In foraging online, I’ve discovered a number on links to plant identification and information sites. In the effort to share I have posted these links below. As you can see, it isn’t an exhaustive list. These are materials that I and my student research assistants use regularly to check spellings of scientific names, determine if native or not, and verify growth form. Some of the sites give additional information about range, habitat, and use value to humans and other species.
World Collections Websites
- Kew Gardens – Plants of the World online – robust use section, particularly for medicines. Not a big focus on common names.
- Global Plants on JSTOR – digitized global collections, historic materials, specimens, herbaria
- iDigBio – Integrated Digitized Biocollections Homepage – more than just plants, although plants dominate the media records
- iDigBio Portal – online specimen record access
- Pl@ntUse – online wiki with over 50,000 plant species
- Botanic Garden Meise – BR Herbarium Catalogue – the herbarium has three main geographical divisions, the African (Central Africa focus), Belgian and General Collections
- Missouri Botanical Gardens
Southern Africa Focused Websites
- South African National Biodiversity Institute
- Flora of Mozambique
- Flora of Zimbabwe
- Flora of Botswana
- Plants of Namibia (Oxford)
- Flora of Zambia
- Swaziland’s Flora Database
- Dressler, S., Schmidt, M. & Zizka, G. 2014 + [continously updated]. African Plants – A Photo Guide
If you know of or regularly use other related websites, please send along. I would be happy to add to our list.
Last summer I challenged myself to use Twitter’s social media platform (@jin_verde) to get more information out about the work I do as an ecological & environmental anthropologist. I’m not sure I did a great job promoting my own work – mainly focused on climate change and biodiversity conservation. But I have been consistent in highlighting what scientists in my field do and how they contribute to supporting the well-being of individuals and communities. (And the work of scientists in related fields.) I love finding and sharing success stories, useful links, and serendipitous findings. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of bad news when it comes to climate change and biodiversity conservation. Finding these bright points I like to share is a little more difficult, but so necessary.
It is needed as part of our larger efforts as scientists to share our knowledge and results more publicly. If the federal government is no longer willing to promote science to the public, then we need to do so ourselves. Many already are, but more of us need to be involved because federal agencies are wiping important public information off their websites under orders of their new heads. My goal then this summer is to publish a short essay every two weeks about my research, ideas I’m working on, ecological anthropology methods and processes, and environmental/climate information. I posting this here so that I can shame myself when I don’t follow through.
But there are other ways for scientists, science teachers, and science supporters to get involved, be heard, and make our scientific work known for the benefit of all living beings on this planet. Last Saturday I Marched for Science with my husband and another scientist friend, a marine ecologist, in the cold rain. Yesterday, I braved record-breaking heat (91F, plus humidity) to participate in the People’s Climate March. It’s 2017. Why do I need to do this? The GOP-led Congress and Trump Administration are pushing our shared planet America first into a dystopic nightmare in the name of Free Market Capitalism. Or Capitalismo Brutal as my husband would say. Resisting actions that place our life support systems – land, air, water – at risk is important. For years we’ve been told to take personal action to reduce those risks at the individual level (e.g. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), but standing together as a public, as a community, and resisting short-sighted ignorance is equally important.
Last weekend, scientists around the world took the fight for science to the streets. We can also call our legislators, run for office, hold teach ins and give public lectures. Most importantly we can keep doing science. #ScienceNotSilence
There is nothing which can better deserve your patronage, than the promotion of Science and Literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest base of public happiness.
-President George Washington, 8 Jan 1790, 1st State of the Union Address to Congress
Earlier this week a fellow anthropologist from Australia posted a suggestion to our environmental anthropology listserve that we “consider ways to move our posts and conversations online to Twitter. I am serious about this.” I giggled. Not at my colleague, because I think she’s absolutely right about the need to take our work to the people, but at the idea that anthropologists could condense their thoughts into 140 characters. Despite our ability to craft pithy interview questions and participant observe quietly for hours on end in far-flung communities, members of our chatterbox tribe tend to pontificate when provided the opportunity. We are a long-winded and multi-syllabic people. Yet a challenge had been issued. And that’s when I found myself reopening a Twitter account from 2009 to see how it had evolved.
