Field Notes on Science & Nature
Bernd Heinrich, Edward O. Wilson, Anna K. Behrensmeyer, Michael R. Canfield, George B. Schaller, Kenn Kaufman, Karen L. Kramer,
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Once in a great while, as the New York Times noted recently, a naturalist writes a book that changes the way people look at the living world. John James Audubon’s Birds of America, published in 1838, was one. Roger Tory Peterson’s 1934 Field Guide to the Birds was another. How does such insight into nature develop?
Pioneering a new niche in the study of plants and animals in their native habitat, Field Notes on Science and Nature allows readers to peer over the shoulders and into the notebooks of a dozen eminent field workers, to study firsthand their observational methods, materials, and fleeting impressions.
What did George Schaller note when studying the lions of the Serengeti? What lists did Kenn Kaufman keep during his 1973 “big year”? How does Piotr Naskrecki use relational databases and electronic field notes? In what way is Bernd Heinrich’s approach “truly Thoreauvian,” in E. O. Wilson’s view? Recording observations in the field is an indispensable scientific skill, but researchers are not generally willing to share their personal records with others. Here, for the first time, are reproductions of actual pages from notebooks. And in essays abounding with fascinating anecdotes, the authors reflect on the contexts in which the notes were taken.
Covering disciplines as diverse as ornithology, entomology, ecology, paleontology, anthropology, botany, and animal behavior, Field Notes offers specific examples that professional naturalists can emulate to fine-tune their own field methods, along with practical advice that amateur naturalists and students can use to document their adventures.
detailed notes and sketches (here, Yellowlegged, Lesser Blackbacked, and European Herring Gulls), with sketches done on the spot and notes added that evening, but I kept no list of species for the day. My focus on a handful of gulls was so intense that I failed to notice what other birds might have been around. 58 [To view this image, refer to the print version of this title.] one and a half cheers for list-keeping in my awareness of birds. How many of these species could I find? Could I
list-keeping [To view this image, refer to the print version of this title.] [To view this image, refer to the print version of this title.] Here is a sample will usually include a list of the species observed and at least some indication of numbers of individuals. It has become almost automatic; I nearly always make the list the central point in my notes. But there are exceptions. There are times when I am so focused on one or two species that I don’t make even a mental note of what else is
dilettante, not serious. Throughout the ten days that followed the rescue, they had been, as usual, coolly efficient. On the last afternoon, though, one of them sidled up to me and said, “Kuni wants to give you a barbecue tonight.” So I handed over the twenty dollars necessary to buy the required “chicken” and then let events unfold. The whole group of us trooped down to the dining room from our little houses in the forest at about six. Sure enough, chicken wings were sizzling over hot coals,
behavior. In the years since my early studies, video and camera traps have become among the most useful of tools for the study of mammals, opening up many aspects of mammalian biology that were unimaginable in the 1960s. Simple outline drawings can be traced directly from photographs or film stills to illustrate a great variety of structures or behaviors, but such studio work hardly comes under the rubric of fieldwork. Preliminary or exploratory tracings can be drawn in pencil, but publishers
studied, observations in field notes cease to be impersonal, and an observer’s empathy can lead beyond dry facts to better intuition and insight. After all, every animal is an individual with a personal history, its 23 george b. schaller [To view this image, refer to the print version of this title.] Tracking mountain gorillas on January 12, 1960, in what was then Parc Albert, Belgian Congo (now Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo). 24 behavior influenced by