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TORREYA TAXIFOLA - NORTH FLORIDA

Left from Rock Bluff on a dirt road to TORREYA STATE PARK, 15.5 m. on the Apalachicola River. This 520-acre park was named for the evergreen Torreya taxifola, rarest species of the genus Torreya, found here and for 10 miles south along the eastern bank of the river. Because of the unpleasant odor when bruised, the tree is known as ‘stinking cedar.’ Two other varieties grow in Japan and California, but both differ in size, leaves and color of fruit from the Florida tree, which rises in pyramidal form to a height of 40 feet.

Florida: A Guide to the Southernmost State (WPA, 1939) [Find it at a library near you.]

Torreya State Park is about an hour west of Tallahassee, the state’s capital in northwest Florida, where I currently live. The park opened in 1935, a project of the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal, public work relief program. Its namesake, the Torreya taxifolia, or “gopher wood,” is a small coniferous tree that is currently listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (ICUN). The numbers are staggering: “Before the start of the decline in the early 1950s, the population was estimated to have been more than 600,000 […] The current population is estimated to be between 500 and 600 trees.” Efforts to preserve and maintain the tree range from academic studies from conservation biologists [PDF] to a citizen biodiversity protection group who are “rewilding” the tree in and around Asheville, NC and other select locations.

The Florida Torreya is one of the many native Florida plants that are indigenous to the Big Bend—one of the the nation’s most biodiverse ecosystems. Many of the indigenous flora and fauna are endangered due to overdevelopment.

Guide Note: This dispatch was inspired by a personal project: an experiential auditory piece meant to invoke the physical and aural sensation of observing the T. taxifolia in its native landscape, the limestone hills of the Apalachicola River Basin, while it slowly disintegrates as a species. The author is collaborating with Josh Mason (Jacksonville) and Michael Diaz (Tallahassee). Photographs by Michael Diaz, images courtesy of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory project.

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Micah Vandegrift is a Floridian who has not once been to Miami. He fell into academic librarianship after finishing a degree in American and Florida Studies wherein he wrote a thesis on Gainesville’s post-punk music scene. His dream vacation is to take an airboat ride through the Everglades, stop off in Gibsonton, catch a show at Weeki Wachee Springs, camp in the Dry Tortugas National Park, hang out with the bison on Paynes Prairie, catch a flick at the Silver Moon Drive In,  walk the trees at the Myakka River Canopy, and finish the trip with an Dipped Cone at Del’s Freez in his hometown of Melbourne, FL. Micah can be discovered all around the web, mostly rousing rabble about librarianship in the digital age. Find him on Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr.

So excited to see this posted on American Guide!!!

T. taxifolia

The best thing I’ve ever done for myself was make friends with artists. Surrounded by people who see things in such unique ways, I am provided numerous opportunities to express a creativity I don’t often dig in to. This weekend was one such opportunity. Together with Michael Diaz and Josh Mason, I traveled to Torreya State Park, near Bristol, FL, to find, “record” and “preserve” one of the world’s rarest and oldest known trees, the Florida Torreya. 

Torreya State Park is about an hour west of Tallahassee, where Michael and I currently live and are both connected to Florida State University. Torreya State Park opened in 1935, a project of the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal, public work relief program. Its namesake, the Torreya taxifolia, or “gopher wood,” is a small coniferous tree that is currently listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (ICUN). Having visited the park more than a few times to camp, I had never taken the time to notice and comprehend what it meant for a tree like this to be endangered. The numbers are staggering: “Before the start of the decline in the early 1950s, the population was estimated to have been more than 600,000 […] The current population is estimated to be between 500 and 600 trees” (Spector, 2011).

Only as of late have I begun to develop a sense of “localness” that connects to landscape. I’ve understood the meaning of community through growing up in punk rock, but localness is more about heritage than history. Part of this progression for me has manifest itself as an interest in fauna, native plant landscaping, and food. The hunt for the Torreya tree perfectly intersected with this sense of place that I’m exploring and gave me the chance to get outside with some dear friends. 

