School of
Integrative Biology
Malcolm Sargent

Office: 217-333-0287

Mail: 286 Morrill Hall, 505 S. Goodwin Ave, Urbana, IL 61801

Malcolm Sargent
Associate Professor Emeritus - Plant Biology


P.hD., 1966, Stanford University

U.S. Navy destroyers, 1960-1962

B.S., 1960, University of Michigan

Teaching Interests

(prior to retirement)

Introductory Biology
Genetics, Experimental Genetics
Biological Rhythms
Biology of Bryophytes
Environmental Botany, Field botany

Creation of user friendly, perspective oriented guides for the identification of bryophytes (mosses, liverworts and hornworts)

My primary goal in retirement is to create user friendly, perspective oriented guides for bryophyte identification by naturalists and interested botanists, and to provide assistance to such individuals. Bryophytes, like certain other plants, are important indicators of human impact on the environment due to their intimate association with atmospheric moisture. A major Guide produced in collaboration with Diane Lucas (referenced below) uses a unique system that:

1) gives perspective on the characters used in the identification of mosses. It employs the various character options that Mother Nature uses, rather than forcing everything into dichotomous states. The Guide not only functions in a practical way to allow identification of genera, but also acts as a teaching tool to focus the user's attention on important characters to be looked for.

2) gives perspective on the logical structure underlying the total system; i.e., the whole system is summarized on only two pages. If a user realizes that an error in identification has been made, then alternative routes are hopefully relatively apparent within the scheme.

3) sorts out the mosses into smaller Groups where each of the members included in a single Group is defined by one to three major characteristics. It minimizes the problems of a dichotomous key where a single wrong choice may not be discovered until the very end of the key; here a wrong choice usually involves "backing up" only to the start of a Group. The aim is to minimize the problem that "keys are made by those that don't need them, for those that can't use them."

4) is simple enough in internal structure to allow the user to correct, modify or customize it with relative ease. In particular, it can be downsized to smaller geographical or political regions by eliminating appropriate taxa. An approximation of the geographical range for each genus is given in two different places within the Guide to facilitate downsizing and identification of genera.

5) allows modification without undue strain for use elsewhere in the world, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere. The Guide is in a ubiquitous format (msWord files) to allow customization of it by the maximal number of users.

6) uses obvious or unique characters first, and subtle, inconspicuous ones last. Characters visible to the naked eye come first, followed sequentially by characters visible in the hand lens, then the dissecting microscope, and lastly by those only visible in the compound microscope.