Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Grand Prize Winner

Duncan in his element, March 2010
Duncan Bell was our 2010 Grand Prize Individual Winner. Read below about his project and how he got involved in botany.

"It was Naomi Fraga and Sula Vanderplank of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden who first introduced me to floristics. As an intern they took me out to far away places and showed me plants that most people have never seen. I was immediately hooked. It wasn’t long after that I heard a discussion from botanists Steve Boyd and Lucinda McDade on the importance of floristics in California and how very large areas were still unexplored. Like many others, I assumed that all of California had been fully explored and that there was nowhere where botanists had not been. I was very wrong! With some research I found that there were many areas (vast areas!) that were under collected and unexplored. Partly for my need to be in nature, and partly for my want to learn how to identify and key out plants, and with a whole lot of curiosity I set out to a small unexplored mountain range in the desert in literally “the middle of nowhere“. I wasn’t sure what I would find, but I ended up finding a great deal. To date I have identified over 150 species of plants that have never been collected from that mountain range, many of which are rare and endemic to only California.

I urge anyone interested in floristics, rare plant hunting, and botany in general to look to California’s deserts, especially those areas belonging to the Bureau of Land Management. There are many large solar and wind projects that are going into effect right now that will soon disrupt thousands of acres of desert lands in the way of bulldozing to make way for solar mirrors and wind turbines. It is these areas that need immediate study and exploration before those plant communities are wiped out. There are so many areas out there that need study, and so many areas where no botanist has been.

Any plant collection within an unexplored area, weather common or not, is an important collection for science as it increases the knowledge of species distribution and habitat. There is great potential to find undescribed species as well as undiscovered populations of rare species within these vast areas. In an editorial commending field botanists for significant floristic discoveries, California botanist Scott White made a terrific statement by saying “Anyone with requisite curiosity and a plant press can make similar discoveries”.
Much thanks to Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, the California Native Plant Society, and to all desert naturalists assisting in the conservation of California’s great deserts."

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