Biologist Erick Greene of the University of Montana makes a plea in Field Notes for biology field notebooks. “It is ironic that in spite of the rich history of field notebooks in the natural sciences, this tradition appears to be weakening, especially in the very field that spawned the tradition — field biology,” he writes. “I have made the case that field notebooks are still useful — if not essential — in field biology.”
“I can crack the cover of an old field notebook, and these time machines instantly transport me back to watching squadrons of macaws and parrots flying at dusk to roost in palm swamps in Peru, listening to the ‘wahoo’ alarm calls of olive baboons in the Okavango Delta of Botswana as they warn each other of approaching lions, observing teenage male sperm whales flip their tales up as they begin hour-long dives to catch giant squid in a deepwater trench off New Zealand, or watching tens of thousands of migrating harp seals belugas, narwhals, bearded seals, and a mother bowhead whale and her baby stream under arctic cliffs to their summer feeding grounds in Lancaster sound,” Greene writes.
Illustration: Notebook pages from artist and naturalist Claire Emery describing her observations of butterflies in a hawthorne thicket. By Claire Emery. (Harvard University Press)