In the Winter, 1981, issue, the editors of the magazine Coevolution Quarterly published “Where You At? A Bioregional Quiz,” developed by Leonard Charles, Jim Dodge, Lynn Milliman, and Vitoria Stockley (you can find this quiz online here). The quiz was later republished in the book Home: A Bioregional Reader (New Society, 1990). Since then, others have modified the quiz; most notably, in 2006 Kevin Kelly posted a revised version of this quiz titled “The Big Here” on his blog.
As much as I like the original version of the quiz, some of the questions are specific only to certain bioregions, such as “What spring wildflower is consistently among the first to bloom where you live?” — if you live in a region where flowers bloom year-round, there is no good answer to that question. And some of the questions are maybe too difficult, such as “Name five grasses in your area” — I’ve been trying to learn how to identify grasses down to the species level, and it’s very challenging. A couple more things bother me about the quiz. First, the quiz focuses too much on book knowledge; you are merely asked to “Name five resident and five migratory birds,” you are not asked to identify them in the field. Second, the quiz ignores whole clades of organisms that would have been familiar to indigenous peoples, such as invertebrates and non-vascular plants.
So I’ve been thinking about how to revise the quiz. I wanted to create a quiz that would prompt me to learn more about my watershed, and to encourage me to get outdoors and explore that watershed. The first draft of my quiz appears below. How many answers did you get? What did I leave off that I should have included?
KNOW YOUR WATERSHED
1. Trace the water you drink from precipitation to tap.
2. What is the average annual rainfall in your watershed? When does the rainfall season begin and end? What was the total rainfall in your watershed last rainfall season?
3. What are the boundaries of your watershed? Describe them, or draw them on a map.
4. Where does the rain go that falls where you live? Include underground aquifers, and surface drainage from your location to the final destination (ocean or other end point).
1. Where does your trash go?
2. Where do your recyclables go? Trace any 2 materials (glass, PET plastic, aluminum, etc.) from collection to end use.
3. Where does your wastewater go?
4. Name at least 3 human-caused toxins found in your immediate area. You should name at least one each in the groundwater/soil and in the air.
1. What were the primary foods for the indigenous peoples who lived in your area?
2. Identify in the field at least 3 edible plants (they can be native or non-native, but they must not be a cultivated plant, i.e., they must be a wild plants).
3. Pick a recent meal you ate. Where did the foods come from? Trace 3 foods from grower, through processor (for processed foods), through distribution system, through retailer, to your table.
4. Of the foods you eat regularly, how many are native to your watershed?
1. In your geologic terrane, what are the primary rocks? (e.g., Quarternary alluvium, Mesozoic granitic, etc.)
2. Where is the closest boundary between tectonic plates? or the closest fault line?
3. What are the primary geologic actions that shaped your landscape?
4. About how far under your feet is the bedrock, and what kind of soil would you have to dig through to reach bedrock?
1. Name the primary plant community where you live, at the time indigenous peoples lived there.
2. Identify in the field at least 1 key plant species of this plant community. In urban areas where there are no remnants of the historic plant community, identify in the field at least one key plant species of the urban ecosystem.
3. Identify in the field at least 3 non-native (introduced) species of plant.
4. Identify in the field at least 1 type of non-vascular plant in your area (e.g., liverwort, hornwort, or moss — if you can get below the level of Division, to Class or lower, pat yourself on the back).
5. Name at least 1 plant species that is now extinct or extirpated, that once lived in your area.
1. Excluding humans, name at least 3 mammals that live in your area.
2. Identify in the field at least 3 native birds that lives in your area, and state what season they are present.
3. Name at least 1 native pollinator. (Unless you live in Africa or Asia, you are incorrect if you name the Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera.) If you can identify it in the field, pat yourself on the back.
4. Name at least 3 other invertebrates native to your area. If you can identify them in the field, pat yourself on the back.
5. Name at least 1 animal species that is now extinct or extirpated, that once lived in your area.
1. Name at least 1 macroscopic organism native to your area that is neither plant nor animal. This might be a fungus, slime mold, brown algae, etc.
1. Trace the primary uses of the land, from indigenous peoples to the present, in your area; identify major uses, such as subsistence farming, agriculture, resource extraction, housing, etc.
2. Name 3 natural disasters from the past two centuries that had a big impact on your watershed.
1. Describe or trace on a map the primary tracks of winter storms in your area.
2. When is the next full moon? If you live near the ocean, when is the next high tide?
3. Point to where the sun rises on the vernal equinox.
4. Where is the energy generated that feeds the power grid in your area? Where are the main transmission lines?
5. For the house or building that you live in, where did the main structural materials come from? Can you trace the other materials that went into this building?