Hello everyone,

After ten years as historical ecologist at the Sonoma Ecology Center, I have taken the leap and started my own historical consulting business. Baseline Consulting is focused on what I call ‘the stories of the land.’ I’m fascinated by the relationship between people and places— how people see the land, use it, and change it; and how places change us. Hence my interest in everything from place names to long-term trends in vegetation and hydrology. I’ve always had one foot in the arts and one in science—I believe deep understanding comes from looking at things from many different angles.

Working as a historical consultant involves being both a detective and a storyteller. A typical week might find me tracing property records back to deeds which read “Territory of California;” interviewing a neighborhood elder; poring over historical Mexican maps; checking census records to see who lived in a particular place and what they did for a living; estimating the age of oak trees; and walking a property to figure out the historical drainage pattern. These are the clues, the pieces of the puzzle that, when put together, tell ‘the story of the land.’

The longer I do this work, the more I see beneath the human patterns we take for granted. Here’s an example:  If you align the Kenwood Marsh on an 1851 map with a modern map, you’ll find the marsh and the town fit together like puzzle pieces. Of course, no one wanted to settle in a marsh; they put their houses next to it. Another discovery came while working on the Sonoma County Oak Management Plan: All of our early towns–Sonoma, Santa Rosa, Windsor, Petaluma, Sebastopol, Healdsburg, and Cloverdale, were built on soils that support most of our large valley oaks. Digging back, you find 19th century descriptions of big oaks around the Healdsburg Plaza, and that the Wappo name for the Santa Rosa area meant ‘Meadowlark Woods.’ Human beings like living where the big oaks live—places that aren’t too wet, but that have a reliable source of summer water, underground. And, of course, the trees themselves provide shade and beauty that people enjoy.

I’m currently working on several property histories for private clients, conducting historical resource surveys for landowners (a required under CEQA or by local jurisdictions), collaborating with the Ecology Center on historical hydrology and vegetation mapping proposals for county and state agencies, and a pet project— ‘Jack’s Glen Ellen,’ a ‘time machine’ that will transport users back to London’s time via the internet.

You’re invited to stop by my Glen Ellen office anytime, just call ahead to make sure I’m not out on field work.

  •  February 10, 2012

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Baseline Consulting

13750 Arnold Drive Suite 3, Glen Ellen, CA 95442 / PO Box 207, Glen Ellen, CA 95442

Office: (707) 996-9967 Cell (707) 509-9427