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Fall 2011 Newsletter, Recording Nature

The Fall 2011 newsletter focused on the art of journaling. Richard Carstensen wrote, in an article titled Recording Nature: Field Journalling as Raven Goes Global, “Journaling is my work and play. It’s how I taught myself to be a naturalist, and one of the ways I share observations and insights with others.”  Kathy Hocker provided an example of her sketchbook journaling, and naturalist Kevin O’Malley provided an essay on his experiences in Nature Studies.

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Field Notes on Science and Nature

Field notes on science & nature

Michael Canfield, editor. 2011 Harvard University Press. Foreword by Edward O. Wilson

Why naturalists should keep journals

Why naturalists should keep journals


Can you remember where you were and what you learned in late April, 1993? Does it matter? Canfield’s ground-breaking collection brings together reflections on journaling, along with fascinating samples from the notebooks of a dozen well-known ecologists, geologists, and scientific illustrators. The chapters cover ornithology, entomology, ecology, paleontology, anthropology, botany, and animal behavior.

A few examples: ● George Schaller’s lion observations. ● Kenn Kaufman’s 1973 “big year,” and how his notes have evolved since then. ● Piotr Naskrecki’s relational databases and electronic field notes. ● Bernd Heinrich’s sketches and reminder-scribbles.

Until now, few researchers have shared their private journals with more than a handful of friends and colleagues. Each author takes you behind the scenes, offering tips gleaned from a long, prolifically archived career. The concluding chapter is by Eric Greene, an ecologist at University of Montana. He notices that journaling, which originated in the field sciences, has ironically migrated into the lab:

“I’ve been puzzled by my student’s initial negative reactions to journaling for a field ecology class. . . To see if this is a general sentiment, I informally polled many of my colleagues in a broad range of fields at several universities . . .In general, lab scientists in biochemistry, cell and molecular biology tend to keep much better notebooks . . .than field scientists in ecology, behavior and conservation biology.”

Here’s an essay—drawn in part from an interview with editor Canfield—on why it still makes sense to draw (that’s right; with an actual pencil, a la Kathy Hocker.)

I finished reading Field notes in winter, 2015, as I was preparing a talk for the Alaska chapter of the Wildlife Society. Concluding that talk, on the intersection of science and natural history, I made journaling (along with making maps) one of two core recommendations to the group. That presentation is archived in our TOOLs section as Focus & breadth: science and natural history in Southeast Alaska.

And by the way, lest you too consider journaling just a chore—by the end of Greene’s ecology class, most students are enthralled by process. The trick is to find a system that fits your goals and personality, something too fun to neglect. For more tips, check out our page called Journaling and blogging.

Just Before the Camera: the Journal of Richard Meade

This extensively documented booklet annotates the voyage of Richard Meade through Southeast Alaska, one of the first instances of Europeans in the area.  Richard Meade was the captain of a steamship that took a 4 month tour through Southeast in 1868 and 1869.  Although his visit to Southeast was marked by tremendous violence toward the native people, he left behind this journal, an incredible snapshot of Alaska’s past.  Richard Carstensen poured over the journal, adding maps, natural observations, and photographs to Meade’s writing.

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Winter 2006 Newsletter, Sitka deer: Thoughts and field notes

In the Winter 2006 newsletter you’ll find an essay from Richard Carstensen on his connection to Sitka Black Tailed Deer.  You’ll also find sketches from Kathy Hocker’s field notebook, and discovery news.

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