101 Natural History Books That You Should Read Before You Die

10. John Madson’s Where the Sky Began: Land of the Tallgrass Prairie

Nicolette L. CagleDownload PDF | Volume 9, 2015

Over a decade ago, I sat at a table in a dimly lit room with five ecologists talking about the restoration and use of degraded lands. One of them, a tropical ecologist who secretly harbored a fondness for birds and a penchant for the fiddle, blurted out, “What about those ‘I’ states? Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana? They are so dull and flat, we should just cover them with wind turbines.” She was a trained ecologist, but she saw little value or beauty in the far-reaching fields, the rich black earth, or the wide-open sky. She wanted to plant turbine trees in an agricultural grassland. [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]

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]

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