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Better botany by (book) design

14 Jun

The first week of any new job can be a little slow, and arriving at your first federal posting is certainly no exception. There’s a stack of field guides on a nearby desk, so I’ve decided to flip through and do some comparing while I wait for my colleague to finish getting set up on all our various computer profiles. So, especially if you’re looking to pick up a Pacific Northwest field guide, here’s my summation.

The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees, Western Region, Elbert L. Little, ed.

Grade: C

The book provides a very cursory discussion of botany basics (plant parts, leaf shapes, etc.), some of which is illustrated, and details on major habitats and proper usage of the book itself.

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Upcoming changes & projects

8 Jun

Faithful readers! I have begun my new job on the Lower Shasta-Trinity National Forest in California. All is well in the world of silviculture, save for one thing: I do not have phone service or reliable Internet. So, I’m moving to a two-week schedule since that will be easier to swing in between evething else.

Look for upcoming posts on sudden oak death, tree physiology and maybe even the chemistry of paper milling, as well as a book review comparing various floras for the Northwest. Hooray! You know you are going to love it!

The importance of recording everything: A book review

22 Feb

Field Notes on Science and Nature (ed. Michael R. Canfield) was recommended to me by a teacher a while back. It made loads of Best of 2011 lists, too, and for good reason — it’s a fascinating exploration of keeping field notes.

On the surface, this may not sound so interesting, but the book illuminates the approaches of several contributors spanning fields from anthropology to wildlife conservation, and it not only explains what sort of things they record, but why, and even what benefit there is in doing it one way instead of another. A great example is the chapters that alternately sing the praises of Polaroid instant film and of black-and-white sketches. Because each contributor makes a convincing case for his or her method of choice (which often involves explaining why another method should not be used), it can seem like a tangle of contradictions. But the wealth of perspectives is exactly why I found it valuable.

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Fire in Oregon’s forests: A study analysis

16 Feb

English: "Elk Bath" – A wildfire in ...I had expected this to be a very dense academic work since its subtitle bills it as a synthesis of current information,  and at times, it is. But I was also surprised to see that most of the information presented would be easily understood by the average reader. It’s mildly personally disappointing, as I was hoping to find a dense academic work (since OFRI publishes things just for me dontcha know), but it’s far outweighed by how much good can be done by making this information understandable to landowners and other non-specialists.

This publication spans everything from basics to specifics, predictive science to natural history. It begins by explaining a lot of things that I take for granted, and would imagine that many Pacific Northwesterners also consider common knowledge — the recent history of wildfire suppression policy, explanations of historical fire regimes, and the many dangers posed to the natural world by the interaction of the two.

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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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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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“Practical Forestry in the Pacific Northwest”: Questions

27 Dec
Lodgepole Pines

Lodgepole pine image by gharness via Flickr

I thought I might post a few brief questions since this blog has  lots to do with sharing my learning process. [Update: I’ve discovered some answers since publication, and they’re at the end of this post.] And since I sometimes have so many feelings on a book that I end up writing a novel in place of a review.

While I hope to impress you all with what good questions I have, I am a student, and therefore sure to expose my pitiful lack of knowledge on many subjects! Feel free to chime in down in the comments if you want to share your insights or sources for information. I have not even attempted to research these questions yet, so I may post updates as I discover my own answers; we’ll see how it goes.

So here are the things touched off by reviewing Edward T. Allen’s book:

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RUSSELL DORNAN | museums | digital | natural history | photography

Midwest Naturalist

Living in harmony with our creator, his creation and all living things.