My fellow environmental anthropologist raised some great points about how Twitter could be used by us all to reach a wider audience.
- Are you worried about the public understanding of how environmental anthropology can help respond to pressing regional and global issues?
- Would you like more people to know about your recent publications, job announcements, or call for papers?
- Would you like to expand your network of colleagues, potential collaborators, and co-authors?
- Is your university placing increased emphasis on rewarding scholars who seem publicly visible and engaged?
- Would you like an open-access forum to debate topics about environmental anthropology, one that includes public participation?
- Would you like to help build a database of searchable resources that secondary, higher education, and continued education learners could access on their smartphones and tablets within seconds of following a hashtag?
As a whole we are an invisible tribe. That is not to say that exceptions don’t exist. Margaret Mead, Temperance Brennan, and Indiana Jones are the most likely candidates for household recognition (well, at least those are ones my mom could name quickly), and two of them are fictional characters. Those of us who work at the human-environment interface should really be making our work more widely known. Sure a virus or an asteroid could wipe out life as we know it, but the majority of environmental problems we face as a species have their roots and solutions in human behavior and decision-making.
Engaging the public by relating what we do, how we do it, and what it means requires that we actually put something out there for consideration, recognize that people will respond, and commit to civil conversation that may take us in unexpected directions. Public environmental anthropology might not get counted towards tenure (if that’s your goal), but it takes a step towards building scientific literacy, public trust, and a community that works together to make the planet a more sustainable place for all living beings.
So, I accept the challenge and will give Twitter a try for the summer. #environmentalanthropology
For more information:
- Five ways in which Twitter can be useful in academic contexts, Raul Pacheco-Vega
- Twitter for academics, The Online Academic
- The academic benefits of Twitter, Carole McGranahan, Savage Minds
by Maria Sharova
As the end of the semester draws to a close, I am once again sitting down to try to map out my progress and figure out next steps. Over the course of the semester I have had meetings with a variety of amazing faculty who have told me about their research, I have selected my own methods for comparison, and I have selected my photos.
My methods for comparison include change in land use, change in sea level, erosion, and industry development. These speak to visual changes in environmental processes. Additionally, many pictures in the African photo database I accessed have descriptive metadata that provides, specific dates, photographers, and locations that could be further researched to locate a more specific modern photographic example.
I will compare the 8 historic images to pictures taken within the last 5 years to assess environmental change. My project will explore the applicability of using images collected from social media sites like Facebook, Flickr, and Instagram for citizen science of environmental change. Pictures posted online could be used in a variety of manners in future research endeavors. For example, there is potential to link social media to remotely sensed images or ground truthing. If changes in sea level could be tracked in pictures taken by tourists and supplemented with remotely sensed images taken over time, this could provide a more accurate and holistic view of change occurred. The potential to use photographs as a dataset in citizen science research projects is realistic, cost effective, and could provide valuable information.
Before the start of Spring Semester I will also need to finalize a list of committee members that will proof read my thesis, be present at my thesis defense, and finally provide final suggestions for edits that I will make to my paper.
I’m feeling really excited (and nervous) about my project! It’s coming together nicely, and I have to credit Dr. Shaffer with being the most amazing advisor ever! She’s been so patient with me and I definitely would not have gotten as far as I have without her expertise. I still have a lot of work to get through. I have to finish selecting my modern photographs, complete my background research on each photograph, actually write up my findings, and start thinking about future directions for the research (is there potential to use Landsat images of erosion and coastlines to study visual change in the environment over time?) Here’s to health, happiness, and getting this project done in the New Year!
Maria submitted this on 15 December 2015. My apologies for the late posting. ~J.Shaffer
by Maria Sharova
These first few weeks of school have been crazy—between family issues, the GRE, and my amazing new internship at the U.S. Global Change Research Program, I am finding it difficult to sit down and flush out ideas for longer than an hour at a time. But I have made some progress!
