Join along on Journeys to the “Botanical Fountain of Youth”: Expeditions of John K. Small (1869-1939)
The William and Lynda Steere Herbarium is excited to launch our newest expedition featuring historic collections by NYBG’s first Curator of Museums, Dr. John Kunkel Small. Destined to be an explorer since his first forays in the mountains of western North Carolina as a college student, Dr. Small would go on to collect over 60,000 specimens of flowering plants, ferns, mosses, hepatics, and fungi–and discover thousands of species new to science.
While documenting the flora of Southeastern North America, Small also witnessed major changes to our country’s natural landscape. His many expeditions to subtropical Florida (more than 35 in as many years) revealed huge destructive impacts of canal building and agricultural expansion on native wetlands and other pristine habitats. These revelations launched Dr. Small’s life-long quest to promote conservation action in Florida, an endeavor that culminated with the successful formation of the Everglades National Park (established in 1934).
Over the past 80 years, Small’s Florida has been further transformed by its ever-increasing human population. Miami–a town of 2,000 residents in 1901–now houses nearly 500,000; and the whole state is estimated at over 20 million. Agriculture and industry have largely prevailed against lands once classified as “terra incognita”. Fittingly, it is thanks to Small–and the generations of herbarium curators who followed him–that we can still examine and investigate organisms that lived and thrived decades before human development had exacted its toll.
By helping us transcribe Dr. Small’s collection of preserved herbarium specimens, you will be making unprecedented new data available that helps scientists reconstruct the primordial natural history of Florida and the Southeastern United States. Get ready to travel back through time and get lost in a land that “had drunk in her own rejuvenating waters”- John K. Small (1922).
To find out more: @NewYorkBotanicalGarden (Zooniverse ID)