09 Jul All Observations Are Good Observations and A Prototype
The past few weeks have been very exciting for me. I put together a prototype for one of the herbarium display cases to help envision what the different plant specimens would eventually look like and to test out different fonts and ways of displaying and organizing the information. Additionally, on July 5th, Vivian from Environment for the Americans traveled to Agate Fossil Beds for a field visit and accompanied me on some fun activities that are part of my day-to-day work. I also saw the lesson of ‘all observations are good observations’ in action, which was a nice reminder for me.
PROTOTYPING: From an idea to something tangible
I love planning, I love sketching, and I love when my ideas come to fruition. Therefore, this summer and the herbarium project in its various stages of completeness has been fun for me to see. This week, the first tangible prototype of what the herbarium display case will look like was completed with a Broadbeard Beardtongue (Penstemon angustifolius) specimen that I collected in my first month here at Agate. When thinking about what information I wanted to include in the herbarium slide, I reflected on what my main goal of conveying this information was. This goal was and is to communicate the cool scientific and ethnobotanical information in a way that is understandable to visitors. I wanted this to be a resource to visitors that everyone can connect with in different ways; if people just like looking at the sample itself and details photos of the plant, they can do that. If people want to learn about the detailed scientific morphology of the leaf, flower, and root structures, they can do that. If people want to understand what the Lakota people or other indigenous tribes used these plants for, they can do that too. This same consideration was taken when designing the label for each of the samples. I made sure to include the GPS coordinates and locality details of where the specimen was collected so that if someone wants to go on a little adventure, they can do that. I tried replicating similar designs to labels that are used in other herbariums that are used for solely scientific purposes and altered it to contain more relevant information to the average visitor.
A fun field visit
On July 5th, Vivian came out to Agate Fossil Beds for a field visit. The weather was cool with slightly foggy views, as we hiked up the Daemonelix Trail. As we walked through, I showed her the plant signs I had worked on and placed around the trail and some fun information I had learned about these different plants. I also shared with her the process of plant specimen collection. After going back to the office, I got to work on the plant press with her and replaced the absorbent sheets and talked more about the different plant species I had collected. We then went over the cool iNaturalist platform that I have been working on here at Agate, and was excited to show that I am currently #1 in the most number of observations, species, and identifications in the Agate Fossil Beds project. I have really enjoyed being apart of this project, since I believe it has the ability to encourage citizen science and engage visitors who may not thing they have ‘scientific backgrounds’ understand and learn the science. One thing that I have learned this summer and reiterated its importance to Vivian was that all observations are good observations. This was proven to me, once again, when I took a photo and noted a unique looking plant I had observed in the field. I took this photo of the plant, but hadn’t ended up uploading the photo to the iNaturalist platform because I thought it looked similar to Winged Dock, a plant I had already identified and collected. Weeks later, as I was thinking more about that plant and a photo I had seen in a plant guide, I uploaded it to iNaturalist and later identified it as Tripterocalyx micranthus (Small-flowered Sand Verbena). This plant species had never previously been identified or observed in Nebraska on the platform, and had very few herbarium specimens about it in the area. This instance reminded me that it is very ‘scientific’ and beneficial to make observations about things that may, in the moment, seem inconsequential or irrelevant. This is something I am also trying to stress to children who are going to use my Nature Observations Field Journal that I am working on.
While discussing the process of creating the first draft of the herbarium display case, I thought it would be useful to briefly mention the different invaluable resources I used in creating the materials. Two books have been very helpful for learning about the scientific descriptions and the ethnobotanical significance of these plants. The first book is Flora of the Great Plains by The Great Plains Flora Association, and the second book is Native American Ethnobotany by Daniel E. Moerman. Furthermore, I’ve found it really helpful to reference the field guide I made from different sources online that describes the different morphology of leaves and flower forms that I can use to describe the plants. I also plan to have a copy of this field guide in the herbarium display so that visitors can reference it as well.