Book Week: ‘Field Notes on Science and Nature’

Student researcher Michelle Hulke records observations of bison behavior at the Conservancy's Samuel H. Ordway Preserve. Photo: Matt Miller/TNC

Student researcher Michelle Hulke records observations of bison behavior at the Conservancy’s Samuel H. Ordway Preserve. Photo: Matt Miller/TNC

Cool Green Science is featuring reviews this week by Conservancy science staff of great books you should check out this summer (or winter, depending on which hemisphere you live in)…

Field Notes on Science & Nature. Edited by Michael R. Canfield. Harvard University Press, 2011. 297 pages.

Review by Matt Miller, senior science writer

Look over the shoulder of a great field scientist and what will you find? Copious notes, of course.

Here’s an engaging essay collection on the science (and art) of recording observations in the field.  Twelve accomplished researchers – including wildlife conservationist George Schaller, old-school naturalist Bernd Heinrich and anthropologist Anna Behrensmeyer – share pages from their notebooks as well as their varied approaches for recording observations.

The essays include tips on recording data, the appropriate use of technology, the value of sketching and how to organize massive amounts of information.

There are several chapters on how note taking can help scientists with popular writing – of particular value to scientists looking to publish books or blogs. Even the most desk-bound modeler can find something of interest within these pages.

Follow the advice here and you’ll emerge a better observer and better writer—and by extension a better scientist.

Opinions expressed on Cool Green Science and in any corresponding comments are the personal opinions of the original authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Nature Conservancy.
Matt Miller is a senior science writer for the Conservancy. He writes features and blogs about the conservation research being conducted by the Conservancy’s 550 scientists. Matt previously worked for nearly 11 years as director of communications for the Conservancy’s Idaho program. He has served on the national board of directors of the Outdoor Writers Association of America, and has published widely on conservation, nature and outdoor sports. He has held two Coda fellowships, assisting conservation programs in Colombia and Micronesia. An avid naturalist and outdoorsman, Matt has traveled the world in search of wildlife and stories.

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