Sally Fryar

I am a fungal taxonomist, specialising in the marine and freshwater fungi of Australia. These are mostly ascomycetes and their asexual forms.

I completed my PhD at Flinders University in 1997 on the taxonomy and ecology of wood decay fungi (basidiomycetes), examining indirect effects of multi-species interactions. In 1998 I moved to Hong Kong as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Hong Kong where I was introduced to the fascinating world of freshwater and marine fungi under the supervision of Professor Kevin Hyde. My research took me to various peat swamp forests, mangroves and streams in Borneo where I was a visiting fellow at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam. 

The challenge with studying marine and freshwater fungi is that species descriptions are scattered throughout the literature, often in obscure, inaccessible journals and with poor illustrations. While taking a career break to have children, I spent 10 years gathering as much literature as possible on marine and freshwater fungi, putting together a database on worldwide records of each species along with their descriptions.

My aim is to provide thorough, consistent, understandable descriptions of marine and freshwater fungi of Australia along with clear illustrations and images so that non-specialists are able to identify these species.

I often find new species and genera and I am in the process of describing and publishing a number of these along with phylogenetic analyses based on molecular data.

I am an adjunct senior lecturer at Flinders University where I do some teaching and molecular work.

8 responses
Lack of easy access to the literature is a common theme in taxonomic research. How useful has BHL been to you? Is there anything that would have made your literature searches easier?
Hi, BHL has been very helpful at times, but most of the literature that I needed was not on there. For older mycology literature Cyberliber ( has been extremely helpful. Also Mycobank ( is invaluable for finding taxonomic references. Mostly though I am extremely grateful to the staff at the document delivery section of the Flinders Library. They have sourced most of the older literature for me. What would have made literature searches easier? A database like Current Contents or Biological Abstracts that goes back to 1900 or further would be pretty amazing. Once I know of a reference, it's usually not too hard to get it, but so much information is lost in the older literature without an easy way to find it.
In spiders, we have the unbelievably helpful World Spider Catalog (, which has all spider taxonomic literature online for each member to download. These are 14,043 references today, and of all known spider literature, only few obscure papers ( a total of 36!) are not for download. Of course, each species entry is listed to all papers that ever illustrated/described it. I couldn't live without the WSC!
Ideally all taxonomic literature would be globally discoverable and accessible. I've done. little work I this area, such as an attempt to link literature in the Australian Faunal Database to BHL, BioStor, Does, etc. see (it's a bit old and clunky). Resources like the World Spider Catalog are great, but limit access to a small set of users (I'm assuming because of copyright issues). Likewise, getting interlibrary loans, etc. for personal use solves the image problem a researcher has (I need to read this paper), but not the global problem of access. Furthermore limiting access also limits what we can do (e.g., no text mining). Maybe a first attempt would be to have a single, searchable index of all taxonomic literature, linked wherever possible to online versions. Australia is pretty lucky given how much of its taxonomic literature has been digitised, either by commercial publishers, the CSIRO, individual museums and herbaria, and BHL-AU.
World Spider Catalog looks extremely useful. It's a shame that it's not publicly available, but understandable given copyright issues. I absolutely agree that interlibrary loans etc is not really the solution. It's incredibly frustrating that I've spent years tracking down papers and not able to share them as part of my database. I think that the priorities for taxonomic research are: - Make all taxonomic literature publicly available and searchable. Preferably all in one place. - All new taxonomic descriptions added to relevant databases (in mycology we have Mycobank or Faces of Fungi) along with good images. - All older type material re-examined and re-described with modern descriptions and images. If possible then also sequence at least two genes. - Create online, geo-located, interactive keys The first priority has significant challenges due to copyright and paywalls. I think though that it is one of the major causes of slow progress in taxonomic research (along with a lack of funding). We are at a technological stage when we have all of the tools necessary to make taxonomy so much easier and more accessible. We just need funding and to solve the copyright issue.
The World Spider Catalog is publicly available, i.e. you just have to join (for free) and you have access to all pdf's. It's made possible by Swiss copyright laws.
The problem here is the definition of "free". There's free as in "free beer" and there's free as in "liberty". Real freedom means the ability to have open access to the PDFs, to share them, and to repurpose them. Local solutions for particular taxonomic groups that make use of particular legal jurisdictions may solve a local problem, but not the broader one.
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