Book review: Field Notes on Science and Nature

Field Notes on Science and Nature by Michael R. Canfield
Field Notes on Science and Nature

Books on keeping a naturalist field notebook or nature journal are very rare. Usually we naturalists (professional and amateur) have to glean any information we can from workshops, the occasional book chapter or long-ago written articles.

Field Notes on Science & Nature, edited by Michael R. Canfield, does a good job of filling gaping “how-to” holes on field journal keeping. In the introduction Michael Canfield lays down the book’s aim, “These specific examples are methods that can be adopted wholesale or tweaked to fit a multitude of agendas and can also be used as starting points for anyone interested in the natural world” (p. 17).

These goals are well met. The books format of chapters written by naturalists, illustrators and scientists, do indeed produce a buffet of examples that the reader can choose among. I particularly found the chapters by Kenn Kaufman (“One and a Half Cheers for List-Keeping”), Jenny Keller (“Why Sketch”), Anna K. Behrensmeyer (Linking Researchers across Generations) and Erick Greene (Why Keep a Field Notebook?), personally very helpful.

Each chapter has good useful information. The chapter by Piotr Naskrecki, “Note-taking for Pencilphobes”, is just for the digitally inclined, who wish to use computer and other technology to store information.

Snapshots of actual field notebook pages and sketches add a visual element and are as interesting to read and look at as the text. One note of caution, the Kindle version on Amazom.com apparently doesn’t contain the illustrations. The illustrations are key in getting the most out of the book.

After reading this book, I decided I will create more sketches and maps for my naturalist field journal. My notebook will come even more of a hybrid between the scientific Grinnell system and artistic nature journals.

The quote that sums up the book is by Erik Greene, “To my mind, the most useful and interesting notebooks of field biologists are hybrids; as well as recording details and data of field research, they record the observations, thoughts, musings, and peregrinations of the author” (p. 258).

I highly recommend this book for amateur naturalists. I have added fuller data on this book on my Shelfari shelf. The link for Shelfari is on the right sidebar under “Books for Naturalists”.

Field Notes on Science & Nature edited by Michael R. Canfield. Cambridge: Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0-674-05757-9

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