|BOTANICAL ELECTRONIC NEWS|
|No. 309 April 26, email@example.com||Victoria, B.C.|
Although as a youngster Ernie McNaughton was a farmboy in Manitoba his interest in floristics did not surface until he reached his still-youthful early 70s. At that time a life-long friend (Wilfred Bothams) who was a prominent and widely respected amateur botanist in southern Ontario visited Vernon on a plant-hunting holiday, and in accompanying him around the seed was planted. Over the 15 years since that time Ernie and I have made regular weekly explorations throughout each flowering season to obscure places in the southern Interior which looked on map surveys to have interesting potential. In this way we have been able to find and submit 20 to 30 Red/Blue sites each year, a high percentage of which have been new locations, extend known distribution ranges, as well as add several first-for-BC records, helping make that part of the province better known floristically. When not in the field Ernie has been meticulous in finding the gremlins that often bedevil proofs and drafts of up-coming publications. Altogether his accomplishments have been a remarkable achievement for someone so recently introduced to the youth-enhancing exercise of botany.
My first teacher of botany was a retired secondary school teacher who lived in our neighbourhood in Czechoslovakia. He had an excellent knowledge of the local flora, but having had a stroke, was able to walk only in his garden. He sent me to various places he knew to see whether or not special plants were still growing there.
He was the first amateur botanist I ever met. Later he sent me to visit another man who lived about fifteen miles away and knew lots of little secrets about the plants in his territory. Soon I realized that almost all of my country was in the hands of amateur botanists who knew their local floras well and were making significant contributions to the study of plant distributions there.
At university we were taught not to underestimate the botanical knowledge of the general public. The rediscovery of Ephedra distachya was cited as an example. This shrub, a conifer, has leafless branches similar to those of Spanish broom, and conspicuous red fruits which resemble raspberries. Shortly before World War II it was discovered growing on sand dunes in southern Slovakia. During the war Slovakia separated from what was left of Czechoslovakia (and She did it again in 1993), and the man who had published the article about this find died in a concentration camp. After the war a group of university botanists from Prague went to check the locality. They wandered around looking for what was described as "sand dunes near Chenek's Sawmill" and lost their way. Finally they met a man on a bicycle, obviously a worker from a nearby gravel pit. The Prague scientists flagged him down and asked for directions to Chenek's Sawmill. The man looked at them and said: "Are you looking for Ephedra distachya?" It was he who had first noticed the strange shrub and brought it to the attention of his school teacher, who in turn had contacted professional botanists.
Amateur botanists played a significant role in the early explorations of British Columbia. During this era W. F. Tolmie, J. R. and W. B. Anderson, C. F. Newcombe and W. R. Carter were prominent figures in the study of British Columbian plants. The most significant achievement of the time was the publication of the "F1ora of Southern British Columbia and Vancouver Island" by J. K. Henry, a professor of English as well as an amateur botanist.
It was fortunate that during these times there was close cooperation between amateur and professional botanists. Dr. Tolmie sent his specimens to Sir William Hooker of Kew Gardens and the genus Tolmiea and several species, such as Saxifraga tolmiei, were named in Dr. Tolmie's honour. Dr. Newcombe corresponded with Dr. Piper and the species Senecio newcombei commemorates his work. Numerous specimens collected by the Anderson's (Polystichum andersonii), Newcombe and Carter were deposited in the B.C. Provincial Museum. Together with duplicates donated by J. Macoun and G. V. Copley, they formed the core of new herbarium.
In the 1940's some amateur botanists became associated with major B.C. herbaria. G. A. Hardy worked in the one at the B.C. Provincial Museum and later R. T. Ashlee in that at UVic. After his retirement as a plant pathologist, J. W. Eastham did volunteer work in the UBC herbarium. These botanists' collections are deposited in the respective herbaria.
In post-war years there was a significant increase in botanical explorations undertaken by professional botanists. J. A. Calder, R. L. Taylor and other scientists from the Department of Agriculture in Ottawa studied the flora of the Queen Charlotte Islands and collected specimens in various other areas of British Columbia. K. Beamish, V. C. Brink, V. J. Krajina, W. B. Schofield, T. M. C. Taylor and their students from UBC, A. F. Szczawinski, T. C. Brayshaw and R.T. Ogilvie from the B.C. Provincial Museum (later renamed the Royal British Columbia Museum) and M. A. M. Bell from University of Victoria (and his students) all have contributed to our botanical knowledge of British Columbia.
