Journal archives for August 2022

August 29, 2022


I just returned from a 5,800-mile road trip to the West Coast. I haven’t quite known how to describe this trip. I've made many long road trips previously to various parts of the country. Their overt purpose was typically to visit family and friends in far-flung locations. In all such travels (dating back to my enlistment on iNaturalist and earlier), I observed a lot of nature and took many pictures along the way--sometimes very casually, occasionally with an intense focus here or there. Those results are detectable on a map of my iNat uploads over the past several years.

But this most recent trip has been qualitatively and quantitatively different.

Once again, the nominal impetus was to visit our daughter (and a few other expat Texans) in Portland, Oregon. But during the planning stages for this trip ranging from Texas to the Pacific Northwest, it was evident that the recent wet monsoon conditions in southern Arizona elicited in me a desire for more than a casual drive through that particular region. More planning ("bio-planning"?) for the trip suggested that I ought to take the opportunity to visit not only southern Arizona, but also several habitats en route which either had been long-resident on my bucket list or which harkened back to childhood family vacations.

Putting that all into motion--literally--and maintaining a high energy level directed at garnering useful iNaturalist data lead to this...experience. After hundreds of miles of thinking about it, I finally settled on the following term: This has been a BioVac*. The word is a purposeful play on two concepts: (1) biological vacation, and (2) biological vacuuming (of observations, etc.).

The biodiversity of the western U.S. is overwhelming on any scale. I certainly can't call what I've done a "bioblitz". Although there were locations and moments when I tried to document just about any biota that presented itself, in no way were any of my efforts thorough enough to rise to the level of a "blitz" as we now apply the term. Rather, I made a point of targetting selected ecological regions and major habitat types and attempting to document a full suite of dominent or characteristic plants, along with any animals that presented themselves. I brought along a boxful of field guides and floras, but as the travels progressed the primary companion guide for much of the trip was the classic Peterson Field Guide to Western Trees (Petrides & Petrides 1992, 1st ed.). With that tome in hand, I allowed myself to focus on two "guidepost" species groups: conifers and oaks. I had previously encountered most of the common species in these groups in many of the western states. So I poured over the Peterson Field Guide to help focus my attention and chart some special travel stopovers to look for regional endemics (within reasonable travel reach of my general path to/from Oregon) such as Brewer's (Weeping) Spruce, Bishop Pine, Coast Redwood, Giant Sequoia, and the many oaks of the Southwest. An additional reference that became indispensible during the course of my journey was @michaelkauffmann's Conifer Country. I knew I couldn't possibly encounter and document all of the potential species, but a reasonable effort along my selected route eventually compiled a very respectable list.

And beyond my guidepost species and habitats, I just "vacuumed up" whatever other biodiversity I could find!

So from seaweeds to saguaros, slime molds to spruce, Syssphynx to Sasquatch, everything was fair game. Of course, I focused (for the most part) on identifiable stuff (plants with flowers or fruits) but that didn't stop me from documenting an interesting plant here or there if the foliage seemed distinctive to me.

Oh, did I mention mothing? I tried to do some mothing at every camping stop. The travel routine to/from Oregon was typically two days camping to one night at a motel to recharge batteries and clean up. I put up lights and a moth sheet on ten camping nights from Arizona to Oregon and back. That is a lesson in biodiversity worthy of a separate journal entry.

So below I list some handy links to gain an entry into the biodiversity I encountered and documented. I have over 6,000 images to sift through. Making a SWAG: I might guess that about 10% of those were scenery shots, another 15% will be culls (out of focus, etc.), so I might have garnered something like 4,500 images of plants and animals to edit and select from. Erring on the generous side, if I averaged 4 or 5 images per subject (especially for plants), I can make an initial guess that I made something like 900 to 1,100 observations. I certainly documented some species of plants and animals more than once, so if I averaged maybe 2 or 3 observations per species (probably less than that), I am looking at going through, identifying, editing, and uploading something like 300 to 400 species of plants and animals. Time will tell if that calculation is anywhere in the ballpark.

UPDATE (10/12/22): Well, the task of identifying and uploading all the photos from this trip has been an interesting journey in and of itself. I just uploaded the last of the images from the last day on the road, August 26. With those, the tentative tally (from iNat) from the 27-day trip (July 31 - August 26) shows a total of 1,871 observations uploaded which document a minumum of 1,077 species of plants, animals, fungi, etc. Clearly my earlier calculation (above) was waaaay off! There are still many observations which must be examined and perhaps IDed to species, so the species total is likely to increase a bit in the future, but when I sit back and look at it all, I am just floored by the diversity I was able to encounter on the trip.

All of my West Coast August 2022 observations
Flowering Plants
My "Biota of the Klamath Mountain Geomorphic Province"
A Sampler of Plants in Del Norte County, California
My Seaweeds (Green, Red, and Brown Algae)

Texas observations
New Mexico observations
Arizona observations
California observations
Oregon observations

* I'm clearly not the first writer to coin the term "BioVac". A quick search of the internet reveals diverse corporations, products, and government programs around the world going under this moniker. So I will only claim this novel use of the term for my particular corner of the citizen science world.

Posted on August 29, 2022 03:46 PM by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 48 observations | 7 comments | Leave a comment

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