.... Collect More Lichens....
Published in the
Southern California Academy of Sciences
"... thanks are due Blanche Trask for having made some collections, although it is to be regretted that the matter gleaned during several trips has not been more extensive." "
On the one hand, there is Herman Hasse stating: "made some collections ... regretted ... not been more extensive." And Charis Bratt stating: "extensive work on lichens." So which is it? Was Blanche Trask "extensive" or not?
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 Charis Bratt, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, the foremost authority now on the California Islands lichens.
Many people have acknowledged her contritubitions over the last 100 years. Scientists, in particular, have noted her contributions, such as Herman Hasse. Also, Charis Bratt, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, the foremost authority now on the California Islands lichens. But we also know that a respected LA TIMES journalist paid a tribute to Blanche Trask, 90+ years after she wrote her own LA TIMES articles on the "OLD TIMERS OF CATALINA."
One of the nicest things that a naturalist can do is to recognize the prior efforts of earlier naturalists. In that regard, Charis Bratt recognized the botanical exploration accomplishments of Blanche Trask by dedicating the opening paragraph, nearly about one-half page (p5p) to her. Charis Bratt, correctly leaves off the "Mrs." as she was not married any longer by the time of her 1901 and 1902 "brief tarrying" on Santa Barbara Island, to use Blanche Trask's own words. As Charis Bratt notes, she was a "collector" of plants, lichens, and artifacts. My own research has also discovered that that she collected, endemic island land snails, rocks, minerals, and bird eggs (such as an Osprey egg on San Nicolas) which is very signficant to document for the recovery of the Osprey to that beautiful island. She also took photographs. The realm of her interests as well as her poetry, essays and letters indicates that she was a true naturalist. The second paragraph of Charis Bratt's article, which is very poetic and descriptive of nature on Santa Barbara, is not unlike how Blanche Trask would have written about Santa Barbara Island, had she been alive today in the 1990's. There apparently is no essay or article that Blanche Trask ever wrote about Santa Barbara Island, but I still wonder if an essay, letter, or poem about Santa Barbara by Blanche Trask exists? She wrote about the three islands that surround Santa Barbara, namely Catalina to the east, San Clemente to the south, and San Nicolas to the west.
Here are the Charis Bratt quotes of Blanche Trask as follows:
"A survey of the historic record indicates that Blanche Trask is the only person known to have collected lichens on Santa Barbara Island. Trask lived on on Santa Catalina Island from 1895 to 1907 and during those years visited and collected plants, lichens and artifacts from all of the southern and northern Channel Islands off California. Shev visited Santa Barbara Island in May 1901 and again in May 1902. Her lichen collections were identified by Hermann E. Hasse, M.D., who later published the results (1903a-d, 1913). Trask's collections lost in the California Academy of Sciences fire following the 1906 earthquake and her personal herbarium was destroyed by the 1915 fire in Avalon. A few of her specimens survived in Hasse's personal herbarium but were dispersed among several herbaria when Hasse's collections were dispersed. A specimen from Santa Barbara Island of Buellia puctata is known to be at the New York Botanical Gardens. No other specimens from Santa Barbara Island collected by Trask heve located to date. A total of 22 species of lichens were recorded by Hasse."
"Standing in the midst of the lichen fields on Santa Barbara Island, it is hard to believe that no one has attempted to prepare an inventory of the lichens from this lovely island. Lichens are evident everywhere on the island, are prolific in some areas and are dominant in certain habitats. The lack of a lichen flora is more a reflection of the paucity of lichen work in general than a reflection on the lichens of Santa Barbara Island."
Two years ago, in December, not much before Christmas, I received a hefty package in the mail from Charis Bratt. To my surprise, she gave me a copy of Herman Hasse's comprhensive work on the Lichens of West as a Smithsonian-U.S. National Museum Publication. It was a real special gift from one naturalist to another naturalist. From that publication, I learned that Blanche Trask collected lichens on Torrey Pine and Ironwood while on natural history exploration of Santa Rosa Island. The year of this trip is not absolutely certain, but may have been 1903. Blanche Trask visited Santa Cruz Island in 1900 and San Miguel Island in 1905. Therefore, her Santa Rosa Island visit, may have been in those two years rather than 1903. There is alway more research to be done!
A letter that Blanche Trask wrote to Willis Jepson in 1913, tells us that Blanche Trask also appreciated the desert landscapes of the southwest, and Santa Barbara certainly presents itself as a desert-like landscape rising from the sea, particularly in light of the lichens that are there. 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. Not unlike the way I have looked at Santa Barbara Island from Point Dume in Malibu during 1999 and 2000.
The narrative and quote by Charis Bratt was written and compiled by Robert Roy van de Hoek, December 21, 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. Lastly, lichens can play a key role as nest material for many birds and lichens are a good guage of our environmental air quality since many species are sensitive to air pollution! Thus, the National Parks and lichens and birds will have continual-everlasting ecological linkages.
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