In the fifties and sixties there was a marked increase in the number of specimens collected by the professional botanist and a decrease in the number collected by the amateur botanist. M. C. Melburn, G. Mendel, and F. Fodor are examples of some of the amateur collectors during this period.
Thanks to advances in colour photography, the goals of amateur botanists shifted from making plant collections to producing slides of plants. The amateur botanists of our province have achieved a high level of perfection in botanical photography. There is no better example, no better culmination, of this trend than L. J. Clark's "Wild Flowers of British Columbia". With this trend, however, the true amateur botanist who collects plants and gathers basic scientific information has almost become an extinct species.
Herbarium specimens, however, are the only acceptable permanent records to document specie's occurrences. With the exception of a few rarities, such as the Phantom Orchid (extremely rare in British Columbia), photographs of plants cannot be used to document the occurrence of a species in a locality. Although the specimens are flat and lose some of their colour, small details of the plant can be examined. You can take more time and care to identify dried specimens than fresh ones because the former will not wilt.
Once you start your own herbarium you will find that dried herbarium specimens have a beauty which is very different from that of photographic slides. Once you start pressing plants, you will learn quickly how to do it properly, you will find beauty in herbarium specimens, and you won't kill poor plants - you will make them immortal.
There are many projects for amateur botanists contribute to botanical studies. You can concentrate on a certain area and in a short time will know more about this area than anyone else.
This is an abbreviated version of an article I wrote in 1984. When I was in the British Columbia Provincial Museum (later renamed the Royal British Columbia Museum in 1987), its Botany Department tried to continue with the long tradition in British Columbia of active cooperation with amateur botanists. During that time, numerous records and specimens from the Gulf Islands were added by Harvey Janszen of Saturna Island. Bill van Dieren donated to the museum over 1,000 specimens (plus over 5,800 colour slides of plants), and Malcolm Martin with Ernie McNaughton contributed with over 700 specimens of mostly Red- or Blue-listed plants from the interior of British Columbia. Frank Lomer, associated with the University of British Columbia herbarium, added over 4,000 specimens to the UBC herbarium, including many new records to the flora of British Columbia. In later years, the Royal British Columbia Museum's previous level of cooperation with and encouragement of amateur botanists diminished, at which point the British Columbia Conservation Data Centre (CDC) stepped in and used amateur botanists as a valuable source of local information and gave them professional help and encouragement. We have to envy the active program that herbaria in Washington and Oregon have for amateur botanists and volunteers (see below), and I hope that British Columbia will catch up with them one day. We cannot get a good picture of the British Columbia flora without their help.
[Excerpts reprinted with permission of FORREX - Forest Research Extension Partnership. The full version of this article is available on the JEM Web site at: http://www.forrex.org/JEM/2003/vol3/no1/art1.pdf ]
Public concern for the environment and endangered species is growing. Canadian society has a more involved relationship with nature and natural resources than we did 50, or even 25 years ago. Ironically, this explosion of ecological awareness comes precisely at a time when governments at all levels are scaling back on their involvement in monitoring the environment. Monitoring programs funded through incremental or non-base budgets, combined with the steady pace of government ministry reorganizations, often result in short-term, fragmented, and ineffective government ecological monitoring. In a new phenomenon known as community-based ecosystem monitoring (CBEM), citizen groups, non-government organizations (NGOs), and individual citizens monitor a local species, ecosystem, or ecosystem process. British Columbia is fertile ground for CBEM in that it has a well-developed NGO community, a stunning variety of ecological and natural resource issues, and a government that is currently downsizing its "dirt ministries."
The three fiscal goliaths of health, education, and welfare impose tremendous downward pressure on the budgets of every environment and natural resource jurisdiction (the "dirt ministries") in the country. I see nothing on the horizon that is likely to change that inverse fiscal relationship.
