Chapter 15. Rare Plants


I applied for tenure-track university jobs during my last year at UNL, but opportunities were increasingly rare. I only landed a little contract to survey for rare plants in eastern Washington, and Tom helped me move back to the west. I had a brief job with the BLM mapping rare plants, but soon managed to get a limited appointment with the Forest Service research lab in Wenatchee, WA, as a Post-Doc Research Botanist.

Jack and I continued to work together. We compared rare and common grasses, finding that the plants of widespread species were far more variable, even small populations. Loyal M., who I had gone to school with at UBC, was by then also a post-doc, and we worked on a rare larkspur, comparing it to a widespread relative living in the same meadows. We wanted to know what was different about rare species, so we compared them to their common relatives. Many rare plants have always been endemic, as far as we know - their rarity was not caused by human activities and they are sometimes abundant within tiny ranges. They are often restricted to areas where there is little competition from other plants. As Brooks and Wiley pointed out, it's not the survival of the fittest, but survival of the adequate. Bill Barker, botanist at Central Washington Univ. conducted interesting greenhouse studies and made some surprising discoveries. Tom enrolled in a master's program at Central and I found work in Richland, with the Yakama Indian Nation by day and teaching as adjunct faculty for the Wash. St. Univ. branch campus by night.

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