)
  • Looking at moss under a microscope (0:23:30)
  • Different species of moss (0:24:00)
  • How beginners can learn more about moss (0:24:39)
  • Common names for moss (0:25:53)
  • Silver moss and moss colours (0:26:53)
  • Difference between moss and lichen (0:27:43)
  • Sexual reproduction of moss (0:28:30)
  • Toxic moss? (0:30:36)
  • From England to Australia (0:32:35)
  • From Law to Journalism to Science (0:36:46)
  • Science communication (0:40:50)
  • Doing science in Antarctica (0:44:31)
  • Future plans (0:50:20)
  • “Living walls” (0:51:33)
  • International study of urban moss (0:52:40)

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