While I decry this inexorable decline, I am also a realist. Government investments in health, education, and welfare produce immediate and tangible benefits; long-term ecosystem monitoring does not. The loss of a hospital will always generate more critical public concern than the loss of a species or habitat. This, then, is the context for the consideration of a new phenomenon, known as community-based ecosystem monitoring (CBEM).
One way of looking at CBEM is as classical downloading - governments shifting problematic mandates with no short-term payoff (like ecosystem monitoring) over to the voluntary sector. If a citizen group takes over a government function and does it at a fraction of the cost - or does it for nothing - areour taxes reduced accordingly? Not likely. When governments accept tax money from citizens in exchange for executing a certain mandate and then get citizens to perform that mandate on their behalf voluntarily and taxes are not reduced accordingly, then we are simply facilitating inequitable downloading.
Another way of looking at CBEM is to see it as an historic taking-back of social responsibility, an acknowledgement that we as a society delegated far too much responsibility to government. We told those governments, you go out and look after nature and ecosystems, because we want to stay home and watch the Simpsons or whatever. CBEM may actually represent a reassumption of those ecological responsibilities that we never should have delegated to governments in the first place.
I think we are on the horns of a profound dilemma here, one that pits classical government downloading on one hand, and citizen ecological responsibility on the other. I suspect that we will live with this dilemma for some time.
There are multiple benefits to immersing the interested public in scientific monitoring, beyond the obvious ones of collecting data and building a broader base of concern for the environment. There is value in giving environmentalists the opportunity to get their hands dirty, both literally and metaphorically. In allowing them to understand the joys of thoughtfully manipulating nature as well as simply protecting it. In letting them experience the often-agonizing daily trade-offs that operational people have to make. There is value in letting the public see first-hand why scientists take so long to arrive at conclusions, and why they are so tentative about them. There is also value in letting the public see the buzzing complexity of nature, and to see how damnably hard it is to measure it well.
The phenomenon of the aging "baby-boomer" demographic is nearly always seen negatively, but I see it working in a positive way with CBEM. If membership in naturalist groups is taken as a measure, people begin to take a more active interest in ecosystems as they approach retirement age. Ideally, CBEM should cut across all age groups, but the upcoming wave of post-war baby boom retirees represents an historic opportunity for CBEM, should we choose to seize it. As a tail-end member of that generation, and one who occasionally contemplates retirement, I think I would much prefer monitoring salamanders to watching the Simpsons.
This is the story of the little NGO that, like "The Little Engine That Could", thinks it can - - make a difference.
The long established Victoria Natural History Society (VNHS), in 1997, formed a special project called the Green Spaces Project (GSP) in response to a new initiative of the Capital Regional District. As part of its new Green/Blue Spaces Strategy, it invited interested community organizations to participate with municipalities in creating an inventory of remnant natural areas that could contribute to a network of urban, suburban and rural protected areas and connecting greenways.
The GSP began by creating a list of threatened sites it considered to have potentially outstanding ecological values, and then by recruiting volunteers willing to conduct the field surveys needed to verify, document and map those values. Simultaneously it applied for and received some small grants: enough to enable it to briefly engage a professional biologist to help develop initial procedures and establish standards for the conduct of these operations. The GPS encouraged volunteer participation by interested VNHS members, but also sought the participation of interested students, and other members of the broader community through the local volunteer bureau. Generally the GSP objectives and tasks are considered so important and interesting, by so many people, that recruiting sufficient volunteers has never been a problem. The project is wholly run by volunteers.
The GSP aims to objectively identify, interpret and map important land based ecological, geological, aesthetic, archaeological and historical features before they are destroyed by urban expansion. Surveys can only take place on lands whose owners have given permission. Survey results are shared in a non-political way with owners, local governments, and with other important stakeholders, including local community associations, to try to ensure they are given appropriate consideration and weight in local land use planning decisions.
Typically a survey is conducted by establishing a baseline along one edge of a property. From that perpendicular line surveys, guided by compass and various measuring devices, are done along each of a series of parallel transects across the site (each separated by 50 meters), until all the site has been covered. As each transect is surveyed all relevant findings and their geographic positions are simultaneously recording. All plant species in each ecosystem are typically inventoried during and after the initial survey, as are other species that are more than transitory on the site. Tree sizes are measured when they are outstanding in any way, or as indicators of approximate forest age. A record is made of all features of custodial, broader academic or societal interest. The results are later compiled on maps and in supporting reports, which are then provided to the stakeholders.
