Proposal Title

SESSION 1.2: Mapping Moss: Crossidium seriatum

Presentation Type

Individual paper

Location

IB 1010

Start Date

3-5-2019 3:15 PM

End Date

3-5-2019 4:45 PM

Disciplines

Bryology | History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Nonfiction | Other Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Abstract

On a Sunday morning in May, I’m on my hands and knees, loaded with collecting gear, searching for an endangered moss, Crossidium seriatum, that can’t be seen—or at least not with the naked eye. Instead, perched on the silt cliffs above Okanagan Lake in southern BC, I scan for tiny microsites where it might live—what biologists call its “potential habitat.” In ecology, mapping other species dates back to Alexander von Humboldt, but as the sun looms higher I worry about its implicit limitations. All plants—but especially tiny mosses and liverworts—test our imagination. What does it mean to live anchored in place by tiny threads of cellulose? What’s touch for organisms that live with no epidermis? How does time beat when you curl dormant for decades, before the gift of water plumps you awake again? By the time I’m back at my car, I understand that if describing the habitats of others is a mountain to be climbed, the real goal lies not in the summit but the maps we make enroute. For in the Anthropocene, it is in the moment of uncertainty, of figuring—here, not there; on this slope, not that one—that we come to know the world, to taste its blood and silt. This creative reading will use my experience hunting for an endangered moss to argue that, today, our greatest challenge lies less in what we can measure and more in how we allow ourselves to be shaped by the more-than-human world.

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May 3rd, 3:15 PM May 3rd, 4:45 PM

SESSION 1.2: Mapping Moss: Crossidium seriatum

IB 1010

On a Sunday morning in May, I’m on my hands and knees, loaded with collecting gear, searching for an endangered moss, Crossidium seriatum, that can’t be seen—or at least not with the naked eye. Instead, perched on the silt cliffs above Okanagan Lake in southern BC, I scan for tiny microsites where it might live—what biologists call its “potential habitat.” In ecology, mapping other species dates back to Alexander von Humboldt, but as the sun looms higher I worry about its implicit limitations. All plants—but especially tiny mosses and liverworts—test our imagination. What does it mean to live anchored in place by tiny threads of cellulose? What’s touch for organisms that live with no epidermis? How does time beat when you curl dormant for decades, before the gift of water plumps you awake again? By the time I’m back at my car, I understand that if describing the habitats of others is a mountain to be climbed, the real goal lies not in the summit but the maps we make enroute. For in the Anthropocene, it is in the moment of uncertainty, of figuring—here, not there; on this slope, not that one—that we come to know the world, to taste its blood and silt. This creative reading will use my experience hunting for an endangered moss to argue that, today, our greatest challenge lies less in what we can measure and more in how we allow ourselves to be shaped by the more-than-human world.