Rural System's


Thoughts About Seeing Nature

Chance favors the prepared mind.

Louis Pasteur

The following are related essays and observations on observing nature. The title links to each. You are encouraged to submit your work in an email format for inclusion here. (Please see the suggested later)

Comments and essays are invited on the importance of conserving observations, what such conservation means, the risks of losses of information, the meaning of the good observer, what constitutes a very good observation, the difficulties of knowing what you perceive, and the means by which accumulations of knowledge about Nature can be made for the future.

Especially relevant quotable statements (by you or others) about nature observation (not "nature conservation" since that is abundant now) are welcomed and will be inserted in banners (suggested.)

Related Comments

  1. Sometimes anecdotes are true; sometimes they're not; sometimes they're in-between somewhere. Anecdotes do not make science, but they are useful for good storytelling, education, environmental interpretation, and sometimes even in research -- given that their truth-content is high. And there's the rub! I'm reminded of this every time I heard a uniformed naturalist or ranger tell me about how all rivers run south, or when they read the Chief Seattle speech to me with a tear.
    email from Matt Zuefle,
    Ohio University, November 1, 2000
  2. It's my belief we have become overly smug with our computer models and statistics and thus tend to disregard these early day naturalists (Seton et al.) as emotional amateurs when in truth they were doing what we should be doing (and don't anymore); observing nature with an unbiased eye and trying to make sense of what was happening out there rather than trying to prove some preconceived view of how things SHOULD be. I also firmly believe that those who really understand nature are born with that ability, not taught it.
    from email by Dean Carrier
    November, 2000
  3. "Amen" to Dean Carrier's comment about our field's apparent de-emphasis on simple natural history. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with statistics, mathematics, modeling, pretty GIS maps or the like. In fact, I firmly believe it is vital to advancing our understanding of nature. However, to the extent that it occurs at the expense of simple observation, I believe our field (and nature) will ultimately suffer. In my opinion, there has been too much departure from natural history in our education. Field trips for classes get dropped because of expenses (or lack of appreciation), etc. We have lots of people (though some could reasonably argue not enough) who can recite theory, develop models, and conduct complex mathematical and statistical evaluations. All of this is VERY good. Unfortunately, however, we now have too few people who can tell the difference between a raccoon track and a 'possum track, let alone people who actually get excited about observing such things. Part of this reflects the overall trend in society away from a so-called 'rural lifestyle'. But it is also true that the 'atmosphere' in which many of us work tends to make us feel guilty if we want to take a day and just go 'play in the field'. Of course we can, and should, do this on our personal time as well.
    from email by John Erb, e-mail:
    Wildlife Research Biologist, Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources, RR1 Box 181, Madelia, MN 56062, November, 2000
  4. Naturalists have a particularly keen interest in the ferns and their allies (horsetails, clubmosses, spikemosses, and quilworts) partially because of their beauty and structure but because they represent the earliest plant forms on Earth and have retained characteristics that have survived every environmental challenge experienced over thousands of years. There are a relatively few US species and individual observers may reasonably approach mastery of the identification of this floral group. Their relations to environmental factors remains challenging as does their chemical properties that suggest insect, bacterial, and fungal resistance. R.H. Giles, 2005

Perhaps you will share ideas with me about some of the topic(s) above .

Rural System
Robert H. Giles, Jr.
August 12, 2005