Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Planning an expedition in the new era

This May and June, I’m heading to Florida to explore! Can you say exciting???

A couple of rare carnivorous plants are high on my list of things to find, in particular the uber-rare red form of the Floridian sticky sundew, Drosera filiformis. I've only seen this plant in the wild once before, and I want to see it again!

Deep in my research on locations, I’m struck by how much my methods have changed over the years--planning an expedition is a lot different from how it used to be!

A few decades ago, I'd probably start by sending letters—snailmail!—to friends who had been to the same areas I wanted to visit. I might even call them on the phone if time was tight. I kept paper files on every carnivorous plant site I heard about, and used these as further leads for interesting locations.

Then, once I had gathered information about possible locations, I'd head to the nearest map repository—usually at a University library—and find out as much as I could about the places I wanted to visit. I'd photocopy maps and take them into the field with me. And after all this work, I'd have about a 60% chance of finding the site and some cool monstrous carnivores.

Snailmail? Visits to the library? Photocopying maps? How retro!

But now? Things are waaaaay different. Sure, I still have my old file cabinets filled with pamphlets and brochures I've picked up over the years. But that resource is dwarfed by the electronic methods I use.

Now, I email or skype my contacts—who has time for snail mail? And once I get leads for sites, I never leave my house. Instead, I access all the topo maps I need via resources like Combine that with driving information from, and aerial maps from GoogleEarth, I can feed pinpoint accuracy latitude-longitude coordinates into my GPS.

With all this technology, I have nearly a 100% chance of getting to the sites I am looking for—the only thing likely to stop me are "No Trespassing" signs or recent road changes!

Life is sweet!

P.S. Photographers might remember the next step--finding a post office where you could mail your FILM to a film processing lab, and waiting for your film to return. Now? Now I spend a few hours each night, reviewing that day's haul of images from my digital camera!