In the beginning…
For 9 days, this intrepid band of explorers froze, baked and bled their way across the hinterlands of Arizona, crossing deserts, conquering canyons and collecting numerous ferns. From the brink of the Grand Canyon to the Mexican border, the expedition continued on for one reason, and one reason alone: to further science. Trip leader Mike Windham, from the University of Utah, hunted for humdrum mustards of the genera Boechera and Thysanocarpus. He also guided pteridophiles Eric Schuettpelz, Harald Schneider, Kathleen Pryer and Jordan Metzgar in their quest for general fern collections to be used in a variety of systematic studies. The expedition began in northern Arizona, with stops at the Grand Canyon, and near Flagstaff and Sedona. The group then migrated south and collected in numerous locations in Central Arizona, before concluding the expedition with several days of collecting in southeastern Arizona. The following pages document their incredible story of survival, which has never before been told in public. (Photo credits: [JM] indicates photo by Jordan Metzgar; [KP] indicates photo by Kathleen Pryer. Text by Jordan Metzgar.)
In addition to this compelling narrative, hundreds of the fern photos from the trip have been compiled into an identification website for Arizona ferns:
The site also features range maps and links to online identification keys.
Episode I: Northern Arizona: March 12-14
Team Fern members assembled at the Phoenix airport on the 12th, before meeting Mike Windham at the Grand Canyon. Along the way, team members got their first glimpses of the striking Arizona scenery. Much photography occurred at 70 mph. Beginning on the 13th, a series of grueling hikes at high elevation and sometimes extreme cold quickly built cameradie among the team. However, stops in this Flagstaff-Sedona revealed a treasure trove of ferns, including many rare northern species and disjunct species.