When I left off my Independent Project last semester, I had compiled a series of 10 photos from Angola and Mozambique depicting visual change over time—whether it be environmental, political, or economic. This semester, I am working on my honors thesis, which involves the same set of images, but with a different set of questions in mind. I will still be doing a comparison of old pictures to modern images, but I will be focusing on landscape photographs rather than portraits. The main idea I hope to address in my research is that of pictures being a legitimate source of information (in the way that quantitative measurements are). Can images created for non-research purposes be used as scientific evidence for identifying and quantifying environmental change? What changes can be measured based on images we have?
With this set of questions in mind, there are already several aspects of my research that I would like to identify more thoroughly. I would like to solidify my methods for comparing the images I select. What exactly will I be looking for between the old photograph and the new photograph? Erosion? Change in water? Change in crop yield? Change in crop type? This will of course depend on the images I select. Furthermore I would like to identify methods of quantifying that change. Will I be literally taking a ruler to the picture? Most likely not, but how will I quantify change in the photographs? Unlike last year, I am not confining myself to a specific country—instead I am working with the full range of images I have.
I have a few meetings set up with other faculty members who have done some visual anthropology, and I am excited to discuss their methods and projects with them. My project, I feel will be significantly different, since I am viewing my analysis as a form of citizen science, without the citizens knowing that they are participating in research. Social networks and social media can be regarded as an untapped data source. People are constantly taking pictures of the places they visit, so developing a methodology for using those photographs to analyze changing climates could be very interesting and useful to scientists. Here’s to hoping the next few weeks go well!
I’m finally in the field. It was a struggle this year between dealing with personal life issues – some major milestones – and all of the last minute baloney that comes with teaching large courses – final projects, final exams and whinging about grades that would have been better had students put in the time earlier in the term.
This past week I (and my trusty field assistant Jordan) ran a workshop on quantitative and qualitative methods at Universidade Eduardo Mondlane. Five intense days of lectures and activities that were scheduled to run from 9am to 1pm every day but usually lasted until 2-2:30 as people had questions about coding or interpreting data. Jordan gave 2 brief lectures in all of it on coding interviews and quant methods (freelists and triadic comparisons). She did a smashing job and gave me a short break to rest an increasingly sore throat. Our topics ranged from writing good interview questions to turning interview texts into numbers to visual research methods, social network analysis, and participatory methods.
The Dept. of Biology hosted our workshop and its 15 attendees were faculty, research staff, and graduate students from biology, botany, geography, sociology, economics, environmental education, and agricultural engineering. One of my best moments came at the end of the workshop when one of the botanists, a professor and research, stated that “Social scientists really have to know a lot. You use so many different methods and analyze your data in many ways and you then have to interpret what people say. Plants are so much easier. Your sort of research is really complicated. Plants are so much easier.” She took a lot of notes, and given that her research involves plant distribution, use, and conservation, I think she was very interested in trying out some of the methods we discussed. I shared her statement with Jordan, who laughed and agreed. It isn’t just anthropology graduate students who find our tools complicated. 🙂
When not working, we’ve been enjoying the World Cup – people here get together to watch everywhere. Oh, and what is up with Spain? Boo! There’ve also been new experiences like going to Xipamanine Market, where you can buy anything from used clothes, to food, to AK-47s, stolen tech, flip flops, capulanas, etc. listening to new music, making new friends, and trying new foods. Okay, Jordan’s done most of the new stuff since I lived here for a year and a half and have been coming to Mozambique since 2004. But for me, it’s fun to see someone encounter Mozambique for the first time.
Initial field experiences from our lab members have been trickling in. I also prodded Jordan to write a little about her initial thoughts on Mozambique.
From Rebecca at START (19 June):
I am finishing up the third week of my internship and I thought I would send you a quick update on how things are going.
I have thus far been working on several different projects and attending enrichment sessions/trainings that are offered through START. The nice thing about START is that they realize that their internships are unpaid, therefore they offer as many opportunities to their interns as possible to gain stills that are relevant to future employment, so that they can become employable and get a paying position once the internship is over.
