In the course of our work
we've always aspired to the standards of
natural history record-keeping
established by the Grinnell tradition,
forged in the
of the western USA,
of preserving records and specimens
will allow future tests of
about ecological change.
(Steven G. Herman. 1986. "The Naturalist's Field Journal: A manual
of instruction based on a system
established by Joseph Grinnell"
Buteo Books, Vermillion, South Dakota. 200 pp.).
We have not, however,
adhered strictly to the
classic Grinnell format,
but have each
developed our own
which this page records.
Frederick W. Schueler & Aleta Karstad
Bishops Mills Natural
Contact us by phone at (613)258-3107
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Thirty Years Later:
Evolution of journal and field notebook styles
Frederick W. Schueler & Aleta Karstad - Bishops Mills Natural
Historically, every naturalist kept some kind of records. Some of these,
such as Darwin's journals of the Voyage of the Beagle and Thoreau's
records of conditions in Concord, Massachusetts, were thorough and
detailed, though for others the labels on collected specimens were
thought to be a sufficient record of where they'd been and what they'd
We've each been keeping natural history journals since we were
teenagers: Fred beginning on his own and then learning the Grinnell system at Cornell University as an undergraduate, while Aleta was taught a narrative style of journal in bound books by Frank Ross during her art
school years in Toronto. Aleta's journals integrate design, illustration, observation, and data
(Karstad, Aleta. 2000. "Drawing from Life" Trail and
Fred, on the other, has adapted the Grinnell
system of precisely geo-temporally referenced, hypothesis-testing,
observations to computer and GPS technologies (Schueler, Frederick W.
2000. "Navigating as Naturalists with the Global Positioning
System" Trail and Landscape 34(1):35-40; and 2001,
"Interest is paid on deposits in your provincial databank"
The Boreal Dipnet 5(2):1-3).
Our goal, since 1993, has been to have all this electronically available
in a database formatted to contain both records of individual species
and phenomena encountered and a coherent narrative of our observational activities. This database currently contains 83,790 records (12h19, 20 July 2009), and grows by about 3-5K records in most years. Since 1996 locations have been mostly based on the GPS (see Schueler, Frederick W. 2000. "Navigating as Naturalists with the Global Positioning System" Trail and Landscape 34(1):35-40.).
We employed these methods (geo-referencing with maps, before we had GPS)
in our exploration of the Lake Ontario Waterfront (Karstad, Schueler, & LeeAnn Locker. 1995. "A place to walk: A naturalist's journal of theLake Ontario Waterfront Trail" Natural Heritage/Natural History,Toronto. 159 pp.), where Aleta's text from her illustrated pages was entered in the database with Fred & Lee Ann Locker's field notes, and the text was edited down from the narrative output of these combined writings.
Now, as data entry for each year is completed, we bind
narrative output as archival quality volumes. Copies of the database
are deposited in interested public institutions (currently the Ontario
Natural Heritage Information Centre, Canadian Museum of Nature, and New
In 2004 we introduced theNatureJournal a system of
equipment, pages, and instruction intended for the use and training of
record-keeping naturalists of all ages and levels of experience, derived
from our system of field note-keeping, and informed by our experience of describing a wide range of natural phenomena since 1969.
Historically, our formats for field notes have been:
1969-1984: illustrated narrative in pre-bound volumes (AKS)
1969-1972: Grinnell-style field notes, specimen catalogue & journal
1973-1984: Specimen catalogue and 8.5ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â11 inch journal pages & NMNS
herpetology & ichthyology datasheets (FWS)
1985-present: illustrated narrative on watercolour paper looseleaf (AKS)
1985-1989: Specimen catalogue and 8.5ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â11 inch journal pages & NMNS
datasheets, with contemporary text entry of non-specimen observations
and narrative (FWS).
1990: Specimen catalogue and 8.5ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â11 inch datasheets in a variety of
formats, contemporary entry of herpetological observations into database
1999-present: 'day-planner' database records entered on handheld
1991-present: 5.5ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â8.5 inch journal pages & datasheets derived from
NMNS format, with ongoing entry into database (FWS).
2004-present: use of theNatureJournal pages.