Counting Cooley’s Waterwillow

The Rare Plant Conservation Program (RPCP), with federal and state partners, began a project to map existing populations of the rare Cooley’s waterwillow, Justicia cooleyi, collect leaf samples for genetic analysis, and record field observations to assess population viabilities and potential threats.

In December, Rare Plant Specialist Anna Clarke visited five populations in the Withlacoochee State Forest, along with Florida Forest Service biologist Colleen Werner and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Biologist Tiffany Lane. The crew visited populations, collected leaf samples from 81 individuals, and selected a few plants as herbarium samples. They also recorded habitat observations for each population to help guide future survey efforts.

Because this project has just been initiated, two data collection methods were tested, and an optimum one was selected.

Colleen recorded the data the traditional way of hand-recording data on a clipboard and mapping the population using a hand-held Garmin, and Tiffany used ArcGIS Survey123 to record data on a tablet in a specialized form for online use. The polygons drawn using the ArcGIS123 form were less accurate than those drawn using a hand-held Garmin, and the online form didn’t quite provide for the collection of all of the data needed. Therefore, recording field data with pen-and-paper and a hand-held Garmin was selected as the preferred data collection method for this project.

Blog was written and photos collected by Rare Plant Specialist Anna Clarke.