For those of you who are my friends and family, you may be interested in the links I'm providing in this post. I keep my work life separate from my blog, and from everything else personal, but for those of you who have missed me (and may miss my posts again, the next time I get all busy with work), if you want to see more of what I've been "up to," then check out the online field guide of the Missouri Department of Conservation.
When I started working on this project, the MDC folks asked me if I wanted to be identified publicly as a "field guide maven," and I said no. I'm an editor, right? I'm not a "writer"!! (Okay, I guess I am, now, aren't I.) And I certainly don't want my sad-looking mugshot next to anything on this online field guide. It's all about the plants and animals! But my friends, and family--if you ever want to know what I'm "up to," look at this site.
(Muskrat photo by Susan Ferber.)
It's basically 10 field guides in one: aquatic invertebrates, insects, butterflies and moths, fishes, amphibians and reptiles, birds, mammals, mushrooms, wildflowers and nonwoody plants, and trees/shrubs/woody vines. You can search on it via an alphabetical browse menu, or you can do an "advanced search" that allows you to narrow search results using key identifying characteristics (such as color, habitat, etc.).
This summer, I've been particularly busy fulfilling entries on the wildflowers and other nonwoody plants. (It's still going to be a while before I post a bunch of grasses and ferns--surely you can see why those present special problems for writing a guide for nonscientific readers.) Here's a link to the "browse" page for the wildflowers. It's an alphabetical listing; just scroll down, then click on the next page, etc. There's close to 300 species entries for this group, with more a-comin'.
Also, in the browse menus, when a plant or animal strikes your fancy, click on that image to see the complete entry for that species. Here, for example, is a recent entry I did, for Giant Ragweed. You know this plant; you've seen it a million times. But have you really seen it? Part of the satisfaction of creating this field guide is in thinking, really thinking, about some of the most minute aspects of these organisms. What sets it apart from others of its kind? Why should anyone care about it? Why does it possess its unique characteristics?
I love it when I can include information that is particular to Missouri, the Ozarks, the tallgrass prairie. I guess because of my own local pride. Like how the word "cooter" came from Africa and then became a verb in Ozark dialect. And every time I write about a prairie wildflower, I think of how they must have cheered settlers as they headed west into such strange, treeless terrain.
It's especially been fascinating to include "human connections" and "ecosystem connections" for each species. What has amazed me is how nearly every single species in the state, whether it's a weird mushroom, or a nondescript rodent, a ubiquitous roadside wildflower, or even a minnow, a wicked-looking insect that hides under rocks in a stream, or a type of insect that's so damn common you don't give a second thought to it, has an interest on a human level and on the level of its relationship to nature. That's just incredibly cool, I think.
Honestly--sometimes the hardest thing about this project is to keep from writing too much. There's no end to the fascination in the natural world.
Anyway--enough of "tooting my own horn." But I did want to let y'all know that I haven't exactly been absent from the Internets--just from my blog. If you ever miss me (you know who you are!), check out the MDC field guide, where you'll find out what I've been doing in "my other life."