Alex Zorach (bplant.org)
A database of plants and their ecology, aiming to preserve, protect, and restore biodiversity.
I'm Alex Zorach, the creator of bplant.org, a database of plants and their ecology.
I launched bplant.org in January of 2019, and was working on it for many months prior to its launch. As of September 2019, I have worked for over a year on the site without any compensation. The site is a huge amount of work to develop, and I think it has already reached a point of offering something unique.
What makes bplant.org special?
I created bplant.org to fill a vacant niche in the landscape of plant websites. The short answer is that we are more ecology-focused.
The site integrates informational articles with user-reported plant observations.
Relative to other sites with plant articles, bplant.org focuses more on a plant's ecological features, including habitat, life cycle, faunal associations, and native vs. introduced range and invasive status. We also are moving away from the mainstream practice of tracking plant distribution by political boundaries (countries, states, etc.) and towards using ecoregions, as we explain here. Relative to other citizen science websites, bplant.org focuses more on rigorous ID and reporting more information to make the reports higher-quality for scientists to track plants' reproduction and populations in the wild.
What would I do if I receive more funding??
If I were to receive enough donations from bplant.org, I would be able to work on it full-time, without the need to resort to advertising or affiliate links. With enough funding, I could also hire other people to help develop the site more rapidly.
Some areas I have been actively working on, that could be sped up, include:
- Refining plant range maps as described in this post
- Completing articles on all ecoregions in the continental U.S., and more broadly, North America including Mexico and Canada.
- Completing and expanding more plant articles
- Developing plant ID guides
We could also develop more forward-looking features, work to integrate with existing plant websites and databases, and further develop the interactive features on our site.
How will the money be spent?
My business, Merit Exchange LLC, runs a very lean operation. Almost all of this money will be used to compensate me, and if I receive enough, others.
For business expenses, we spend $10 a month on a cloud hosting plan, and much less than this for email, domain names, and a few other online services. The project runs entirely on free, open-source software, and I exclusively use free, open-source software to develop it, which further keeps costs down. We run a near-paperless office.
You can also be assured that I spend my personal income mindfully. I take home energy efficiency seriously, and my electric bill averages under $25/mo for two people. I own a used compact hybrid car, which I drive less than 5,000 miles annually. I walk and bike most places in my daily life. I grow my own vegetables and herbs, and sometimes forage wild plants, especially invasive plants.
Besides gardening and plants, some of my other hobbies and interests include birdwatching, swing dancing, board games, food, and tea (you can read about artisan teas on RateTea, another website I maintain. I try to focus on hobbies that have a minimal environmental impact, and make the world a better place by having positive effects on environmental conservation, or by contributing to low-consumption social activities.
How will you be kept up-to-date about progress?
I will publish all the finances openly on bplant.org, including not only donations through Liberapay, but also any other donation sources, and income from any other sources such as if I earn money through advertising or affiliate payments. Currently, I have no income associated with bplant.org and no dedicated expenses; the site has been piggybacking on the infrastructure of my other websites to minimize cost.
You can track the progress in the development of bplant.org on the site's blog.
I also want to be available by email to any donor or potential donor to address potential questions, and am happy to have a phone conversation as well. Please reach out to me through the contact form on the website if you have any questions.
If you are interested in maximizing your donation, especially if you intend to donate more than $30 at once, I ask that you please consider making a donation by personal check, as this avoids payment processing fees and ensures that more of your money goes directly to use. Liberapay helps to keep processing costs down, but payment processors still take nearly 3% of credit card transactions. Larger, less frequent donations help to minimize the energy and effort put into the payment itself.
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