Queensland Natural History Award 2006 – Grace Lithgow

The Queensland Natural History Award for 2006 was presented to Grace Lithgow.

Grace Lithgow is a much respected Queensland naturalist. Grace has a particular interest in local flora but is known in Queensland and throughout Australia for her skills and contributions in many aspects of natural history. These contributions began with studies of marine life of the Queensland coast adjacent to the Arafura Sea, Arnhem Land and some Pacific Islands, where she photographically documented marine life and made an original collection of shells. Using her own resources she developed skills in botany and zoology and combined these with an artistic talent to produce field guides used by both the amateur and professional. Of special note are ’60 Wattles of the Chinchilla and Murilla Shires of South East Queensland’ and ‘Some Mistletoes & Other Semiparasitic Shrubs’. These guides are recognized for the botanical correctness of their illustrations. The acacia drawings have been used as illustrations in Bruce Maslin’s key to Australian Acacias. A special feature of the acacia book is the development of a unique key that will identify the wattles of the Chinchilla and Murilla Shires with or without flowers. The mistletoe book describes each species and records host plant species on which each mistletoe species grows and which are major host mistletoe plants for butterflies of the area. These aspects are original work not previously documented.

Grace’s botanical skills are not limited to wattles and mistletoes as she has contributed sections on insects, molluscs, sedges and grasses to two editions of the Chinchilla Field Naturalists’ Club book ‘Going Bush with Chinchilla Nats’, plant lists and updated botanical names in ‘Jimba to Dried beef Creek’ a recounting in detail of Ludwig Leichhardt’s travels and observations in the Chinchilla and Murilla Shires.

Grace Lithgow’s botanical artistic talents have been utilized by many groups including the use of her drawing as the basis for engraved metal plaques on a plant trail at Roma, a wildflower poster design for the Gurulmundi Wildflower Festival at Miles, and plant drawings in the Chinchilla Shire Railway centenary book. The original drawings for her ’60 Wattles of the Chinchilla and Murilla Shires’ are now owned by the Chinchilla Shire Council and have been toured by the Chinchilla White Gums Gallery as an exhibition to other galleries. Works in preparation include drawings and paintings for a book on identification of fungi, and a book on endangered, vulnerable and rare plants. Drawings of fossil bones and teeth (found by C & D Wilkinson), associated with the Diprotodon fossils of the Chinchilla region, have enabled Lyndall Dawson (University of NSW) to compare specimens with other collections.

Targeted specimen collection has been a major contribution by Grace Lithgow. Her collection of more than 1000 different species of insect is now housed in the Queensland Museum. There are 526 botanical specimens in the Queensland Herbarium. Special collections of butterflies, cicadas, grasshoppers, plant fossils, fresh water snails, frogs & tadpoles have all been provided to specialist researchers in Museums, Universities and CSIRO and enabled them to either extend the range of known species or describe new species. One of these collections was a previously undescribed species of burrowing cockroach which now appropriately is named after Grace (Macropanesthia lithgowae).

Grace’s contributions include a significant teaching role by way of Natural History classes at the Chinchilla State School and many plant identification nights at the Chinchilla Field Naturalists’ Club meetings. Grace joined the CFNC in 1969 and has served as President (twice), Vice-president and continues to be the Club’s Librarian. In addition to serving long periods on the Club’s management committee Grace focussed on making meetings and outings interesting for junior members and encouraged them to contribute their observations at meeting and in the Club’s magazine (‘Urimbirra’). In addition to her activities with the CFNC, Grace is an active member and contributor in the Dragonfly Society, Butterfly and Other Invertebrates Club, Wildlife Artists Society of Queensland and Myall Park Botanical Gardens.

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