Natural History in the Digital Age

The Use of Original Music Videos to Teach Natural History

Gary D. Grossman and C. Edward WatsonDownload PDF | Volume 9, 2015

We describe the use of original music videos as instructional aides for a large non-science major course in natural history. The course meets university general education requirements for life sciences and environmental literacy. Over two class years (Fall 2012 and 2013), the senior author wrote and recorded five music videos to reinforce class lecture materials including songs on: (1) conceptual topics, (2) important habitats, and (3) important species. The purpose of the videos was to utilize a multimodal form of instruction in a format (music videos) commonly used and appreciated by university students. The videos were uploaded to YouTube between 18 August 2012 and 13 November 2013. Anonymous, voluntary questionnaires in both years indicated that students’ perceived that videos improved their learning and attitudes towards both class and studying. We assume that a portion of the positive responses was due to the fact that the class instructor generally created and sang the songs in the videos, rather than employ materials from other sources. The results reveal potential for measuring actual gains in learning and retention and an investigation of their correlation with different video content (e.g., natural history concepts, habitat types, and species information) is ongoing. [full article]

Natural History in the Digital Age

Developing Mobile Tools for Biodiversity Informatics and Natural History Education

Melissa R.L. Whitaker, Joey Jiron, and Bryan MaassDownload PDF | Volume 8, 2014

The increasing availability of mobile educational technologies provides new opportunities for biodiversity research, education, and public engagement with the natural world. However, these tools are often time-consuming and expensive to create. Here we describe the The Butterfly Guide: Butterflies of the Sacramento Valley, Delta, and San Francisco Bay Area, a mobile natural history application with which users can collect and share species observation data. The app is free, but perhaps more importantly, documentation and source code are available on request. We describe our aim for The Butterfly Guide to serve as a template for others interested in creating similar tools, and discuss the future of such digital technology for enhancing natural history observation and experience. [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]

101 Natural History Books That You Should Read Before You Die

9. Georg Wilhelm Steller’s Journal of a Voyage with Bering, 1741-1742

Marcel RobischonDownload PDF | Volume 8, 2014

Dr. Steller was, for the most, not exactly a happy man, and in the last years of his short life he may at times have bitterly regretted having accepted Captain Bering’s offer to join his crew. The second Kamchatkan expedition of 1741 was the most expensive and most expansive scientific undertaking of the time, aiming at no less than connecting the Russian-controlled Siberian peninsula of Kamchatka with the American continent, and within this project Georg Wilhelm Steller was promised “every possible opportunity to achieve something worthwhile.” [full article]

An Invitation for Engagement: Assigning and Assessing Field Notes to Promote Deeper Levels of Observation

John S. Farnsworth, Lyn Baldwin, and Michelle BezansonDownload PDF | Volume 8, 2014

This paper explores current practices for teaching the discipline of keeping field notes within academic natural history courses. We investigate how journal projects can be structured to promote engagement with the natural world while emphasizing the importance of recording accurate and honest observations. Particular attention is paid herein to the assignment of field notes, and to the process of assessing the results of these assignments. Our discussion includes results from an informal survey of best practices among colleagues representing numerous natural history disciplines. [full article]

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