It was something Dr. Wei Xiao said in their Plant Taxonomy class that resonated with them.
“The average person can recognize thousands of corporate logos, but cannot identify 10 plants,” Xiao said.
Using those words as inspiration, biology majors Ginger Naburn, Chasy Amado and Francine Cruz set out to change the way they and the community see the average flower and tree on the University of Guam’s campus.
For their class research project, the students identified, geotagged, and catalogued each and every plant on UOG’s grounds and built a user-friendly website to educate the public on their findings.
“In this day and age, many people are more inclined to using websites as a platform for this kind of information,” Cruz said. “It can always be updated or changed in accordance to new information. Rather than a pamphlet or calendar, we wanted something that would last past this class—something that wouldn’t be thrown away after we put so much work into it.”
Circling the different buildings, taking pictures of any and every plant with their phones was tiring yet fun, Naburn said. It was the identification portion of the project that deemed to be challenging.
“A lot of plants we were able to identify with the help of Dr. Xiao and Dr. James McConnell,” Naburn said. “But when we came across plants we weren’t able to identify, we listed them as ‘unidentifiable plant.’ But there’s a section on the website where people can help us identify the plants.”
After a couple weeks of collecting data and photos, the students compiled all the information onto their website, www.universityofguamplants.weebly.com. There, the plants are organized by their location on campus or by species.
“The information is hyperlinked so you can go to the location of the plant, and it shows you details about the plant and pictures,” Amado said, along with interesting facts about the plants as well.
After surveying more then 100 plants, Cruz said she and her classmates gained a better understanding of the local flora surrounding the one place they, their friends, classmates and professors visit daily. It also serves a community need, she said, since the website can be used a resource free for public use.
“Our goal for this project was to ultimately spread more awareness and education of plants to anyone who has an interest,” she said. “The website helps the community identify plants by looking at the pictures and getting some general information such as the genus, family name, common name, uses etc. Anyone is able to use the website for free as a guide to help educate themselves and others.”
Xiao said she was impressed by the work the students put into their research project as they exceeded her expectations. Having an understanding of the local plant life is not just educational but makes life more enriching, she said.
Visit the website at: www.UniversityofGuamplants.Weebly.com.