The year 2019 marks the 200th anniversary of the great botanist and naturalist Thomas Nuttall’s year-long journey of discovery through the Arkansas Territory, present day Arkansas and Oklahoma.
Tonight at 6pm, as part of the Clinton School Speaker Series, Theo Witsell will discuss Nuttall’s trek and the implications it has for today.
Nuttall would be the first trained naturalist to record observations and collect specimens in most of the territory. His first-hand account of this trip, later published as “A Journal of Travels into the Arkansas Territory in the Year 1819,” provides some of the earliest reliable information on the natural history of the region. These observations and his surviving botanical specimens are central to our understanding of what the region was like before it was forever altered by the ravages of human progress.
To commemorate the bicentennial of Nuttall’s trip, Theo Witsell, Ecologist and Chief of Research for the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission and the Curator of the ANHC Herbarium, worked for the past several years on a “200 years later” reinterpretation of all the natural history observations he made in Arkansas Territory.
This included retracing his route using both historical and modern geospatial datasets, updating the nomenclature and taxonomy of all the plants and animals he mentions, and weaving his own observations gained over the past 24 years conducting field work for the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission. The aim is to provide a fairly detailed interpretation of Nuttall’s natural history observations, and discuss changes in the landscape since his trip, specifically as they relate to ecological and biological diversity.
All Clinton School Speaker Series events are free and open to the public. Reserve your seats by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (501) 683-5239.