Each year since 1997, the project has grown. Until now, over 250 volunteers have participated, some continuously and some for brief periods (young people are a very mobile part of our population and bush whacking isn't for everyone). Several hundred individual sites have been surveyed, ranging in size from an ordinary city lot to individual parcels of up to 200 hectares. Between 2 and 3 thousand hectares have been surveyed so far. In addition to the standard type of inventory described, other methods are used to map and document unused public rights of way and lands on which protective covenants are to be placed.
Many interesting and unusual species and features have been found, and the team has a growing (although still amateur) ability to interpret the causes and underlying structural nature of many of its findings. On several occasions locally rare species have been found.
Has the GSP been successful in positively influencing land use decision outcomes? Well, it has had its collective heart broken several times, but it has clearly had a positive influence on many other occasions. Enough to motivate it to continue its efforts. GSP continuance is also prompted by the great pleasure most of its volunteers get from being out in nature and making new and often surprising discoveries.
In the summer of 1999, I initiated a millennium project called Biodiversity 2000. The idea for this project was born while doing a report in grade five on British Columbia's Most Valuable Living Resource - Biodiversity. My intent was to involve schools in the Greater Victoria area in discovering, documenting and identifying stewardship projects through their research, which would contribute to an overall, raised awareness of the Biodiversity in our community.
The project was situated in Mt. Douglas Park [Victoria, B.C., Canada] and involved discovering flora and fauna from the mountaintop, down through forested communities to the intertidal zone at Mt. Douglas Beach. Mr. Buttons' class of 30 grade 4/5 students from Torquay Elementary went out on field trips into different ecosystems throughout the seasons accompanied by Mark Bazett, our principal, Ian MacLean and myself. We identified, mapped and described some of the flora and fauna we found. The trails in Mount Douglas Park have also been mapped with the aid of a G.P.S.
Back at the classroom we examined life under the microscope, did corresponding illustrations and further researched and compared our findings with guidebooks. Guest speakers came into the classroom, and into the field to help us prepare and assist us in the field.
A valuable tool in the field, which enabled students and teachers to easily identify the flora and fauna were laminated photo I.D. cards, which I made up from photos taken in the park. These were placed on rings attached to a clipboard along with a description sheet and map. To date, over 4000 photos have been taken of the flora and fauna in the park.
[Mike Vaninsberghe is a grade 10 student at Arbutus Jr. Secondary school in Victoria, BC, Canada. Mike is this year's recipient of the Barbara Chapman Award. This award is given to a young naturalist under the age of 18 years who has shown an interest in and has made a contribution to the appreciation and understanding of the natural environment.]
The Herbarium Forays were initiated by Richard Olmstead in 1996. They are annual field trips to different parts of the region covered by the authoritative flora for the area, Vascular Plants of the Pacific Northwest, by C.L. Htchcock, et al. Historically, the foray destinations have alternated annually between Washington and Oregon.
The Forays serve a number of purposes:
Typically, 20-25 amateur and professional botanists participate in the foray. The group camps together in a site centrally located within the region targeted for collecting. Small groups of 4-5 people head out to different destinations each day to collect. The evenings are spent preparing specimens for drying in the presses. Each foray yields between 400-600 numbers, with an average of three replicates per number. The replicates are used in the Herbarium's exchange program with other herbaria around the country.
Each collecting foray is followed by a series of evening sessions during the fall and winter, when foray participants and other volunteers identify the plant specimens. Locality, habitat, and plant names are entered into a database by staff and volunteers, and labels are produced. Foray specimens are then added to the Herbarium collections.
The Oregon Flora Project was initiated in 1994 with the goal of producing a checklist, a plant distribution Atlas, and an identification manual, and a photo gallery. The draft Checklist catalogs over 4,490 species, subspecies, and varieties (taxa) growing without cultivation in Oregon. Distribution maps, and photographs will eventually be available online for each taxon at the Flora project website, www.oregonflora.org. The Flora will be produced in both book and online forms. The project is a large, ongoing effort, and a great deal of progress has been made with limited funding.
