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The Study of Plants in Your Local Environment

© Alexsander S. Bogolyubov, Nadejda S. Lazareva, Russia, 2002

© Michael J. Brody, USA, 2003

The Study of Plants in Your Local EnvironmentIn this manual we describe the procedure for the simple but laborious work on the compilation of plants list (flora) of your local environment. We describe a general scheme for the organization of the study, including selection of routes for surveying, collection and description of plants for a herbarium as well as the identification of plant species and writing a final report.

This field study has instructional video featuring real students conducting the ecological field techniques in nature. Each video illustrates the primary instructional outcomes and the major steps in accomplishing the task including reporting the results.


One of most frequently studied topics in botany is the compilation of the flora of an area under study. Here we use the word "flora" to mean a list of plant species growing in a given area. When working with students it is usually assumed that it is a list of vascular plant species (i.e. Lycopodiales order, Equisetales, fern-like (Preropside order), Gymnospermae and anthophytes (flowering plants). Typically, work with algae, lichens and mosses require special and extensive knowledge and skills for which only advanced students would be prepared.

It should be noted, that although this activity seems to be quite simple, in fact, it is rather laborious, requiring respect for field science methods and detailed, specific performance techniques. It often requires extended periods of time. A map of the area and a field notebook are required for the field part of the activity, and a plant field guide and a powerful magnifying glass or binocular microscope are necessary for lab work.

We suggest conducting this field study within the framework of a series of educational field studies, combining herbarium making and a geobotanical description of the vertical structure of the forest.

Performing field work

The procedure for conducting the field part of the activity is quite simple: the study area should be examined as carefully as possible and all species of plants growing in the area under study should be identified. In fact, it may be almost impossible for students to visit all secluded corners of the study site, so we suggest the following approach.

First, prior to field studies, students should study a map of the general area and determine the borders of the study site. If this activity is conducted by a group of 10-15 students having one or two days are available, we recommend a study site of about 1-3 kilometers. This is provided that the area is more or less known to student researchers and their teachers and there is an accurate map of the area available. If the area is not known it will take more time, up to several days, to get some idea of the given area. It will also take more effort to orient students to the area.

If a map of the vegetation of the given area (or at least a map of the main vegetation types) is available, it will greatly facilitate the work. A prior student map, which has been made in the course of previous ecological field study lessons such as mapping forest phytocenoses (winter #4) or a complex landscape profile (fall #8), will be of great use.

Regardless of the availability of a map, the activity begins with making a list of the main plant associations and a sampling plan (survey). It is recommended to list at least 5-6 main vegetation types (plant associations, biotopes), which are characteristic of the given area Ц for instance, different types of forests, meadows, swamps, water-bodies and so on.

The student group is then divided into working teams of two people; each team is provided with a separate sampling route. These routes should be determined so that the students cover as many diverse habitats as possible. It is possible that students will not be able to visit all planned sites in one day. The time to conduct field activities is entirely dependent on the diversity of vegetation found in the given area, the distance covered, and the energy of the students.

Each team records all plant species in the course of the whole study route. If student researchers are familiar with and know plant species names for certain, they ...


This was only the first page from the manual and its full version you can see in the

Ecological Field Studies 4CD Set:

It is possible to purchase the complete set of 40 seasonal Ecological Field Study Materials (video in mpg + manuals in pdf formats) in an attractive 4 compact disk set. These compact disks are compatible with Mac and PC computers. The teacher background information and manuals can be printed out for easy reference. The videos are suitable for individual student or whole class instruction. To purchase the complete 4CD set write to in a free form.

Ecological Field Studies 4CD Set

Some of these manuals you can also purchase in the form of applications for Android devices on Google Play.

Ecological Field Studies Demo Disk:

We also have a free and interesting demonstration disk that explains our ecological field studies approach. The demo disk has short excerpts from all the seasonal field study videos as well as sample text from all the teacher manuals. The disk has an entertaining automatic walk through which describes the field study approach and explains how field studies meet education standards.

You can also download the Demo Disc from This is a virtual hybrid (for PC and Mac computers) CD-ROM image (one 563 Mb file "CD_Demo.iso"). You can write this image to the CD and use it in your computer in ordinary way. You also can use emulator software of virtual CD-ROM drive to play the disk directly from your hard disk.

Ecological Field Studies Demo Disk


Other Ecological Field Studies Instructive Manuals:

Autumn Season

  1. Orienteering in the Forest
  2. Procedure of the Geological Exposure Description
  3. Plotting a Profile of a River Valley Slope
  4. Simple Procedure of Soil Description
  5. Assessment of the Vital State of a Forest Based on Pine-tree Analysis
  6. Study of Species Composition and Number of Fungi
  7. Study of Species Composition and Census of Birds Using the Line Transect-counting Method
  8. Integrated Study Based on Landscape Profile
  9. Complex Environmental Assessment of Human Impact on an Area
  10. Assessment of Air Pollution by Lichen Indication Method

Winter Season

  1. Making a Campfire
  2. Simple УEyeФ Survey of the Field Study Site
  3. Study of Growth Dynamics of Trees Based on Annual Rings
  4. Mapping Forest Vegetation
  5. Green Plants Under Snow
  6. Methods of Observation of a Chickadee Flock's Territorial Behavior
  7. Procedure of Winter Mammals Route Census by Footprints
  8. Study of Mammal Ecology According to Their Tracks
  9. Physical and Chemical Properties of Natural Waters
  10. Study of Snow Cover Profile

Spring Season

  1. Let's Help Birds!
  2. Study of the Ecology of Early Flowering Plants
  3. Phenology of Plant Florescence
  4. Assessment of the Vital State of Coniferous Underbrush
  5. Study of Forest Invertebrates (Part I: Forest Litter, Wood)
  6. Studies of Species Composition and Abundance of Amphibians
  7. Studying Minerals and Rocks in Your Area
  8. Studies of the Day Activity of Singing Birds
  9. Studies of Bird Populations Size by Different Methods
  10. Study of Fauna of Spring Temporary Water Bodies

Summer Season

  1. Making a Herbarium
  2. The Study of Plants in Your Local Environment
  3. Study of the Vertical Structure of a Forest
  4. Study of Forest Invertebrates (Part 2: Grass Layer, Tree Crowns and Air)
  5. Study of BirdsТ Nesting Life
  6. Complex Comparative Description of Small Rivers and Streams
  7. The Study of Water Invertebrates in a Local River and Assessment of Its Environmental State
  8. Study of Plankton
  9. Assessment of Ecological Features of Meadows on the Base of Vegetation Cover
  10. Assessment of Environmental State of the Forest Based on LeavesТ Asymmetry

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