The project concept is simple: find, “record” and “preserve” the trees. However, that idea, when coming from an artist’s point of view, takes on very different meanings than a conservation biologist [PDF] or a citizen biodiversity protection group. We are collaborating on an experiential auditory piece meant to invoke the physical and aural sensation of observing the T. taxifolia in its native landscape, the limestone hills of the Appalachicola River Basin, while it slowly disintegrates as a species. This first trip to the park was to collect some data, discuss the scope of what we might do, and investigate the space. 

Needless to say, my role is as facilitator (Josh and Michael met for the first time on this trip) and documentarian. And, as one might expect from an academic librarian, I conducted a bit of research, some of which is cited below in a working bibliography. Watch this space for more details as we move the project forward. 

http://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/torreyatree.html

http://www.usbg.gov/plants/stinking-cedar

Index of Species Information, US Forest Service. 

Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) profile

Species Profile, US Fish and Wildlife Service. 

Population Persistence in Florida Torreya: Comparing Modeled Projections of a Declining Coniferous Tree. Mark W. Schwartz, Sharon M. Herrmann, Phillip J. Van Mantgem. PDF available here.

Spector, T., Determann, R. & Gardner, M. 2011. Torreya taxifolia. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 24 March 2014.

The woods of the United States : with an account of their structure, qualities and uses ; with geographical and other notes upon the trees which produce them. Sargent, Charles Sprague, 1841-1927American Museum of Natural History. Jesup Collection. http://dx.doi.org/10.5962/bhl.title.28215

The American woods : exhibited by actual specimens and with copious explanatory text. Hough, Romeyn Beck, 1857-1924http://dx.doi.org/10.5962/bhl.title.35982

The Global Biodiversity Information Facility: GBIF Backbone Taxonomy, 2013-07-01. 
Accessed via http://www.gbif.org/species/5284481 on 2014-03-24

These, our camps…

These, our camps… #thatcamp

The proposed formalization and governance of THATCamp underscores an important point in our collective history; we have reached the time when an idea has become an institution. The idea behind THATCamp inspired me as a graduate student, and now, as I grow into my career as a librarian I continually reflect on the THATCamp’s I participated in as wholly formative for the professional valuesI now…

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The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we’re uncool.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs in Almost Famous, the film that pushed me to make the decision to go to college, ostensibly to “write about music.” Such a loss.  

The Falsities and/or Truthiness of Subscriptions…

"What library will continue to subscribe if a growing proportion of articles is available for free elsewhere?"

More than once in the past week, this has been the argument by Major Label Publishers to justify their ill-timed actions, sending take down notices to academic authors for posting research articles on public websites and social networks. I don’t dispute their claim that researchers are violating the terms of the publication contracts that both parties willingly agree to, but this argument… is just… untrue.

The most appalling part of this false claim is that currently, right now, Major Label Publishers are working with libraries to create a new model of academic publishing, where costs are paid up front and all content is open access, for an ENTIRE academic field (High-Energy Physics). 

So, what library will continue to subscribe if articles are available for free? Here’s a list

Maybe its time we stop talking about “subscriptions” and start talking about “access,” open or otherwise. It’s clear that libraries are committed to supporting the research ecosystem, if it turns out to be a fair and beneficial system for researchers - the content providers/users, libraries - the curators and organizers, and publishers - the disseminators. 

#alt-LIS

Want a preview of the crux of my webinar tomorrow? I propose that we blend R. David Lankes’ “New Librarianship" definition with Bethany Nowviskie’s #alt-ac (alternative academic) to define our New Roles for these New Times

I give you - #alt-LIS (v0.1):

a broad set of information-oriented professions, in which there are new opportunities to improve our communities through knowledge creation and application of principles of information access, [re]use and a DIY ethic.