BLANCHE TRASK
ACKNOWLEDGED BY
T.D.A. Cockerell
1938 & 1939

Natural History of Santa Catalina Island
Scientific Monthly, Volume 48, Page 308 to 318
1939
and
Studies of Island Life University of Colorado Studies Volume 26, Number 1, Page 3 to 20
1938
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"...The long persistence of some sedentary forms in limited areas is very remarkable. This is especially noticeable in the case of the terrestrial snails... Oreohelix, ... in its western on Catalina Island, where it is represented by a single small species. Although the Catalina species is named Oreohelix avalonensis, I could not find it near Avalon, and much search of different parts of the island failed to give results. Is it possibly extinct? Dr. S. Berry has a specimen collected by Mrs. Trask." From Natural History of Santa Catalina Island.

"Natural History of Santa Catalina Island ...Not far from the Isthmus was the home of Mrs. Blanche Trask, who was long famous as the botanist of the islands. Five of the island endemic plants have been named after her." From Studies of Island Life.


OBSERVATIONS of a NATURALIST in the 21st Century
by
Robert Roy van de Hoek
December 2000

Blanche Trask, poet-explorer-naturalist, did most of her California wild nature exploration and writing on the Channel Islands of Southern California. She was a resident of Avalon on Santa Catalina Island in Los Angeles County, California from 1895 to 1915 (20 Years). Her winter home was located next to the Tuna Club in Avalon, but she also had a summer home at the Isthmus where the Institute of Environmental Studies of USC is currently located. However, she did travel to the deserts of the west as well and we know this through her correspondence such as in the following letter. Many people have acknowledged her contritubitions over the last 100 years. Scientists, in particular, have noted her contributions, such as T.D.A. Cockerell, a grand naturalist in the breadth of his interets, and a distinguished professor of biology at the University of Colorado.

T.D.A. Cockerell recognized the natural history exploration accomplishments of Blanche Trask in two passages that are quoted above.

T.D.A. Cockerell, other than the incorrect use of "Mrs." elucidates however briefly, that Blanche Trask collected snails, thus showing the breadth of her interest. And additionally, the notation of five plants named for her is significant. The realm of her interests as well as her poetry, essays and letters indicates that she was a true naturalist, not unlike T.D.A. Cockerell is considered a "true naturalist."

Blanche Trask also appreciated the desert landscape of the southwest, as we can see from her letters and essays, and the southern Channel Islands certainly present themselves as desert-like landscapes rising from the sea, particularly in light of the land snails and plants that are there. For example, the rainfall is scant on Santa Barbara, within the realm of meeting the definition of a desert. Even so, the Channel Islands were paradise to Blanche Trask. The Geography of Hope for Blanche Trask is undoubtedly Santa Catalina Island, but she often could see Santa Barbara Island at only twenty miles west of Catalina.

The brief narratives and quotes by T.D.A. Cockerell were written and compiled by Robert Roy van de Hoek, December 3, 2000, for educational purposes in hopes of someday, having a "SONG SPARROW" on Santa Barbara Island again, so visitors to that National Park island can have their park visit enlivened by hearing their "song" while singing from a nest made of lichen fragments on a Giant Coreopsis. When Blanche Trask explored and tramped the isle by setting foot on Santa Barbara in 1901, and again in 1902, both times in May, it was Spring of course, and the Santa Barbara Song Sparrow would have been singing beautifully as she collected the two plants that we learned from Steve Junak are named for her. Alas, the Santa Barbara Song Sparrow is extinct, but the very closely related Song Sparrow of San Clemente Island could be established, in order to recover the natural ecological process that is lost at this time on Santa Barbara Island. The Song Sparrow, if returned to Santa Barbara would help spread the seeds of native plants around more effectively, hence accelerating restoration on Santa Barbara Island. There is no Song Sparrow on Catalina or San Nicolas surprisingly, so San Clemente Island is the logical choice the source island. The Song Sparrow undoubtedly utlized the Giant Coreopsis plants, for example, as habitat. The evidence lies in the fact, that the timing of the rabbits and fire decimating the vegetation of Santa Barbara Island also resulted in closely-paralleled and timed disappearance of the Santa Barbara Song Sparrow. And now, here we are, fast-forwarded into the new Millenium and Channel Islands National Park is the caretaker and land steward for Santa Barbara Island, and I believe it would be ecologically wise to consider bringing the close relative of the Santa Barbara Song Sparrow, known as the San Clemente Island Song Sparrow, to Santa Barbara Island. Sadly, San Clemente is a Navy Island, and the possibility of the Navy and National Park Service cooperating is slim to none. Thus, one realizes, yet another reason why the Navy needs to depart San Clemente Island and "let it be" part of the Channel Islands National Park.

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