my journal, 18 April 2009

The Nature Journal – What is It? How Do I Start?

My nature journal 16 April 2008
My nature journal 16 April 2008

Nature journaling is recording the natural happenings you see every day. Whether you write, draw, take photographs or press flowers, the result is the same, you end up creating a book that you love. You might like to take a look at my notebooks, I’ve been keeping since 1990. You don’t have to travel far or to some exotic locale. Your backyard or local park is just fine.

In fact, I like keeping a nature journal of my backyard better than a field trip to someplace new. By studying what goes on in my backyard, I get to know the place I live on a much deeper level.

If you keep personal diaries and would like a change, this might be just what you were searching for. It is easy, inexpensive and a great stress reducer.

Field books – keeping a nature journal

Keeping a nature journal or naturalist’s notebook can be a wonderful hobby.

It is a satisfying way to get to know and understand the land that you live in. My notebooks help me to know, share, live respectfully and protect the land.

  • For writers, it is useful for generating ideas and first drafts. Observations can find their way into natural history essays, poems, and other writings.
  • For artists, it can contain field sketches, detailed drawings, and photographs that can be used to base finished works on.
  • For crafters, a book filled with bark or leaf rubbings, prints and pressed flowers and plants can be quite satisfying.
  • For gardeners, it can record the bloom times, insect hatchings, and harvest times of fruit and vegetables.
  • For naturalists with a scientific bent, it can follow the Grinnell Naturalist’s Field Journal system. It consists of a field notebook, field journal, species account, and catalog. You can use one or more of these components. I use a modified Grinnell format myself.

The Seasonal Nature Journal

Another approach is the Seasonal Nature Journal. A chronicle is kept of the changing seasons and the thoughts and feelings that arise from watching ever turning the wheel of the year.

And of course, you can combine approaches. Knowing about the many approaches can help you to develop your own personal style. So what do you write down? What do you draw? What materials do you need? Start by reading the observation checklist. It is a very basic list and a good guideline to start off every entry. From there move to choose a place and a guiding theme. And then on to journal writing prompts.

And if you are still hesitant, I can assure you that since 1990, I have not once been visited by the journal police. Even with saying that, a naturalist’s notebook is not meant to be private but is often shared with others. Keeping a separate personal diary where you can record your private thoughts and feelings solves the privacy issue.

But, then again, your naturalist’s notebook or field journal is yours, to do with what you will. My task is to guide the newcomers so they can make their own self-made path.

Nature Journal and Citizen Science

Citizen Science is a partnership between non-scientists and research scientists. Research scientists can greatly expand their data gathering by enlisting the help of lay volunteers. These volunteers follow protocols developed by scientists and upload the data through online websites.

Even if you do participate in citizen science, you can still keep scientific -style journals. I created a guide to using the Grinnell Method, data gathering method used by scientists.

My book is The Grinnell Scientific Nature Journal available though, my printing service.

Support independent publishing: Buy this e-book on Lulu.

cover_Grinnell Scientific Nature Journal

The Best Books on Keeping a Nature Journal

These are affiliate links for

Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You by Clare Walker and Charles E. Roth 

The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling by John Muir Laws

The Nature Connection: An Outdoor Workbook for Kids, Families, and Classrooms by Clare Walker Leslie

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