UNB Libraries is pleased to announce the publication by our Centre for Digital Scholarship of Dr. C. Mary Young’s study, Nature’s Bounty: Four Centuries of Plant Exploration in New Brunswick, in electronic format.
This study documents nearly 400 years of botanical exploration in New Brunswick. It not only describes how New Brunswick flora has changed over time, but also tells the longer story of many less celebrated individuals, early naturalists and botanists, who contributed their skills and expertise to expanding the store of scientific knowledge. Armed with the tools of their trade—the trowel, pocket knife, vasculum, plant press, and cartridge paper—these pioneers traversed bogs and waterways and braved the forest depths to determine the nature of New Brunswick’s plant communities.
Analyzing botanical periodicals, naturalist journals, personal correspondence, archival materials, and herbaria (libraries of pressed and dried plants), Young provides an historically contextualized account of individual endeavour and commitment through which New Brunswick emerges not only as a geographical place of botanical interest, but also as a locus for increasingly active participation in botanical enquiry that had previously been the prerogative of Europeans.
Amongst the many early explorers chronicled in the study are several figures affiliated with the University of New Brunswick. For instance, Young details the 19th-century work of Dr. James Robb, the first lecturer in Chemistry and Natural Science at King’s College (later the University of New Brunswick), whose personal collection of pressed and dried plants from New Brunswick constituted the beginning of the Connell Memorial Herbarium at UNB. Contributions from other UNB professors (such as Dr. Loring Woart Bailey and Dr. Philip Cox, both of whom taught chemistry, physics, geology, and the natural sciences), and from countless others (such as Rev. James Fowler, Dr. E.O. Hagmeier, Dr. A.R.A. Taylor, Dr. Harold Hinds, and Dr. Patricia Roberts-Pichette) expanded the herbarium, the oldest institutional collection still extant in Canada, which now houses over 64,000 specimens.
In Nature’s Bounty, Young examines early ecological studies and curious anomalies of plant distribution, explores the modern emphasis on plant diversity and the need for conservation, and speaks to present-day concerns with climate change and the environment. By elucidating the intellectual debt owed to the dedicated amateurs who became experts in their chosen fields of interest and made significant contributions to the field of natural history, Young claims a place for New Brunswick, for generations of naturalists, and for the University of New Brunswick in botanical and environmental historiography.
“Just like the scholars and scientists that she highlights in her book, Mary exemplifies the time-honoured tradition of a scientist and scholar with a broad range of expertise that extends well beyond the discipline that she devoted her career to. Mary’s academic training and career focused on entomology, but she has become a very knowledgeable botanist, both in the field and in the laboratory. Her scientific expertise and her love of botany are clearly evident in her botanical illustrations that accompany this book; these are not only accurate but beautiful.”
~Dr. James Goltz, from the Foreword