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Earth Notes: Nature Journaling

A page from a nature journal
Fran Manos
A page from a nature journal

For centuries scientists have kept field logs with sketches and notes about their observations of nature. It’s an age-old technique that has grown into a new movement called Nature Journaling, which encourages ordinary people to make deep connections to the world around them.

Dozens of Nature Journal Clubs with thousands of members have sprung up around the globe, including a new one in Flagstaff hosted by the Museum of Northern Arizona. There’s no need to be a scientist, artist, or professional writer to join. Participants simply sketch the animal and plant life they see, or make notes about the weather and changing seasons. Nature journals can also include data or diagrams, such as illustrations of the rising and falling notes of birdsong.

The journals are scientific documents but also artistic ones. Gardeners sometimes use them to track planting and harvesting their crops. Or the journals can be used to document community science projects, such as the long-running effort to track the migration of monarch butterflies.

But the overall goal is to help people hone their observation skills and engage in protecting local ecosystems. Nature Journaling is also good for mental and physical health, since both journaling and time spend in the outdoors have proven benefits. The clubs are family-friendly ways to get to know neighbors and learn from one another. Anyone can join a Nature Journal Club, or start their own group. All that is required is enthusiasm for the endless wonders of the natural world.

More about Nature Journal Clubs here, or email Liz Blaker for details on the Museum of Northern Arizona’s club.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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