Vascular Flora of West Clear Creek Wilderness, Arizona

Northern Arizona University
Flagstaff, Arizona
DOI: 10.18258/2861
Raised of $1,500 Goal
Funded on 8/26/14
Successfully Funded
  • $1,625
  • 108%
  • Funded
    on 8/26/14

About This Project

West Clear Creek is a major perennial water source in the predominately arid state of AZ and serves as critical habitat for native plants and wildlife. West Clear Creek Wilderness includes approximately 25 miles of the creek's total 33 mile stretch. Despite its remarkable diversity and significance as a perennial water source, West Clear Creek is an understudied site within Arizona. I'm conducting a comprehensive vascular plant inventory here.

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What is the context of this research?

Currently a graduate student at Northern Arizona University, I'm pursuing research in botany, floristics, and population genetics. My professional experience includes many vegetation monitoring projects completed throughout the western U.S.

Most recently, I have conducted plant surveys as a biological consultant and botanist for various projects across the Mojave Desert and Navajo Nation. I have also served as the Acting Program Coordinator for the Colorado Natural Areas Program, where my job included statewide rare plant monitoring and facilitation of related research.

I am an avid outdoor enthusiast and have the technical (e.g. canyoneering) skills necessary to access the inner reaches of this incredible canyon.

What is the significance of this project?

The value of this research is considerable! Arizona is one of the most floristically diverse states in the U.S. Even so, much of its area remains botanically under-studied. Local botanists are still regularly discovering plant species new to science across this landscape! They also continue to expand the ranges of plants previously thought to be rare or non-existent in the state.

West Clear Creek Wilderness (WCC) is located on a unique formation called the Mogollon Rim. It is an escarpment dividing the Colorado Plateau from the Sonoran Desert. Here, plant species from drastically different environments converge to create a completely unique assemblage of plant communities.

WCC is managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Research products would directly benefit this resource-limited agency.

What are the goals of the project?

My flora will:
- Produce a comprehensive plant inventory for WCC (freely available electronically on SEINet at,

- Deposit specimens into local herbaria, available to the public into perpetuity,

- Provide baseline data and genetic material for future research (including climate change impacts),

- Expand the known ranges of native & rare species,

- Potentially identify plants previously unknown to occur within the state as well as discovery of new species to science

Benefits to U.S. Forest Service:
- Surveys include several areas previously un-visited by staff,

- Document invasive species and identify probable entry points,

- Document rare plants encountered, locations, population size, and habitat quality,

- Inform future management decisions regarding this vital riparian resource


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The funding requested for this project will cover all travel costs to the field site for both field seasons (2014 and 2015). I estimate making approximately 17 trips each season to the Wilderness area. Each trip will last multiple days to maximize efficiency.

An average of 180 miles will be covered each round trip in a 4WD truck. With gas prices costing $3.70 per gallon on average, I estimate spending approximately $750 just in transportation costs each season.

My total budget for this project as a graduate student is a mere $2,000. This covers only transportation costs and selected field equipment. A botanical consultant completing the same project would produce a bill of over $17,000 for the same work and would require the technical skills necessary to access this very challenging and remote area.

This project contributes to the science of Botany, expands the knowledge and distribution of native Arizona flora, and benefits U.S. Forest Serve land managers, who otherwise would not be able to dedicate equivalent time and effort to such a project in such a vital riparian wilderness area in this arid state.

Meet the Team

Wendy McBride
Wendy McBride

Team Bio

I am a professional field biologist, botanist, and outdoor enthusiast. I'm currently a M.S. student studying botany at NAU with Dr. Tina Ayers (Associate Professor and Curator of the Deaver Herbarium).

I have completed several backpacking, climbing, and canyoneering trips most recently in the Colorado Rockies, Southern Utah/Northern Arizona Colorado Plateau, and the High Sierras in northern California.

My favorite local climbing destinations are Paradise Forks and the Overlook in Flagstaff. I have recently developed a love for climbing and exploring in the Sierras.

I began canyoneering in southern Utah, and have expanded my trips to Northern Arizona along the Mogollon Rim. I'm fortunate that my study site will require passage through several of its technical canyons for a comprehensive search for new plant species to contribute to this vascular inventory.

Press and Media

I was recently joined by Bill Hatcher, a professional photographer and National Geographic contributor, on a trip through West Clear Creek Wilderness during a plant collecting effort. You can read his account of our trip on his blog, found here.

Project Backers

  • 20Backers
  • 108%Funded
  • $1,625Total Donations
  • $81.25Average Donation
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