Growing up in Ventura County I gained an early appreciation for the rich history and natural resources of the Golden State, especially its botanical wealth, through exploration of its wild backcountry. From the Southland my explorations and interests turned northward to the Klamath Ranges and points between. The California Coast Ranges have been an extraordinary place to begin to scratch the surface of my studies in California floristics which has led to the immediate conclusion that I have a lot to learn.
My general research interests are based in California vascular plant floristics with a focus on distribution, soil and geologic relationships, endemism, regional and local rarity, and habitat conservation. At a more specific level, my primary interests are floristics of the North and South Coast Ranges (NCoR and SCoR) and fire-following annual plant species there.
Coast Range Floristics
The coast ranges of California are a patchwork of difficult to access public and private lands that include: high and low elevation ecosystems; a variety of longitudinal and latitudinal gradients; a complex assemblage of bedrock and soil types; a myriad of climate regimes; and many areas where different floristic regions (and subregions) converge. All of these factors drive a high level of diversity. Due to the inaccessibility of the coast ranges they harbor many undercollected localities. My objective for the California coast ranges is to voucher specimens for the Jepson Herbarium in these collection voids to contribute a richer dataset to the existing coast range accessions as well as provide relevant information on coast range floristics to other interested researchers. In an effort to learn more about the southern end of the north coast ranges and the home county of Willis Linn Jepson, my fellow botanical colleague, Christopher Thayer and I, are working on a Flora of Solano County.
Solano County Flora Project
Image courtesy of the University and Jepson Herbaria Archives, University of California, Berkeley
Solano County possesses a diverse physiography; comprising parts of the Central Coast, San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta, Sacramento Valley, and Inner North Coast Range botanical regions. The juxtaposition of these landscapes and their ecosystems results in a broad range of habitats that support a robust assemblage of plant species. The county is also the birthplace Willis Linn Jepson, one of the early ambassadors of California floristic studies. It is in Solano County that Jepson cut his botanical teeth near his hometown in Vacaville, at the foot of the Vaca Mountains. Many of Jepson's early collection records are from Solano County, including many type specimens.
This wealth of physiographic, botanical, and historical attributes, together with the rapid pace of development, make it essential to compile a flora of the vascular plants of Solano County. We will begin by examining existing herbarium records to determine the level of current knowledge and identify potential shortfalls in the available data. Botanical field investigations will be conducted county-wide, with a special focus in potentially rich or botanically under-explored places. Voucher specimens of relevant or significant discoveries will be deposited in the Jepson Herbarium in Berkeley. The ultimate objective of the project is to create a comprehensive, annotated catalog of the floristic diversity of the entire County.
We intend to provide, as completely as possible, up-to-date information for all known plant species, noting locations and collections, nomenclatural synonyms; and describing habitats, common associates, specialized geological or soil preferences, and other pertinent ecological information. We also aim to create a framework for the identification and monitoring of locally rare or unusual plant species. The concept of local rarity recognizes species that may be more abundant in parts of California but which, because of regionally uncommon occurrence, are noteworthy and may have local significance or importance with regard to conservation. The presence of locally unusual plant species can often be indicative of special habitat conditions and biologically rich areas. Such occurrences may include disjunctions, isolated populations, or locations at the far extent of a species' range.
Fleeting Abundance of Fire Following Annuals
As part of a Mediterranean climate regime, California coast ranges support many fire adapted ecosystems. While many studies have been focused on a variety of subjects such as fuels, prescribed fire, vegetation change and succession, fire frequency and history little is known about the post-fire flush of annual plant species. It is this short-term pulse, typically for three years after fire, when fire following annual plants become the dominant short-term inhabitants of otherwise woody plant communities. The composition and duration of this eruptive dominance and subsequent fleeting abundance of annual plant species on regional scales within the coast ranges is of research interest to me. Currently, San Francisco State graduate student Brian Peterson, and I are conducting a 3 year post-fire study of the Morgan Fire, which burned the south side of Mount Diablo in 2013.
As a Research Associate of the University and Jepson Herbaria, it is also important to act as an ambassador of this renowned research facility. The ability to compile information from past collections and collectors is invaluable. Educating and communicating the value of these herbaria to both scientists and laypeople is an important role. In addition, as an ambassador I aim to encourage my peers, and botanists of younger generations, to get involved and collect for herbaria. This aureate endeavor of science and art should continue to thrive, bridging collectors of the past to the science of today.
Professionally, I am a co-founder and Senior Botanist of Nomad Ecology, based in Martinez (CCo, SnFrB) with 15 years of experience working in natural resource and environmental related fields throughout California.
Since 2002 I have been based in Contra Costa County and am considered an expert in the East Bay flora (Contra Costa and Alameda counties). In 2005 I became an active member of the California Native Plant Society, East Bay Chapter and am currently Rare Plant Committee Chair for the Chapter. In 2009 I also became a member of the 10-person Rare Plant Program Committee at the state level of CNPS. My role on these committees is to ensure these programs continue to develop current, accurate information on the distribution, ecology, and conservation status of California's rare and endangered plants; and helps to promote the use of this information to influence on site plant conservation in California.
In collaboration with team of graduate students from Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden and Claremont Graduate Colleges, lead by Thomas Stoughton, I am also playing a small role in a systematics project on the Silene verecunda Complex.