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]

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