Sunday, May 29, 2011

Exploring New Habitats by Danielle Brigida

“The tribal bonds of naturalists, you should know, are woven out of war stories from past field trips” - E.O. Wilson in Anthill

Raff's desire to work outside and use the knowledge he gains from his exploration at Nokobee and through his Eagle Scout experience sounds familiar to me. While I was never an Eagle Scout, I did spend countless hours at the nearby creek which led me to realize my passion was to work for the environment.

This leads me to the question, do you see yourself in Raff?

The Launch portion of the book introduces us to how Raff was propelled into a new landscape after receiving acceptance to Florida State University. While his knowledge of Nokobee continues to feed his education, these chapters do give you a look at how Raff's sense of wonder for the natural world continues.

I think it points to a very important piece of being a naturalist: having an endless curiosity of where ever you are and the places you’re visiting. Few of us take the time to learn of the many species or even the threatened or endangered habitats and wildlife that are closest to us.

I especially like how E.O. Wilson does not miss an opportunity to reference native species or unique habitats. Every time one of the characters mentions a species or habitat, I jot it down and revisit it later.

Since Raff begins to experience his new landscape, we hear about a few animals, native plants and unique habitats that Raff can now study. Here are just a few that were mentioned in passing that I thought I'd highlight:

  • Torreya taxifolia (pictured above) is also known as Florida Torreya. Raff wanted to explore and find this rare pine that suffers from fungus attacks from up to 11 species and is critically endangered.
  • Adjacent to the FSU campus is the Apalachicola National Forest, the largest forest in the state of Florida.
  • Florida's Pitcher Plants - Florida has six species of pitcher plants (very unique and colorful) and the bogs where they grow proved to be on Raff's checklist.
  • Mesic Pine Flatwoods (PDF) - This habitat is said to be home to the Florida panther and the Key deer.

Did anyone notice brief mentions of places they've been to or would like to learn more about? I'd love to hear them.


Kate said...

Danielle, thank you for calling our attention to the importance of getting to know the different plants and animals that make up a certain place. I look forward to your posts this week as you moderate our Anthill discussion!

Regarding your question of whether I can see myself in Raff, I would have to say yes. His interest in learning a place - from the ground up, so to speak - is similar to the way my own early interest in nature took shape. I am intrigued to see the way Raff's story plays out.

Regarding the unique habitats referenced thus far by the author, I do know the Appalachicola National Forest from a field trip. It is a marvelous place - home to the most beautiful long leaf pine savannas I've ever seen. While I was there to observe one of the more well-known, yet diminutive, species on the Appalachicola (the red-cockaded woodpecker!)I couldn't help but be awed by the beautiful and seemingly endless stretches of savanna. In spite of the fact that the long leaf pine forests appear sometimes to be uniform, they are home to an incredible number of plants and animals: nearly 200 species of reptile, over 200 mammals, and almost 600 different kinds of birds and 170 species of amphibian.

Certainly these forests are inspiring and worth preserving. And, per a National Wildlife Federation report which I recall seeing a while back, long leaf pine is important as we battle climate change: long leaf forests are naturally resilient to climate extremes and protecting them may help us ultimately protect the biodiversity of our forests from global warming.

WILD READ Team said...

Danielle, thank you for such a thoughtful post and for showcasing some of the species that play a role in shaping Raff's experience.

Kate, thanks for sharing your insights on the Appalachicola - what a magical place.

We love the idea Danielle highlights above: endless curiosity about the natural world. WILD READers - if you're not familiar with pitcher plants and pine flatwoods, what are the kinds of animals and plants are near you that you find interesting and why? What are your personal sources of the "endless curiosity"?

WILD READ Team said...

Danielle, since you are one of our moderators this week you might want to know that there are some interesting comments posted under Bill Finch's May 22 post and May 24 post from our Seneca East High School honors biology class that address some of the questions posed in our Anthill Discussion Guide. Our readers may want to go back to those dates to read the insightful comments from our young people.

Margaret said...

I find it interesting how our relationship to a natural place changes once we either put a name to the place or even identify and name the species. In some ways the transference of knowledge takes us away from perhaps the "sense of wonder" which is inherent in a child's view and connection to the land. Does science compromise Raff's passion or does it enhance his understanding and deepen his connections? I have always been interested in this interplay.

Danielle Brigida said...

Thanks for letting me know! I'll check out both posts and see what there is to find.

Margaret - that's very true. I remember when I named a fallen tree over the creek "Blue Heron Bridge" as a kid. Returning to something I had named meant more to me for some reason.

Heather said...

I definitely see some of myself in Raff, I just went a different route for a while. I didn't have his confidence and self-assuredness. Similar to Raff, I grew up in a smallish town, but decided to leave and join the military. It's funny though, because my love of nature has brought me back full circle to where I was as a child, curious again at the natural world around me and endlessly curious about its ways. My office walls are as confining as school walls used to be!
But as I'm both growing my own gardens now in an effort to feed my family and to draw wildlife to our yard, I'm reading book after book and notice that I appreciate the ones that have the level of fidelity to be so specific. I just read a book on a woman's year of farming, and she also took the time not to describe only her own life, but also that of the insects, wildflowers, prey and predators around her. It made for a much more enlightening and interesting read that she incorporated the world around her into it, as EO Wilson did through Raff.


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