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]

Listening to Children: Perceptions of Nature

Donald J. Burgess and Jolie Mayer-SmithDownload PDF | Volume 5, 2011

This exploratory study investigates children’s perceptions and experiences of nature during a residential outdoor environmental education program and contributes to an understanding of how nature experiences arouse biophilia, a love of life and all living things. Using interviews, naturalistic observation, and artifact collection, we studied children’s responses to nature during and following their participation in a residential environmental education program known as Mountain School. We explored how an examination of biophilic sensibilities can help researchers and educators focus on the vital intersection between the individual, environment, and action. Our study suggests that children’s perceptions of nature are varied and dependent on prior experiences. Our study indicates that after spending time in the wilderness program at Mountain School, children’s perceptions of nature changed. Children formed connections with the fauna and flora of the North Cascades. Our use of biophilia as a framework for inquiry demands that we consider what it means to include the larger biotic community in our discussion of educational reform. This research contributes to an evolving understanding of the relationship between people and the natural world. [full article]

101 Natural History Books That You Should Read Before You Die

5. Frederick von Hohenstaufen’s The Art of Falconry

John G.T. AndersonDownload PDF | Volume 5, 2011

Frederick von Hohenstaufen was born into troubled times. By one account, his mother gave birth to him in the public market place in order to convince the skeptical nobility of the legitimacy of the imperial heir. While this tale is most unlikely, Frederick had to put up with continuous challenges to his authority throughout a tumultuous career. Orphaned as an infant, the future Holy Roman Emperor was raised by the Pope, who was convinced that in Frederick he would have the perfect surrogate to go on Crusade and restore the Kingdom of Jerusalem. [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]

101 Natural History Books That You Should Read Before You Die

4. Michael Canfield’s Field Notes on Science and Nature

John G.T. AndersonDownload PDF | Volume 5, 2011

Part way through the by now classic film Young Frankenstein, the heroes are wandering disconsolately through a lab, trying to reconstruct the work of the Master. “If he had only left us a clue, a hint… some suggestion” one remarks. Sitting on the desk is an enormous book entitled HOW I DID IT by Victor Frankenstein.

Reading accounts of other people’s research I have often wondered “how they did it.” What would it have been like to actually be in the [full article]

101 Natural History Books That You Should Read Before You Die

3. Charles Darwin’s The Voyage of the Beagle

John G.T. AndersonDownload PDF | Volume 5, 2011

Darwin always said that of all the books he wrote, he had the greatest affection for his “first born” – the volume most of us know simply as The Voyage of the Beagle (Modern Library 2001, but many many other editions). This book, first published as the Journal of Researches into the Natural History and Geology of the countries visited during the voyage round the world of H.M.S. Beagle under the command of Captain Fitz Roy, R.N. (gasp!) originally formed a portion of the four-volume Narrative of the two surveying voyages accomplished by the Beagle and her consorts that had been edited by Fitzroy, and intended as the official account of the expedition. [full article]

101 Natural History Books That You Should Read Before You Die

2. Henry Walter Bates’ The Naturalist on the River Amazons: A Record of Adventures, Habits of Animals, Sketches of Brazilian and Indian Life, and Aspects of Nature under the Equator, during Eleven Years of Travel

John G.T. AndersonDownload PDF | Volume 5, 2011

Continuing our “tropical” theme from the previous column, I would like to recommend the reader’s attention to Henry Walter Bates’ The Naturalist on the River Amazons. My edition is University of California Press, 1962, but there are many printings, including a free on-line Google facsimile of the original. First published in 1863, the title pretty much says it all. [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]

101 Natural History Books That You Should Read Before You Die

1. Alexander von Humboldt’s Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of America

John G.T. AndersonDownload PDF | Volume 5, 2011

Whenever I first visit someone’s house the first thing that I find myself doing is scanning for bookshelves. The absence of books can tell one almost as much as their presence, and if a new friend has an interesting collection, oh the joy of discovery and immediate connection! Observation suggests that Natural Historians are often great readers. Some of them are also great writers. The difficulty often is in making time to find the books that you really ought to read, both for general knowledge and also for inspiration and re-engagement with our particular many-headed practice. [full article]


Changes and Opportunities

Stephen C. TrombulakDownload PDF | Volume 5, 2011

The mission of the Natural History Network is to promote the value of natural history by discussing and disseminating ideas and techniques on its successful practice to educators, scientists, artists, writers, the media, and the public at large. For the last four years, this journal has worked to promote that mission by providing a venue for information of use to natural history educators. The Network’s board has learned that open-access publication, when standards are maintained, is an excellent tool for disseminating ideas and perspectives to help fuel a renaissance in the practice of natural history. As a result, at the end of 2010, the board decided to expand the range of its publication efforts to provide an outlet for a wider range of perspectives about natural history beyond just education. Rather than launch a new journal, however, we decided to expand the scope of the existing one. [full article]

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