It's funny what direction life can take you. Sometimes it's the most seemingly innocuous things which end up having a major transformative effect. In my case ferns, of all things, were the catalyst. They changed both my professional path and the choice of where I would choose to sink down roots so to speak and spend the rest of my life. Ferns fascinated me from an early age, meaning both from my childhood years and from their great antiquity in geologic time. Books on prehistoric life inevitably portrayed early reptiles, giant amphibians, and drone-sized dragonflies cavorting in lush ferns. If that alone wasn't enough to evoke a lost world, a friend who worked for the Field Museum in Chicago would frequently take my family on fossil-collecting expeditions. There we would find exquisitely-preserved ferns from the Coal Age, which ranged in complexity from single pinnules to entire fronds.
Originally appeared in Hardy Fern Foundation Quarterly, Winter 2019.