In fall 2004, UW Herbarium's David Giblin and The Nature Conservancy's Peter Dunwiddie broadened their collaborative efforts (see Ebey's Landing and Ellsworth Creek Preserve) to include a comprehensive botanical survey of the San Juan Islands. Despite more than a century of fieldwork throughout this archipelago, complete species lists for many of the smaller islands (less than five acres) in this area have never been compiled. Additionally, a number of unusual species distribution patterns have been reported from the San Juans (e.g., Indian plum [Oemleria cerasiformis] is reported from only one island), and exploring the realities and/or processes of such patterns requires a thorough floristic account of as many islands as possible.
Approximately 178 islands, islets, and rocks comprise the San Juan Archipelago, with land ownership divided among private, federal, state, and private non-profit entities. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service own and manage over 80 parcels throughout the San Juans, and collectively these properties comprise the San Juan Islands National Wildlife Refuge. In 2005, David and Peter organized a team of botanists, including a bryologist and lichenologist, to begin the multi-year task of generating comprehensive species lists for the San Juans. In addition to providing valuable baseline data for future research and comparative studies, the data generated from this project are suitable for testing island biogeography hypotheses and for studying invasive species biology.