Nature Journaling

Nature journaling is the process of recording observations made from the field. It is a way for naturalists to document firsthand experiences and formulate thoughts in an effort to strengthen relationships with the natural world. 

“Careful observation is the best skill upon which all aspects of studying Natural History depend. One of the main purposes of keeping journals is to improve this valuable skill. Another major purpose of the journal is to record observations in a permanent form. As clear as a thought may be at the moment of experiencing it, later it’s often hard to extract that particular piece of knowledge from the marvelous clutter of information which the human brain is capable of storing. Therefore, a journal is a valuable tool not only to the person who wishes to continue in Natural History as a field, but also to a person who simply wishes to remember a beautiful hike or certain spider web pattern… your journal should be special to you because it contains your own observations and thoughts… It can be as boring or as exciting as you make it.” - Fred McPherson

Whether you identify as a naturalist or not, nature journaling can be beneficial. It empowers you to create a more meaningful outdoor experience. Studying plants, animals, ecosystems, and environmental conditions allows you to notice things you might not have noticed in the past. It enables you to formulate your thoughts while taking notes, drawing pictures, asking questions, and identifying specimens. It allows you to strengthen your skills in scientific observation and data collection. Comparison of your present discoveries to those of the past can reveal changes over time; it can also assist with creating more accurate predictions about the future.

Starting a nature journal can be easy. All you need is a piece of paper or a small journal and a pen or pencil. It can be done in any location and is a great way to connect with the local environment and your community. Whether you are in your backyard, at a park, or deep in the redwood forest you can write down what you see and learn through yourself and nature. 

When it comes to nature journaling, there are no rules; you get to decide what you would like to write down and how you would like to do it. The purpose is to increase your awareness of your surroundings. Slowing down and paying attention to detail allows you to acknowledge the beauty of the environment around you and leads to a larger appreciation for the natural world. Channel your creativity and let yourself wonder; nature is filled with endless possibilities and things for you to discover. You choose what kind of role you want to play as a naturalist.

Be sure to check out other nature journaling resources, like Fred McPherson's section on nature journaling, and the resources by John Muir Laws