Red Painted Turtle

Observation Checklist to Sharpen Your Skills

Red Painted Turtle
Red Painted Turtle

I write this observation checklist in the back of my field notebook and nature journal. Following it has improved my note-taking tremendously. I begin every journal entry with this information. It is part of the Grinnell system of keeping a naturalist’s field journal.

  • time (use 24-hour clock format; 1435 for 2:35p.m.)
  • date (use international format: 03 September2007)
  • locality (place)
  • route (how did you get there)
  • weather (temperature, cloudtypes, wind, rain, etc.)
  • habitat (backyard, forest, desert, wetland,etc)
  • vegetation (where, insect visitors, blooming?)
  • animal behavior
  • general notes
  • sketches, maps, photos, information
  • arrival and departure times
  • list of species seen

To ensure that you are someone in the future can read your notes here are some tips.

  • use acid-free paper (Moleskin Brand makes several models
  • use fadeproof, waterproof ink (Micron, Pilot G7 and Stafford Uniball are good models)
  • use numbers (“1”) instead of the word (“one”)
  • use as few abbreviations as possible
  • number journal pages in the margins

Grinnell System for Nature Journals

Grinnell System Overview
Format for nature journals pages
Field Notebook for on-the-spot observations
Species Accounts on plants and animals
Catalog Your Collections
Field Journal – bringing it all together

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