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Celebrating Alberta's Plant Scientists - Linda Kershaw

If you're familiar with plant identification resources in western Canada, you've likely either knowingly or unknowingly learned from this particular botanist. We are honoured to begin our series with one of the most well-known and influential botanists of Alberta - Linda Kershaw.

Linda Kershaw has worked as a botanist/ecologist in western Canada for over 40 years. She grew up in Thornbury, Ontario and spent most of her childhood collecting insects and nursing a menagerie of reptiles, amphibians and insects in terrariums, aquariums and homemade cages scattered around the house. Her interests finally focused on botany under the guidance of Dr. John Morton at the University of Waterloo, with work on her MSc thesis, A Phytogeographical Survey of Rare, Endangered, and Possibly Extinct Vascular Plants in the Canadian Flora (1976).

After moving to Alberta in 1976, Linda worked in herbaria, did vegetation and rare-plant surveys for consulting companies, and studied revegetation of subarctic disturbances in the Yukon and NWT. Each year, she spent the summer doing fieldwork and the winter compiling data and writing books and reports. Work on the Dempster Highway in 1984-1987 required reference to floras from Alaska and the NWT, so she compiled her first book, The Plants of Northwestern Canada: With Special Reference to the Dempster Highway, Yukon and Northwest Territories (1991), and in the process developed a special interest in plant lore.

In 1993, she began work at Lone Pine Publishing as editor for Plants of Coastal British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and Alaska, and then went on to write or co-author 13 books with them, including Plants of the Western Forest (2017) [a.k.a. Plants of the Western Boreal Forest and Aspen Parkland (1995)], Plants of the Rocky Mountains (1998), Rocky Mountain Nature Guide (1999), Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Rockies (2000), Trees of Ontario (2001), and Wayside Wildflowers of Alberta (2003). She also worked as a volunteer with the Alberta Native Plant Council (ANPC) for 10 years, coordinating and editing the Rare Vascular Plants of Alberta (2001).

After retiring in 2016, Linda moved on to personal projects incorporating data that she had accumulated during her career. This led to the creation of a series of illustrated keys, which were posted on the ANPC website from 2015 to 2019. In 2019, Linda discovered Kindle Direct Publishing and completed her first self-published book, Alberta Plant Names: A Guide to Their Pronunciation, Meaning and English Alternatives. This was followed by A Guide to the Canol Heritage Trail (2019) (an area where she and husband Peter worked for +35 years) and the Vascular Flora of Alberta: An Illustrated Guide (2020). In addition to writing and book design, these projects also incorporated two of her favorite pastimes - photography and illustrating.

Linda hopes that through her books people will learn more about native wild plants and will gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the diverse flora and ecosystems that surround us.


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