Editorial

The Natural History Renaissance Continues

Stephen C. Trombulak and Thomas L. FleischnerDownload PDF | Volume 12, 2018

We reflect on the progress made toward fomenting a “natural history renaissance,” which we called for in the first article published in this journal— and the important role the journal plays in this renaissance.  We then describe changes in the publishing institution for this journal: the Natural History Network has recently closed its operations, but the Natural History Institute is continuing and expanding efforts at providing resources for the rejuvenation of natural history practice, inside and outside academia. The Journal of Natural History Education and Experience will continue to play a key role in this work. [full article]

Nurturing Biophilia: Merlin and Sanderling

Don BurgessDownload PDF | Volume 11, 2017

The author develops a narrative of Merlin predation to illustrate the growth of biophilia. Initially descriptive, the story evolves by following an iterative process of questioning and relationship building, which leads to an informed and purposeful application of biophilia. [full article]

On the Significance of Small Dead Things

Karen L. HabermanDownload PDF | Volume 9, 2015

Naturalists have an affinity for the organisms they study; yet, the practice of natural history often includes the killing of animals. This is especially true for small, aquatic invertebrates and insects. I examine this contradictory relationship between naturalists and the organisms they study from historical, scientific, pedagogical, philosophical, and personal perspectives. I also discuss the benefits and costs of the deaths of these organisms as well as alternative approaches for studying these animals. Finally, I advocate for thinking more deeply about their deaths as we explore the natural world. [full article]

What if Your Father Were a Chickadee: What I Observed Today

Don BurgessDownload PDF | 2014

In any attempt to make sense of the natural world, field naturalists are subject to observational bias and must consider their own interpretive process as they record and interpret field notes. Recounting a narrative about fledging chickadees, the author utilizes a six-step model for analysis of field experience. The five levels of representation are experienced recursively and involve a primary experience that is first attended to, shared, transcribed as field notes, analyzed, and finally offered for others to collaboratively read and respond. [full article]

Why Practice Natural History?

The Aesthetic Roots of Natural History

Gordon H. OriansDownload PDF | Volume 7, 2013

The first song of a male Red-winged Blackbird in late winter reminds me of the many hours I have spent among these birds studying their social lives and trying to discover the meanings of their alarm and contact calls and songs. What messages were the males communicating, to whom were they signaling, how did other individuals respond to the messages, and how did their responses influence their success? Those hours were among the happiest of my life, but why was what superficially might appear to be a rather boring task so pleasurable? The answer lies in the distant past. [full article]

Linked Through Story: Natural Science, Nature Writing, and Traditional Ecological Knowledge

John TallmadgeDownload PDF | Volume 5, 2011

Traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) has become topical in discussions of natural history as a key component of environmental research, education, and practice. Likewise, contemporary nature writing has drawn on it to illuminate and critique Western values, practices, and beliefs. This paper explores the function of narrative in the mythological and classification systems of tribal peoples as well as in Western science, arguing that story may provide a useful way of understanding and linking traditional ecological knowledge with scientific and literary natural history. The argument draws on Claude Lévi-Strauss’s analysis of the differences between scientific and mythological thinking, Martin Buber’s doctrine of relationships, and Barry Lopez’s ideas about the interaction between landscape and narrative. [full article]

Why Practice Natural History?

Mount Auburn Cemetery

Clare Walker LeslieDownload PDF | Volume 5, 2011

Today, I have come to Mount Auburn to see what is here – no lions, no tigers. Just minutes away from the daily business of my usual life, I enter a world so different from where I have just been – into the calming presence of chickadees, robins, a catbird, bumblebee, turtle, fall asters, and drone of cicadas. Nothing special – everything special …
[full article]

Why Practice Natural History?

Seeing the Natural History Way

Laura SewallDownload PDF | Volume 5, 2011

Perception is one of the greatest of all natural gifts. It provides continuous flows of energy and information—enhancing facets of the environment, directing our movements, and providing pleasure to most mammals. It is as diverse as are species and individuals, and in humans it is ideally made up of beautiful forms and saturated colors, sweet and erotic scents, the easy cadence of crickets, and clear survival signals. … I am now suggesting that such shifts in perceptual capacity—or rather, the recovery of our finely evolved sensory abilities—feed forward into shifts in consciousness. With an eye tuned to pattern, movement, beauty, and the secret lives of birds and bees, the world brightens and beckons, and what one values becomes a matter of where one stands, literally, and of the wilder and complex relations there. The fact of interdependence—between pollinators, flowers, and food; between birds, fish, coastal waters, and coastal communities—is witnessed directly and becomes deeply known. No longer abstract, our mutual dependence may then inform our behavior, and upholding the common good becomes enlightened self-interest. [full article]

Why Practice Natural History?

Why Natural History Matters

Thomas L. FleischnerDownload PDF | Volume 5, 2011

The world needs natural history now more than ever. Because natural history – which I have defined as “a practice of intentional focused attentiveness and receptivity to the more-than-human world, guided by honesty and accuracy” (Fleischner 2001, 2005) – makes us better, more complete human beings. This process of “careful, patient … sympathetic observation” (Norment 2008) – paying attention to the larger than human world – allows us to build better human societies, ones that are less destructive and dysfunctional. Natural history helps us see the world, and thus ourselves, more accurately. Moreover, it encourages and inspires better stewardship of the Earth. [full article]

From Dioramas to Dragonflies: Redefining the Role of Natural History in Environmental Science

Kirsten H. MartinDownload PDF | Volume 5, 2011

Each time I teach an environmental science class, I bring my students to a stream near campus. The students are animated, glad to be freed from the confines of the lecture hall, and unaware of what faces them at the streamside. I stand in the middle of the stream, watching the water ripple across the rocks and over the toes of my battered old boots. This stream hides many stories within its rock-bound borders, stories of the struggle of life. [full article]

Why Practice Natural History?

Rewilding Natural History

Peter H. Kahn, Jr. and Patricia H. HasbachDownload PDF | Volume 5, 2011

Many people who currently advocate for nature, and for the importance of nature in human lives, focus on what can be termed domestic, nearby, everyday nature. Nature might be a favorite tree in one’s neighborhood, or a local park, or one’s garden, or one’s pet, or what Tallmadge (2004) refers to as the “buzzing, flapping, scurrying, chewing, photosynthesizing life forms” all around us in the urban landscape. Domestic nature is important. It’s what most of us have close at hand. People can relate to it. People can garner immediate benefits by accessing it. But truth be told, domestic nature is only half the story. It’s only half of what we need. [full article]

Natural History Renaissance

Stephen C. Trombulak and Thomas L. FleischnerDownload PDF | Volume 1, 2007

It is our misfortune to live in an age of rapid biological decline. Ever since the emergence of Homo sapiens as a tool-using species, capable of altering natural communities and harvesting species past their abilities to regenerate, species extinction and degradation of habitats have become increasingly common. We have come to the point where we can now speak of living in the time of the sixth mass extinction event in the history of life on Earth with no sense of hyperbole (Jablonski 1991, Wilson 1992).

But this human-induced mass extinction progresses largely unnoticed–this age of biological decline is, not coincidentally, also an age of human indifference to the more-than-human world. [full article]

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