Archive | January, 2012

Douglas-fir species profile

29 Jan

I thought it might be nice to go back and cover some of the basics about forestry for the benefit of readers who want to learn more. Specifically, I think some of you have been waiting for tree ID posts since I started this blog. I know I get excited about knowing what plants are around us.

This might be old news to many of you, but I’m going to start doing species profiles of native woody plants in this area. What better way to start than with one of the most common sights in the Pacific Northwest: the Douglas-fir!

The first thing to know is its many names, because they say a lot about this particular tree. The Latin name (genus and species) is Pseudotsuga menziesii. The species name refers to the person who discovered this tree, and the genus name means “false hemlock.”

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Interview with the author of “Forest Forensics”

23 Jan

Image via Glenn Winshall at NMH School

After reading and reviewing Forest Forensics recently, I had many questions; I was particularly curious about the procedure one might use to write such a book, and how a person becomes an expert landscape reader in the first place. So, I tracked down author Tom Wessels for an interview, which I have here to share with you.

Q: First off, how do you go about writing a really great dichotomous key, especially on something like landscape? What steps did you take to develop and organize it? What gave you the idea in the first place?

The idea came up when I heard from lots of people who like my first book, Reading the  Forested Landscape, that they loved the idea but couldn’t keep all the evidence straight while in the field. To make a field guide work, a key was the best approach.

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Current issues roundup

17 Jan

English: Must be climate change Magnolia flowe...Another feature I want to offer is periodic news-oriented posts wherein I can highlight some current issues in the worlds of botany and forestry.

This first story comes from the nomenclature conference held in conjunction with the recent International Botanical Congress. It was decided that as of this month, Latin descriptions will no longer be necessary when classifying new plants, algae or fungi.

The idea is to facilitate recording of the world’s biodiversity before it is lost to habitat degradation.It does not mean that Latin naming is going away, as some sources have mistakenly claimed (I’m looking at you, Daily Mail). Scientific naming remains useful and important, but now descriptions can be written in English.

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If you only knock long enough and loud enough…

11 Jan

Well, I’m feeling a little discouraged today.

We’ve run into some difficulty with our SAF student chapter/campus club. The process of founding it seemed relatively straightforward (if heavy on the paperwork), but it has proven to be ridiculously difficult. Despite an awesome outpouring of support from the local and national SAF offices, we have found a disheartening lack of backing here on our own campus.

Most of the trouble stems from the Student Activities office. Like many other departments at our school, they seem terribly understaffed. Under these circumstances, it comes as no surprise that I’ve never had a call returned by them, or that it often takes weeks to get a response to an e-mail.

This wouldn’t matter to me, except that we’ve got a Bonafide Problem™!

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Solving the mysteries of the outdoors: A book review

5 Jan

stone wall image via virginia trails at WordPress

This Christmas, my sister gave me a copy of an interesting dichotomous key called Forest Forensics by Tom Wessels. Of course, I read it immediately in service of my ongoing quest to know everything. Then, I typed up this post, saved it as a draft and promptly forgot about it.

So, from the dusty annals of last week, I present: my not-so-long-lost review! And I promise it will be much less intense than my last one. Read on, dear readers, without fear of alienation or boredom!

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Welcome, 2012!

1 Jan
Dragon water

Water dragon image via Wikipedia

As we prepare to usher in the new Year of the Water Dragon, I wanted to tell you guys what I have up my sleeve for this blog, and ask for your input, too.

You can expect more book reviews, notes/questions on readings, and periodic updates on what I’m doing with school and our SAF student chapter. In addition, I want to do some current issues roundup type posts that collect relevant news stories and link to great articles I find. I’ve also got plans to interview some of the authors of the books I review for extra insight and possibly a sort of virtual mentoring vibe. Finally, I want to do some photo-heavy species profiles with info about identifying certain plants and what makes them special and/or important.

And as promised, I want to open it up to input from all of you. When you initially subscribed or clicked on the link to this blog, what did you hope to see? What would you like to learn? Leave me a comment and let me know, and I’ll do my best to incorporate any suggestions!

Here’s hoping this year is great for us all.

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RUSSELL DORNAN | museums | digital | natural history | photography

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