Monday, March 26, 2012

Nature Journals and Field Notes

Recently, I started reading a book called Field Notes on Science and Nature. It consists of a series of essays from several scientists and prominent naturalists describing how they record what they see in the natural world. This book has been a re-inspiration for taking field notes.

I have written in a journal since I was about 10 years old, yet the demands of life have often left this endeavor pretty low on my priority list. My earliest attempts at journaling were inspired by the journals of Lewis and Clark and the diaries kept by movie characters from Dances with Wolves and various Indiana Jones movies. The character's journals were always filled with beautiful illustrations and sketches, and my first journals were an attempt to chronicle my own adventures in a similar way.

As time has passed, journaling has become more of a learning tool. There aren't too many verbose descriptions left in my field notes, and I've completely given up being any kind of sketch artist, but I've found quick notes and sketches to be indispensable for helping to notice things that might otherwise be ignored. I may not ever want to know when the spring beauties started to bloom in 2012, but writing it down encourages me to think about the first blooms of previous years and relate the event to this year's weather.

Keeping notes on visits afield can also help you decide when to go back to that nature preserve to catch flowers in bloom or to see how many years that nest is used by the pair of red-tailed hawks.

Spring is a great time to chronicle the awakening of the land. Here are links to a couple more great nature journaling books and a naturalist training program that teaches you how to use journaling as a powerful learning tool:


Karen Bonsell said...

Great post Travis! Something I might like to do. I guess I keep an informal journal with my pictures. Since I take pictures almost everyday, I find myself going back to previous years to figure out when certain things happened. Thank God for digital photography and exif data!!

T. Travis Brown said...

I find that my photos provide quite a journal too. I organize them all by date. Usually a quick flip through them can jog my memory about most things that happened that day. One day, if I ever get time (yeah right), I would like to add an audio recording to each day's photo file. That would fill in the gaps!

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