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!


  1. Mr. Rice, Where I can buy your book Monster Plants? I did not find it in Scholastic, not in, Please tell me where to buy it.
    Thank you

  2. Speaking of archaic methods, have you tried scouting potential sites by looking through historical herbarium collections?

    I have access to the Tulane and LSU herbaria, so I am going to try that approach to find sites in northern Louisiana for an orchid-photographing expedition. It's an area I've never explored. My concern is that the locality data will be vague or that the habitat quality will be drastically different.

    Also, I have enjoyed and benefited greatly from your carnivorous plants site, so thanks for sharing your expertise!