Outside of our day jobs, we all work as onboard staff with Adventure Canada, a Canadian, family-owned, women-led, second-generation Ecotourism and Alternative Tourism company. Between twenty-five and thirty subject-matter and expedition logistics experts travel with tourists interested in learning about arctic and Atlantic ecology and Inuit culture on small ship expeditions (a maximum of 200 passengers). In addition to an onboard non-fiction reference library comprising over one thousand titles, that covers regional natural history, geology and geomorphology, culture, history and art, politics, anthropology, exploration, and biographies of noteworthy adventurers, we also create customized guides about flora and fauna and ecotourism best practices. In 2019, this included this short (32 page) botany guide. It features many open access and creative commons licensed images, providing both an example of, and guide for, how to create customized, curated and illustrated, local plant lists for non-experts interested in citizen science.
Dawn, explaining grasses, on Skye
Dawn, explaining grasses, on Skye

In 2017, Cedar Swan, CEO of Adventure Canada, approached Drs. Dawn Bazely and Peter Ewins to create a botany guide for their European ecotourism small ship expeditions: Ireland Circumnavigation, Scotland Slowly, North Atlantic Saga, Iceland Circumnavigation, and In the Wake of the Vikings. While the ship’s onboard library has many field guides, Adventure Canada, which is known for its alternative tourism in the Canadian arctic, also provides customized information about arctic Inuit culture and flora and fauna. However, there was a gap in these resource documents for the Atlantic itineraries.

Daniel with a foxglove outside Oban
Daniel in Oban

Dawn (see profile. Above right, in 2019) spent several years doing plant ecology field work on St. Kilda and in Shetland, and Peter (below, in 2018), who was, at the time of writing this guide, the Lead Species Specialist for World Wildlife Fund Canada, had worked as an Assistant Regional Officer for the Nature Conservancy Council, based in Lerwick, Shetland. He was also an assistant warden at Fair Isle Bird Observatory (1978-80) and he did his doctoral field work on black guillemots in Shetland, living many months on the island of Mousa. We were delighted to accept Cedar’s challenge and we brought Daniel, an Adventure Canada Expedition Leader who trained in Adventure Studies, onto our writing team (left, in 2018). During his time in the Outdoor Adventure Education programme at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada, Daniel took field botany identification courses. He had rapidly learned the Atlantic islands flora on in 2018. Dan also had a camera with an excellent macro lens and was a keen photographer of flowers.

Pete outside the bothy on Mousa where he lived during his doctoral field work
Pete outside the bothy on Mousa where he lived during his doctoral field work

Our approach to developing a popular guide for ship-based ecotourists whose primary interest in natural history may not be botanical (pdf attached below for your future use), encompassed the following principles:

  1. Use either our own photos of plants or open access images.
  2. Develop a curated list of highly visible, early summer flowers, that citizen scientist ecotourists would be likely to encounter during June and July.
  3. Organize plant lists by the three main habitats that our travellers encounter: from the beach, where zodiacs land (B), to the streets and gardens of local communities (G), to hillsides and more inland areas, where more adventurous Adventure Canada travellers hike (H).

A selection of pages from the finished guide is shown below. They are a far cry from our initial brainstorming notes about which plants to include (right). Once we agreed upon species, and selected images from our own photo libraries or Wikimedia Commons, we wrote accompanying short text paragraphs based on our flower guides, online databases and journal publications and newspaper articles. Our finished document was edited and beautified by Adventure Canada’s graphic design team. We felt it important to include information about how to identify and, thus, avoid picking orchids, because the trips happen at peak orchid flowering time. We received positive feedback from many passengers about the guide, which helped them to identify the species in their photographs.

A final note: due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this conference is being held virtually. Conference delegates may be interested to know that in March 2020, Adventure Canada cancelled all of its planned small ship expeditions for 2020. Adventure Canada’s alternative tourism ethos is informed by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the principles of Regenerative Tourism. Operations will resume when the Governments of Canada and Nunavut advise that is safe to do so.

Attached documents and downloads