Things I have been working on:
- Literature Review: Learning APA (and becoming a master!)
- Meetings: Brainstorming, updates, informational – you name it.
- Interview Transcription: This is a skill that I am learning. It’s not easy and pretty much makes me feel like my brain is leaking out my ears, but this is the tedious end of qualitative methods, is it not? [Yes, this is tedious but it could always be worse. I prefer transcription to measuring spines on bryozoans under a microscope and then entering the data into a computer. Yep, did that for a whole year once. But that’s what scientists do when they start out – the grunt work. I’m sure you’re doing a great job though. You are really detail-oriented and that is exactly what is needed in transcription work.]
- Proposal Work at START
Additionally I have begun to reach out to Anthropologists in the government, to set up informational interviews. I haven’t worked on this portion too much yet but plan to in the coming week.
From Maria at SESYNC (4 June):
I started work with Dr. Hadden this week–she’s very nice! Right now I’m doing a lot of background reading–social movements, methods of social movement research and environmental policy. She hopes to interview 10-15 environmental groups this summer and I am to help her prepare for the interviews (writing up profiles for the organizations/people). After they are done, I will be transcribing them. I’m also to do “Protest Analyses”. We haven’t exactly talked details, but I will be using Atlas.ti to code news stories about environmental protest from the past five years and looking to see how media portrayal of protests has changed. Its an interesting complement to my work this past semester with comparing pictures!
I’m working on my own for the most part, and Dr. Hadden doesn’t care if I’m physically working in the office or not. Except for the Atlas.ti stuff, because that’s only on the office computer but I haven’t started that yet. None of my roommates are living in our apartment this summer, so I’ve been mostly in solitary confinement. Definitely a weird change, but I’m not that sad about it!
From Jordan in Maputo, Mozambique (18 June):
The first 4 days in Mozambique have been exciting and exhausting. There’s so much I could write about, but I thought I’d make this entry about funny things I’ve learned in Mozambique, so far.
Disclaimer: This is coming from a foreigner who has been in Mozambique for a total of four days.
The first rule I learned in Maputo is to always carry my own packet of toilet paper. It’s not uncommon to come across a bathroom without toilet paper. And don’t flush said toilet paper. If you do, you might clog up the system (this is common in many countries). No one wants to be that person. Also, check to see if you can find a stall with a trashcan inside it. The reasoning here should be evident.
The second rule I learned is that you should speak Portuguese or travel with someone who speaks Portuguese (the official language) when travelling in Mozambique. There aren’t many Mozambiquans who are fluent in English, although many can hold a short conversation. But when you need someone to tell you where you can buy a bottle of wine, or you’re trying to understand how much said wine costs, finding a Mozambiquan who can tell you (in English) is a gamble. So learn some Portuguese before you travel, or carry a Portuguese dictionary if you don’t want to be attached at the hip to your Portuguese-speaking travel companion (shout out to my travel companion!). Here are the words I’ve learned so far, spelled according to what I’ll call Jordan-phonetics.
- Bom dia: good morning
- Bom tarde: good not-morning (I think it means good afternoon) [that would be boa tarde]
- Ob-ri-gado: Thank you (I use this one a lot, especially since it’s the only word I remember consistently)
- Tudu beng: How are you? [tudo bem]
o Ee tu: and you? (you ask this when someone manages to ask how you are before you ask how they are) [e tu?]
- Esto beng: I’m well (there are many ways for people to respond to “tudu beng”. My rule of thumb is to smile like I know what they’re saying, hope they added “ee tu” somewhere in there, and respond with “esto beng”) [Estuo bem]
- Na-o falu Por-tu-gesh: I don’t speak Portuguese [Não falou português.]
Here are the phrases I want to learn next:
- I’m sorry (I need this one several times a day) [desculpa me]
- How much does this cost? (not everyone has a cash register, yo) [Por favor, cuanto custa?]
- Do you speak English? (I usually ask this in English, but in an effort to be less obviously foreign, I shall learn the translation) [Fala ingles?]
