For the past year, while working for Rincon Consultants, I have been working with two colleagues, Andrew Walter of The Jones Payne Group, and Mark Naftzger of Studio Simple, to develop the latest version of the California Native Plant Society’s Online Inventory of Rare Plants.
The new CNPS Online Rare Plant Inventory (Inventory) is the latest evolution of an effort CNPS started in 1974. Since that time, CNPS produced six printed editions from 1974 to 2001, when the first online edition was launched. The previous inventory were composed of three elements: A Microsoft Access database that CNPS staff used to maintain the names and status attributes of rare plants, and an online database managed by another individual, and a public-facing website. This architecture required regularly transferring files from MS Access to the online database manager for processing into the database powering the public site.
The new version redeveloped the back-end plant management features of the MS Access database with the public-facing search and status information and a single comprehensive database. This version also includes a modern, streamlined, and mobile-friendly interface and a new underlying architecture that creates the foundation for future enhancements to take advantage of modern web technologies, including potential Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and geospatial integrations.
CNPS is the leading voice in plant science and conservation in California and one of the foremost native plant organizations in the world (CNPS, 2019). The new Inventory is a widely used resource that directly guides rare plant protection, conservation planning, land acquisition, and management in California. It is considered the authoritative source for rare plant information and used every day by agencies, consultants (including Rincon and our competitors), and conservationists to determine the potential for rare plant resource conflicts, develop project-specific lists of rare plants to target during botanical surveys, and help prepare and review environmental documents and public testimony to influence decision-makers.
It was an interesting project for a noteworthy organization and we all learned a a great deal more about our respective disciplines while pushing our personal envelopes to deliver a product worthy of its history and one we hope our CNPS predecessors would be proud of.
Our work to build this new version is the culmination of a 7-year effort by CNPS’ Rare Plant Manager, Aaron Simms, who has been great to work with.