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Book Week: ‘Field Notes on Science and Nature’

July 3, 2013

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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
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

Matt Miller is director of science communications for The Nature Conservancy and editor of the Cool Green Science blog. A lifelong naturalist and outdoor enthusiast, he has covered stories on science and nature around the globe. Matt has worked for the Conservancy for the past 14 years, previously serving as director of communications for the Idaho program. More from Matt

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