The Flora project's successes have been possible only with the involvement of volunteers. Over 230 people, including professional botanists, software programmers, a cartographer, botanical consultants, lay botanists, high school and college students, and retirees, have donated their time. Many volunteers participate sporadically, often during the field season, others work on the project weekly or even daily. Still others attend special "volunteer day" events that are initiated by chapters of the Native Plant Society of Oregon and hosted by us.
Volunteers help in a great variety of ways. They work on the most technical components of the project, evaluating nomenclature, writing descriptions, designing databases, and developing software. Some help with fund raising, public outreach (including giving oral and poster presentations), writing articles for the Oregon Flora Newsletter, and conducting literature searches. Others photograph specimens, select and scan slides for the Photo Gallery, check for errors in the database of specimen label information, and investigate misplaced locality "dots" on maps in the prototype Atlas. Volunteers make species lists and collect specimens. Many, many other tasks have been done by volunteers-- the list goes on and on and each is an important component of the project.
Volunteers benefit from the project as well. They may learn about floristics, the operation of a herbarium, how to use a database, mount a plant specimen, or operate a digital camera. Many gain experience that can make them more competitive in the job market. Above all though, they have a sense of community, of being involved in a project that they value. With pride they can point to "their" dot on a distribution map, "their" photograph in the Photo Gallery, or "their" role in filling the project's complex databases with accurate and useful information.
Point Reyes National Seashore is host to over 900 species of flowering plants, representing approximately 16% of the plant species known to occur in California. Not surprisingly, this diverse flora includes a significant number of rare plant species. Presently, the Seashore is known to support 49 rare plant species, five of these are listed as Endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Prior to 2001, comprehensive information describing the abundance and distribution of many of these species did not exist. Recognizing the need for a rare plant inventory, as well as the daunting task of surveying over 71,000 acres of habitat, resource managers came up with the idea of a volunteer event called the "Rare-Plant-A-Thon." The intent of this event was to involve members of the local community, agency botanists, students, and plant enthusiasts from around the San Francisco Bay area in the search for undocumented rare plant populations within the Seashore.
Since the idea was first conceived in 2001, park vegetation managers have hosted four Rare-Plant-A-Thons. Over 200 volunteers have participated in these weekend events, traveling from as far away as Death Valley and Los Angeles to attend. Many of the volunteers have had such a positive experience, they have returned for several events. At each event, volunteers are given a brief training, are divided into groups, and are sent to different areas within the Seashore with instructions to survey for or monitor different rare species.
These events have been a huge success! As a result of the four Rare-Plant-A-Thons, 44 unrecorded rare plant populations have been located, documented and mapped. One species that had never before been recorded at the Seashore, the rare Humboldt Bay owl's clover (Castilleja ambigua ssp. humboldtiensis), was discovered and added to the Seashore's plant list. In addition to locating new populations of rare species, volunteers also monitored and mapped 29 known rare plant populations. During our third event, one group helped transplant the Endangered Sonoma alopecurus (Alopecurus aequalis var. sonomensis) into the wild as part of a reintroduction project.
The Rare-Plant-A-Thon has generated such excitement and interest from the participants that it has now become one of the Seashore's annual events. This event has not only been successful from a resource management perspective, it also has substantially increased local awareness and enthusiasm for rare plant species here in Point Reyes.
Join a group of fellow rare plant lovers for our fifth annual "Rare Plant-A-Thon 2003" at Point Reyes National Seashore. All levels of botanical experience welcome. The National Park Service will host this weekend event June 7th and 8th, 2003. Free overnight accommodations are available at the Point Reyes Historic Lifesaving Station at Chimney Rock so RSVP to reserve a space. Please call Michelle Coppoletta or Shelly Benson for details (415) 464-5195.
In this issue of BEN I wanted to pay homage to Ernie and all amateur and volunteer botanists. Ernie, you - and people like you - are an important part of the botanical community.
Many thanks for your work and many happy returns! To you Ernie, and to many others who help to increase our botanical knowledge, wherever you are.