Thinking of Fairchild

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Fairchild’s South Florida Conservation team starred in today’s presentation. They may not even realize it – that they are in my thoughts even when I’m not with them, but they definitely are. Their work exemplifies some great plant conservation, so I feature them frequently in my course lectures, case studies, and activities.  I was able to show many of the tricks that the team uses to keep organized and to keep research relevant to our land manager partners. 

Jennifer Possley monitoring pine 
rockland transects.

Jennifer Possley’s work with Miami-Dade County is an example. She recently completed her second year of monitoring baseline information on the structure and diversity of the pine rockland forest. At request of our county partners, Jennifer was asked to develop a monitoring program to determine the impacts of controlled burns and thinning treatments on forest structure and diversity. She and I first met with park managers from Natural Areas Management and the Environmentally Endangered Lands programs to clarify what the management objectives were. After 3 meetings in which we discussed the needs of the county personnel, Jennifer conducted a trial sampling. She analyzed the data and returned to the county to discuss and refine the procedures. Because any monitoring program requires much time, labor and expense, Jennifer’s process is a good one to recommend as it ensured that the information we gathered is going to answer the management concerns. The class especially appreciated being able to see examples of the questions Jennifer asked the land managers after her pilot study.  I was only able to use this as an example because Jennifer keeps careful written documentation of her meetings. Thank you Jenn! 

With the forecast of rain, yesterday I asked the class if they wanted to do an outside activity. Tired of being cooped up in the classroom all week, they all assured me that they were tough field botanists. This girl has pretty thin Miami blood now. The Bay area had had an unusual weather week. Before I arrived it snowed in the foothills. It must have been beautiful. Since I had been cold every day even without snow, I put on 4 layers – polypropylene, cotton, wool, and goretex rain pants and jacket. I was ready! And I was WARM! The class didn’t disappoint me. They all came prepared for any weather. Thankfully, the rain waited until our activities were completed before it poured!  So we only had to walk back up the hill to our cars in the downpour. 

Because many in the class were fairly familiar with monitoring, I asked them to design monitoring plans for two species in two different parts of the garden. The task was to keep careful records of the procedure used so that the second group could repeat the procedure and get the same answer. After all, this part is critical in our studies! We all got a big laugh that we were partially successful in meeting this goal.  It was a great illustration though of how important it is to document our procedures carefully so that our successors can follow up on this important conservation work.   

In all, the weeklong course was well appreciated by the participants and instructors. I was happy to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones, too. And I’m ready to get back to WARM weather at Fairchild.