A snapshot of Nate Trachte's Grinnell Field Journal

The Field Journal of a Naturalist: Grinnell Journaling in the North Cascades

This Naturalist Note is written by graduate student Nate Trachte, as part of his fall natural history project. You can view other students' work here.

When in the midst of a long-term project it is all too easy to lose sight of the purpose, or downplay the importance of the seemingly ordinary tasks at hand. Many times while keeping my naturalist field journal, I felt as though what I was doing was trivial. Then something would pique my interest and the words of wiser people than myself would pop into my mind. What does it mean to maintain a field journal? Why bother?

Although he never lost sight of the potential magnitude of his work, Joseph Grinnell — the “father of field notes”  — would not be recognized until much time has passed. The brilliance of his 3005 page, 30-year-plus, documentation of California’s flora and fauna in the early 1900’s is now finally being valued. Grinnell, however, knew the potential value of his naturalist party’s work all along. In 1908 he noted,

Our field-records will be perhaps the most valuable of all our results. …any and all (as many as you have time to record) items are liable to be just what will provide the information wanted. You can’t tell in advance which observations will prove valuable. Do record them all!”

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