Fighting Poverty with Passion
This past weekend, my organization very graciously paid for me to attend an intensive plant identification workshop. Dr. Charles Allen, one of the top botanists in the south, hosted the workshop at Woodlands Trail and Park. Dr. Charles M. Allen is a botanist, plant taxonomist, retired professor, noted author, and conservationist. He received his B.A. from LSU in Forestry, his M.A. from LSU in Botany and his PhD from Southwestern in Biology.
Essentially, he knows more information about plants than I ever fathomed existed. Friday and Saturday consisted of exhaustive identification. We couldn’t go more than two steps without him pointing out at least one new specimen! Sunday focused on what is edible in the forest. By the end of the weekend I had recorded almost a hundred species, and that doesn’t even include the ones that I missed!
Researchers and other professionals have taken inventory of the tree species present at Woodlands Trail. However, far less attention has been given to the variety of shrubs, vines, flowers, and other understory vegetation. Woodlands recently received a grant for the purchase of understory plants, so this workshop presented a great opportunity to create a more comprehensive catalog of our understory floras. With this knowledge, we can be sure to plant species that are already present in the forest and not introduce new species that may disrupt the ecosystem. For each understory plant I recorded the GPS location, took a photo, collected a specimen, and furiously attempted to write down all of the information Dr. Allen said. Our executive director ordered a plant press in order to dry and display the specimen we collected.
As interesting as it was to learn about the various plants present at our site, I have to admit I kept getting distracted by all the cool insects hanging (and flying and running) around! I was even inspired to start an insect inventory list, which currently consists mostly of all the awesome spiders I’ve seen.
Earlier in October I was awarded the Restore America’s Estuaries Summit Scholarship, which will cover full cost of admission to the conference in December. Research I conducted in conjunction with Woodlands will be on display during the summit poster session, so I am very excited to be able to attend and discuss my work.