- Where’s the bathroom? (I probably should’ve learned this one first) [Onde esta es la banho? o toilet?]
[Jordan has the phonetic spelling here. Pretty awesome for someone who doesn’t speak the language and was thrown to the lions 4 days ago. She has been really taking it all in stride and is not afraid to just dive right in.]
Finally, I’m beginning to learn the road rules here. Roads are always interesting in other countries, and Mozambique will not let you down. There are very few roads with lines or stoplights here. The strategy works well for Mozambicans; everyone knows which side of the road to drive on, when to swerve out of someone’s way, and how to just generally keep from causing a traffic accident. But as a foreigner who is used to stop lights, pedestrian crosswalks, and cars that stop just to let you cross the road, it’s a bit terrifying. But then again, it’s an adrenaline rush…kinda like cliff diving, but with cars. From what I can tell, the rules of the road are as follows:
- Drive on the left side, not the right.
- When there is no one on the right, you can drive there too.
- Passing is fair game almost any time.
- If you’re driving down a narrow road, be ready to swerve as far to the left as possible when another car (coming in the opposite direction) gets within 10 feet of you.
- When you see pedestrians in the middle of the road, slow down enough so as not to hit them, but drive fast enough to hurry them along. (Side note—if you see someone running across the road, they’re probably a foreigner. Mozambicans generally walk).
- If you ride a motorbike, you do what you want.
I hope you enjoyed today’s “Taste o’ Mozambique”. We’ll be back soon with another entry.
From Alyssa in The Gambia (17 June):
I figured you would be interested in having a link to my summer blog. I started this site when I went to Gambia last time and will continue to use it over the next few months.
I am on it, slowly slowly…
These past two weeks I’ve been wearing my “program assistant hat” much more than my “research assistant hat.” My primary responsibility has been to train nineteen University of The Gambia students in SPSS (for those who don’t know – a statistical program utilized to store and analyze data in the social sciences). The students have been doing very well, reaffirming my conceptions of UTG students as passionate and engaged learners.
The purpose of training the students is to utilize their skills in a nearly decade-long project surveying Gambian high school students on their health, social lives, and risky behaviors. Each survey takes approximately three hours to administer and contains over 550 variables in the SPSS database. This summer, 300 surveys are being collected and in an effort to enter all of the data before leaving The Gambia, I have been working with three shifts of UTG students over eleven hour workdays.
Needless to say, these days have been exhausting, but it is exciting to observe the students’ progress and help them to successfully enter enough data each day to keep up with the flow of incoming completed surveys.
For Americans, living in Gambia is constantly one massive exercise in patience. Changing the abbreviation GMT to “Gambia Maybe Time” may be funny, but it is also a reality. Things just tend to move at a slower pace here, often frustrating Westerners. But it’s important to recognize that in keeping with the worldview of many if not most Gambians, God is in control. If a scheduled meeting doesn’t happen today or a professor doesn’t show up for class or you’re running two hours late…it just means that all of those things were meant to happen. It isn’t a human’s place to argue with the way things are, so they accept the amount of work that is successfully done each day and only make long term plans with the caveat – inshallah, or God willing – added to the end.
I think that living here in 2011 made me a bit more understanding on days when things didn’t go my way back home, but it’s nice to have this refresher course and remind myself that I can always be a little more patient, and it’s not always my place to question why things aren’t happening at the pace I would like them to. This data entry process has been tedious at best, but it is absolutely worthwhile and it is meaningful work that the UTG students and I are doing.
In both of the predominant local languages, Wolof and Mandinka, a common greeting is to ask someone how the work is – “Naka ligeey bi?” – in Wolof. The response is a phrase that I tried to make my personal motto throughout my first year of graduate school – “Mangi ci kowam, ndanka ndanka” – I am on it, slowly slowly. This phrase is a great reminder to take a breath, slow down, and realize that the things I’m stressing about probably aren’t as serious as I am building them up to be in my head.
As long as I am on it ndanka ndanka, I will continue to make progress…and probably maintain a bit more of my sanity along the way.