In addition to building and curating personal online portfolios, students in Paul Faulstich’s course this semester have begun the ambitious project of creating a Field Guide to the Claremont Wilderness Park. In Visual Ecology — a combined theory & praxis course developed with the help of a Digital Course Development Grant from DH@CC — we integrate studio art with scholarly analysis and engaged field research as we create socially and environmentally responsible works. The primary class project has two components: 1) a hardcopy field guide, and 2) a corresponding website.
The Claremont Wilderness Park is a treasured community resource of almost 2,500 acres of chaparral habitat. The City of Claremont estimates that there are about 500,000 visits to the Wilderness Park each year. The Park is habitat for a diverse array of flora and fauna, but most of the visitors do not have an understanding of the ecosystem and its biodiversity. This field guide will provide a resource for visitors to help them better appreciate the plants, animals, history, and geology of this cherished part of our city. The Field Guide will be a “pocket naturalist guide”: a laminated, accordion folded pamphlet with illustrations of the most important plant and animal species. Approximately 15-20 plants will be depicted, along with about 25 animals (about 10 of which will be birds). Each species will include its common and scientific names, identifying features, and size. For mammals, their tracks will be shown. The scientific drawings are being created by students, and the photographs are from Professor Faulstich’s ongoing trailcam research. The Guide will also include a map of the Wilderness Park and its trail system, an introduction to the ecology of the chaparral habitat, brief overviews of the geology, fire ecology, and environmental history of the area, credits and acknowledgements, and a salute to Tongva for having cared for this land for eons before it came to be known as Claremont.
The website will provide a source of additional information related to the Field Guide. The website will allow visitors to click on images of plants and animals to get more in-depth information, including material on medicinal uses of plants and animal behavior and demographics, and video clips of animals engaged in their natural activities. A GIS Story Map will allow users to click on a diagram of the Wilderness Park to access detailed information on specific locales. The class is working with the Digital Humanities of the Claremont Colleges staff to create and populate the site with more detailed natural history than can be included in the Guide.
We’re fortunate to live near open spaces large enough to sustain astonishing wildlife. The Field Guide to the Claremont Wilderness Park and its corresponding website could become resources enabling our community to gain understanding and appreciation of our local natural environment.