PLANTS, Spring 2019



GO HERE for information about these assignments.

A LIST of other particular assignments (this will expand as new assignments are given):

1. (GIVEN IN LAB): Wood lab questions.

2. Winter woody plants observation and identification: (DUE 18 MARCH)  
    Observe and attempt to identify AT LEAST 8 woody plants on campus. 
    a. Before keying, OBSERVE plant generally; focus on the particulars -- both detailed and general -- that seem distinctive.  It's good, where possible, to look at multiple individuals.
    b. THEN use whatever identification tools you can to try to figure out what it is; once you have a tentative ID make sure you see how the plant works through one of the formal keys (if you didn't use the key to get there in first place); this is how you become adept at using keys!  (You might want to experiment with the 'full/multiple-entry' key at gobotany: NOTE that, for winter, deciduous woody plants, you should explore the "GET MORE QUESTIONS" option.)
    c. The written product should include, for EACH PLANT:
       - location of the plant(s)
       - brief general description, focusing on whatever interests you but especially things that seem important in distinguishing plant (sketches and diagrams are often useful here) -- not just what's used by the key,.
       - what you think it is (do not get hung up on getting the RIGHT ID each time -- I'd rather you tried some challenging stuff and get  wrong name with good observations than just do easy stuff).
       - Briefly emphasize attributes that were particularly important in identification (could be because they were particularly useful or particularly tricky or...) AND traits that you think will be valuable in recognizing the species in the future.

3. Flower diagnosis: IN LAB

4. Field woody plant ID quis (IN LAB)

5. Field Journal/Log entries for off-campus field-trips.
For each of our several off-campus field-trips, create a field-log entry. Field trips target: a) generally exercising plant identification and keying skills, b) becoming more familiar with local flora, plant family traits, etc., and c) gaining some understanding of ecological patterns, habitat relations of native plants, and generally what shapes plant abundance and distribution on the landscape. Treat your field logs as a vehicle for summarizing and reinforcing what you learn along these lines.
   You should 
maintain field notebooks while in the field for each trip. There may be some specific 'targets' that I'll emphasize for each outing particular sites, groups of plants, or phenomena and you should take particular note of these, but notebooks should also be a place for your own independent observations a place to make note of patterns you see (or think you see), questions or hypotheses that arise from your observations, speculations based on what you see, or just stuff that strikes you as interesting.  Keep notes on these things in your field book; use them to create your field-log when you get back (you may think that you'll remember all of these things when you get back from the field-trip. You won't).
    The assignment: 
The Monday following each field-trip, you should submit a 'field-log' that is a digest of your field notebooks; not too long (think in terms of equivalent of  a 2-3 pages double-spaced-equivalent of text as an appropriate frame, but you can go longer if you're enjoying yourself). Use this as a vehicle for summarizing and 'fleshing out' notes taken in the field the field-notebook made into something that hangs together and captures the experience. You might imagine it as something that might be in a field-naturalist's newsletter going to people who might make a similar excursion. It SHOULD ALWAYS include the first four of the following components, plus whatever of the rest works for you:
    - A paragraph or two giving context (date, general description/nature of the place, etc.) 
    - Each trip will involve close observation and ID of several plants; your digest should include a 'diagnosis' of a few of these -- characteristics that would help your reader recognize/distinguish the plant, similarities/differences with others, habitat, whatever else you think interesting as well as taxonomy (including family). 
    - A simple list of species observed/identified, both new and familiar (perhaps with a word or two of 'special features/notes', with family affiliation for new stuff: ALWAYS INCLUDE SCIENTIFIC NAME)
    - Ecological notes; what kinds of patterns of distribution, habitat relations, etc. seemed important in shaping the vegetation, where things grew -- the things to which plant adaptations were responding
 Pose questions (or hypotheses) based on your observations that might drive further research/observation (this is particularly important for those of you who think of yourselves as scientists).  
Use sketches or photos as inclined (they don't have to be artistic or technically sophisticated to be useful...).  
    - Make comparisons with other places you've observed.  
    - Use any other tools you think would be helpful to the 'consumer' of your report.

    - Anything else you think important/interesting

    PREFERRED FORM FOR SUBMISSION is a shared Google Doc (you can maintain a single doc with entries for each field-trip), but I will accept paper or other electronic document format if you have strong preference.

HERE ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF FIELD-JOURNALS (also see 'place assignment' in link above) NOTE that several of these involve significant artistic skill. Don't feel that's essential for a good field journal (I don't have it)::
"field book" project at National Museum of Natural History: an archive of various historical field logs
some work by Catherine Hamilton  (a Bennington alum -- hard-core birder.  Also professional artist, so don't feel too jealous); also look for her stuff on Pinterest
Go to bottom of page here for journal excerpts by Lyn Baldwin (another Bennington alum)
And, of course, Henry David Thoreau's journals are always worth dipping into for good reading
And Darwin's journals from the voyage of the Beagle are among the most important documents in history of science...

    This sort of journal-keeping is one of the most important skills and tools for field-naturalists, and, to make best use of the tool, it's important to do it as soon as possible following the experience; most serious naturalists develop the discipline of reviewing and (often) transcribing the evening after each field-day.