Nature Journals…Capturing Lasting Memories

Think back and reflect on hiking your favorite nature trail. Do you remember what you brought with you? Perhaps you packed a lunch, a pair of binoculars or a camera. You may have been wearing a sun hat or a compass around your neck. Your friends or family may have been strolling the beaten path at your side. Do you remember what you saw? You might have gazed up at towering redwoods, discovered spores lining the underside of fern leaves, turned over a rock to find a family of beetles or analyzed animal tracks in the dirt. It may be difficult to recall everything you encountered, your observations or questions that arose in a moment of discovery. Next time you embark on a nature adventure, consider bringing a field journal with you.

Nature journaling is an ideal method of engaging with organisms and interpreting patterns and systems that occur in our natural world. Taking the time to document sightings, interpretations, feelings and connections outdoors can lead to even greater discoveries down the road. These discoveries may serve as pieces to a big-picture understanding of a specific ecosystem, or they may influence the way you perceive human nature and how people interact with flora and fauna. 

The most commonly used nature journaling format is the Grinnell System named after Joseph Grinnell, a popular field biologist of the late 1800s and early 1900s. It is a two-part system involving a live field notebook where observations are jotted down as they occur, along with a more formal journal entry that narrates the experience in great detail. The ideal entry should include time, date, location, weather, map of the area or route taken, species list, sketches and reflections.

Here is an excerpt from the nature journal I took with me during a natural history field program. It takes place in Mendocino County last spring:




























































Happy hiking and happy journaling to you!