Justin Smith died suddenly, from Sudden arrhythmic death syndrome, on the 3rd of March 2014, aged just 46, shocking news for all who that knew this larger than life character. He was one of our most colourful and stimulating colleagues and inspired thousands of people through guided walks, talks and training courses. He leaves behind his wife, Lucy, and son, Wilf. Justin was born in Worcester, the only son of Eva and Melvyn. From a young age, he always showed a great interest in the natural world, subsequently gaining a degree in Geology at Exeter University.
Over the years Justin developed an extensive knowledge of natural history, especially mycology, which was hard to surpass. He was forever in demand, delivering identification courses, forays and workshops on fungi, lichens, mosses, liverworts, flowers, ferns, trees, ancient woodlands, as well as general conservation issues. He worked with many diverse organisations, including Bristol University, the Institute for Ecology and Environmental Management, Somerset Environmental Records Centre, Flora Locale, Bristol Zoo and local Wildlife Trusts. He was a member of the Association of British Fungus Groups, the British Mycological Society where he was Chair of its Field Mycology and Conservation Committee, the British Lichen Society and the British Bryological Society. Justin’s talent for communication led to regular radio/television work such as Autumn Watch, Bill Oddie's How to Watch Wildlife, Jimmy's Farm, The Really Wild Show and regular contributions to local radio.
Justin was a founder member of the North Somerset and Bristol Fungus Group, along with Pat Andrews who also passed away recently, when it formed in 1995. After 2000, he took over a leading role. We will always remember the forays he led. On days when fungi were scarce he ably filled in by describing the plants, animals and geology of the site. He also ran regular Workshops for us on subjects ranging from Corticioids and ascomycetes to general microscopy. All those fortunate enough to attend greatly valued his ability to communicate at all levels. His thoroughness in dealing with fungal keys was an inspiration to many. As one of our members wrote “Justin gave so generously to our group in every way and was an enthusiastic, lovely person, an educator and foray leader. I feel honoured to have known him.”
His knowledge, much self-taught, developed through his work for the Conservation Volunteers, as an ecological surveyor, and after moving to Bristol in 1995, as project co-ordinator and botanical trainer for the Avon Wildlife Trust. His engaging personality was perfect for later work with people with learning disabilities, mental health issues, the long-term unemployed and those involved in Community Payback.
More recently Justin’s wide expertise in mycology, botany, lichens, bryophytes and hoverflies led to his appointment as Bristol City Council's Woodland and Wildlife Officer. Gradually his expertise became more widely appreciated and recently he had worked with Natural England and Kew, producing a list of possible SSSIs, based on waxcaps and other grassland fungi, the first ever fully accepted Red Data list (for Boletes) and at the time of his death he was completing a second Red Data list.
Justin will be sadly missed, both for his skills in communication and research, but also as a colleague and friend to many.
John and Doreen Bailey