The East Texas Natural History Collection
The East Texas Natural History Collection

TORCH Conference 2014

May 23 - 25, 2014 Alpine Texas - Sul Ross University

TORCH is the Texas Oklahoma Regional Consortium of Herbaria; a loose affiliation of botanists and a few other …ologists  who are charged with the duty to record and preserve our botanical heritage.

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For the last eight years, this group of curators and scientists has met in widely scattered locations across the two states. Meetings usually center on an informative workshop and an interesting field trip. For May 2014, TORCH VIII was hosted by Dr. Martin Terry at Sul Ross University in Alpine, Texas.  Botanists were treated to an extremely interesting workshop led by Debbie Paul and Joanna McCaffrey from iDigBio. Especially notable were the outstanding students who were given travel awards to attend the conference. These included: Ingrid Karklins (TAES-TAMU), Nelson Richard (ETNHC), Nathan Taylor (SRSC) and Wei Xiao (TEX-LL)

Conference proceedings are available here:

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Digitizing specimens is the relatively new process of making standard digital images of biological specimens with their associated data. To-date iDigBio has archived permanent digital records of over 15 million specimens. The entire meeting was smoothly run by co-chairs, Amanda Neill, of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT) and Dr. Wayne Elisens, of the University of Oklahoma (OU).  

Dr. John Barnett hosted TORCH to explore his mountain paradise. He is a true friend of science. (WG Photo).
Livermore Ranch in red. Courtesy King Land and Water
Click here to visit Museum of the Big Bend Livermore points on display at The Museum of the Big Bend on the campus of Sul Ross University in Alpine, Texas. Courtesy Museum of the Big Bend: Click on the Image to Visit

TORCHers were also given a rare opportunity to visit and collect on private lands in the heart of the Davis Mountains at Dr. John Barnett’s Livermore Ranch. Dr. Barnett was a gracious host and met the group at his mountain lodge where he presented a tour and lecture on the rich history of Merrill Canyon and the “sky island” that it descends from. Merrill Canyon history is as rich as its biodiversity. Dr. Barnett explained how the well-watered canyon was a refuge for Victorio and his band of Mescalero Apaches, how it still holds undisturbed campgrounds that sheltered Buffalo Soldier cavalry on patrol from Fort Davis and how early archaeologists had made some of the most noteworthy discoveries in Texas there, including the unusual Livermore points found there in 1906 by Susan Janes. Those collections still exist in Sul Ross’ Museum of the Big Bend.

Read more about Janes’ discoveries here:

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Mary Sophie Young in Merrill Canyon on her 1914 collecting trip. From Tharp and Kielman (1962).

The field expedition was organized by Amanda Neill (BRIT) and Dr. William Godwin, of the East Texas Natural History Collection (ETNHC). You can look for the accumulating record of their explorations and observations at a special iNaturalist project available at:

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But the historical significance of the TORCH field trip went much deeper than any normal expedition. As Joselyn Fenstermacher, of Sul Ross noted…TORCH was proceeding up Merrill Canyon in the footsteps of pioneer University of Texas botanist Mary Sophie Young just two months short of a century after her important botanical explorations there. This unusual coincidence was not lost on the botanists. Fenstermacher provided the group with copies of the historical account of those explorations.

Read Mary Sophie Young’s account of her time in Merrill Canyon here:

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Literature Cited:

B. C. Tharp, B. C. and C. V. Kielman. 1962. Mary S. Young's Journal of Botanical Explorations in Trans-Pecos Texas. Southwestern Historical Quarterly 65 (January, April).

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© 2013 The East Texas Natural History Collection

Breaking News:

ETNHC and International Journal of Entomology and Zoology Studies Announce Partnership


The East Texas Natural History Collection is proud to be the first North American Host and partner with the International Journal of Entomology and Zoology Studies. The Journal of Entomology and Zoology Studies  is a peer reviewed international Open Access Journal which is abstracted in various reputed databases. The Journal provides a platform with the aim of motivating students and personnel in all fields of Zoology.

The Journal publishes review and research articles in all fields of Zoology.

See Further details here:       In Print

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