Schmidt said she first started working on a list of field guides about 16 years ago and began the new database in 2005. When she went on sabbatical in the fall of 2006, she worked on the database exclusively, visiting more than 75 libraries and bookstores over the course of six months.
Schmidt is still adding entries to her database. Even during a conference she attended in late January, she took free time to visit libraries and bookstores on the hunt for new titles. Since last summer, she had added 200 guides.
Some regions seem more heavily represented than others, she conceded.
The reason: People in some regions, especially the former British Commonwealth countries like Australia, are more into amateur natural history than people in countries like Russia or China, she said. And popular ecotourist spots like Costa Rica have more field guides than countries where the plants and animals havent been studied as much.
Language also can be a problem, she said.
Libraries in the U.S. dont collect as many books in non-Roman alphabets as they do in English, and I rely on library collections for a lot of the information on field guides.
Even if you arent going anywhere, just browsing the database is a trip, since so many of the items fall into the Who knew? category. As in, who knew this was a field of close observation, even study?
Sure, Aboriginal rock engravings in Australia are one thing obvious topics for field guides. So are stone walls in the Eastern United States, seashells of the Arabian Gulf and sea slugs in Hong Kong. And, farther afield, guides to the names of clouds and Galaxies and Other Deep Sky Objects make perfect sense.
A field guide to the stray shopping carts of Eastern North America, on the other hand, must be a whole new realm of nearly unexplored territory.
|Contact: Andrea Lynn|
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign