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Ventures into the Wilderness

Field Notes Reflection Memo April 30, 2013

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Field Notes Reflection Memo

            Writing my field notes reflection was considerably difficult for me, primarily because I did not really know where to begin.  This was, surprisingly, worsened by reading Betsy Mason’s article, because it made me realize that my field notes have incredible shortcomings.  I managed to begin this reflection as a free write after reviewing my notes and finding a few significant statements from the article.  It was especially surprising to find that my field notes were so lacking, as I am a biology major and consider myself to be a very scientific thinker.  But my field notes were extremely brief compared to the field notes sampled in Mason’s article.  I describe specimens in the briefest of detail and in a rather hurried manner and illustrations are completely absent. 

            As strange as it may sound I was the audience for this reflection.  I used this reflection as a means of organizing my thoughts on what my field notes were missing and to point out how they need to be improved.  This reflection works well as writing for me to consult whenever I am writing field notes and looking to advance them over my older sets of notes.  However, this pit of writing could be directed at anyone who is new to writing field notes.  Hopefully discovering my mistakes will help the audience to avoid these mistakes in their own notes.

            By writing this reflection, I concluded that I enjoy writing field notes, but I need a considerable amount of practice to bring them to the level of thought and detail as the notes sampled in Mason’s article.  Field notes, especially individual subjects stated in those notes, require a much more detailed analysis.  Most importantly, I need to incorporate illustrations rather than relying solely on written word.  My memory is not nearly as good as I think it is:  illustrations are the best way to remember the important details of a particular subject.  While I would not do anything to change this reflection, I would enjoy writing a more recent version several years down the road, when my skills at taking field notes have improved considerably, to find if I have worked through old mistakes and discover if I am making any new ones.

 

Wilderness Manifesto- Portfolio Final Draft W/ Memo

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Memo

            This final manifesto was an interesting paper to synthesize, essentially because I had to build a paper out of a deep pool of thoughts and opinions, many of them intangible ideals, into a sensible paper.  Outside sources were very important of finding a sense of direction for this manifesto. I struggled on knowing what direction to take before I began to assemble my outside sources.  From the information provided in these sources, I formed a general outline for the direction I wanted to take:  a paper that would combine the economic significance of the environment with the need to return to it. 

            The greatest challenge was thinking of a method of making a particular ideal (eco-consciousness) accessible and interesting to general readers, not just those who are already environmental thinkers.  As money is a concern for almost every citizen in their daily lives, I opted to have a lot of focus on the economic importance of biodiversity.  Looking back on my daybook, I find it rather odd that this became a central component of my paper.  My daybook is almost completely devoid of thoughts on economics, yet at least 50% of my paper describes the potential economic losses of biodiversity loss.

            In fact, I greatly dislike the amount of economic perspective included in this manifesto.  It makes it appear that I value wilderness for financial benefits over its other values.  But in my opinion, economic value is the least important factor of nature.  Nature is far more important as a method of finding spirituality, a healthy consciousness, and reconnecting with your primitive being.  I really only manage to hint at these ideals throughout the paper, with my concluding paragraph being the only section that actually describes my deepest ideals for returning to nature.  I focused on the economic perspective of nature only because I know that it is the best method for reaching the general public.  In a society where almost every activity- political, educational, recreational, or otherwise- is centered around the cycle of money, the only way to get to people is by threatening their wallets.  This paper, much to my resentment, makes it appear that we should return to nature only for its economic values. 

            If I were to rewrite this manifesto, it would likely still include the economic components of biodiversity conservation.  But these values would be a minimal component of a paper that is far more focused on the less palpable wilderness ideals.  It would stress much more on the psychological, spiritual, and emotional healing that I have found in nature and believe others could also find.  I would also include a section on how to be more eco-conscious, so that readers could immediately implement those lifestyles changes. 

            As for an audience response, I am terrified that readers will point out what I have already realized:  that this paper makes it seem like I think nature is only important because we will lose money with the destruction of biodiversity.  My hope is that readers will be frightened enough by the economic dangers that they will become eco-conscious, discovering nature’s far more important values along the way.

Eco-Consciousness in Biodiversity Conservation

                Humans, as much as we struggle to deny it, are animals.  We evolved on the same foundation as every organism around us:  the need to survive.  Generations ago, our ancestors lived off of the land to meet these needs, but without demanding too much of its valuable and limited resources.  Today, we have lost grasp of the finite nature of our world and have no concept of the destruction we have wrought upon its fragile biosphere.  As we continue to fall deeper into our addiction to technology, environmental awareness recedes and the human population demands far more resources than can be sustained.  Only by returning to nature can we regain consciousness of the environment’s significance and how to use it in a careful, thoughtful way. 

            The mass majority of humankind fails to appreciate the importance of a healthy and biologically diverse biosphere to our persistence as a species.  As stated in World at Risk, “richness and variety of life are perhaps Earth’s greatest wonder and one of its most important resources because human survival completely depends on the effective functioning of global biological systems” (Allman).  Health ecosystems provide “essential attributes such as food, fuel, water, fiber, medicine, recycling of nutrients, purification of air and water, and pollination of crops” (Bernstein).   Human activities, however, are currently wreaking havoc on biodiversity, posing dramatic economic and possibly catastrophic risks to human survival.  From World at Risk:  “Habitat destruction is the primary driver of biodiversity decline in almost every area of the world, with overexploitation, introduction of alien species, and pollution also contributing,” all results of human activity (Allman).  Humans have singlehandedly instigated another mass extinction of Earth’s species.  “As many as 2 million species of plants and animals will be exterminated worldwide by the middle of the next century” putting “the natural ecosystems on which humans depend” in danger of collapse (Pimental 747).  Yet, “our educational and economic system is headed away from, rather than toward, an intense consciousness of the land” (Leopold).  Conservation education is minimal, a topic only briefly mentioned in high school biology courses, and diluted by misleading political debate.  We continue to consume in excess, oblivious of the source or content of our products, and debate temporary issues that distract from the real problems at hand.  To stress the importance in becoming more conscious of our interactions with the environment, I will first explain the value of biodiversity from a more economic perspective.

            Agriculture is an exclusively human behavior, often representative of our ability to tame and manipulate the landscape to our needs.  However, successful agriculture is just as in need of biodiversity as any ecosystem.  Quality crop production is reliant upon “diverse soil biota” and the presence of nitrogen fixing plants (Pimental 748-749).  But irresponsible farming methods, such as planting the same crop every year and not rotating fields, exhaust the soil to the point where it is not usable for crop production and takes years to recover.  Declines in biodiversity also increase the risk of crop damages due to pests.  “Worldwide, pests reduce the yields of major crops by approximately 42% each year, despite the application of an estimated 2.5 x 106 t/yr of pesticides as a cost of $26 billion” (Pimental 751).  As pesticides are largely ineffective at pest control, pests cause losses of an estimate $244 billion per year in crop damage (Pimental 751).  In stark contrast, “approximately 99% of pests are controlled by natural enemy species and host plant resistance” when these pests occur in their natural habitat (Pimental 751).  If the natural enemies of pests were to vanish, “70% of crops could be lost to pests…increasing the cost of losses to approximately $400 billion per year” (Pimental 751).  As previously stated, extinction rates are at phenomenally high levels, making the disappearance of natural predators a concern for the agricultural economy as pests are less restricted in their natural regions.  Human travel has dramatically increased the rate of foreign species introduction into new areas.  These alien species have no natural predators in their new habitat and the plants they feed upon are not evolved to contend with foreign pests.  These pests can wreak havoc upon crops and local wildlife populations.  The brown snake, as an example, is an invasive species from Australia who made its way by plane to islands such as Hawaii and Guam and is destroying native bird populations.  The kudzu bug, an Asian migrant, has made its way into the United States and consumes soy beans, a major cash crop, with little competition. These are but a few examples of alien species which can make their way to new habitats through human carelessness.  Pollinators are affected by “habitat fragmentation and loss…causing precipitous declines in wild pollinators, thereby threatening their beneficial activities in both natural and agricultural systems” (Pimental 753).  The immense amount of food required to maintain the human population depends upon the balanced functioning of predator-prey dynamics in the surrounding ecosystem.  Loss of species and foreign species incursions upset these interactions and put both wild and agricultural systems at risk.

            Much like agriculture, medicine seems to be a very human invention.  In the modern age where synthetics dominate the marketplace, we often forget that most of our modern medicine is based from plants and animals.  In an study of the top 150 prescription drugs in the United States, “74% are based on plants, 18% on fungi, 5% on bacteria and 3% on vertebrates…more than 80% of the world’s population relies upon traditional plant medicine for primary health care” (Dobson).  Worldwide, plant-based drugs are worth an estimate $84 billion per year (Pimental 754).  With “one out of every 125 plant species studied” involved in the production of a key drug, it is crucial to preserve biodiversity for the sake of protecting undiscovered species which may have immense medicinal value (Dobson).  As stated by Bernstein, “ecosystem disruption can be expected to impede progress in medicine and biomedical research through the loss of countless unidentified species.”  With the current estimated extinction rate, “we lose three to four potentially valuable new drugs every year, at a total cost of around $600 million” (Dobson).  To worsen these concerns “humans are not only creating a less healthy environment, but are consequently being exposed to a variety of new pathogens” (Dobson).  Increasingly crowded human populations and pollutant exposure weakens immune systems, allowing rapidly breeding, quickly mutating pathogens to persist.  Habitat destruction allows certain pathogens to become more abundant, as seen with Lyme disease.  The white-footed mouse is the most common carrier of Lyme disease and a popular host for ticks.  Typically, white-footed mice occur in forested areas where their predators, which do not carry Lyme disease, are prevalent and keep the mouse population under control.  But unlike foxes, owls, or other animals that serve as hosts to ticks, mice do very well in fragmented habitats.  Therefore, the mice can occur in abundance with little regulation, dramatically increasing the presence of Lyme disease in the local tick population.  Humans who encounter these ticks are far more likely to contract Lyme disease than from ticks in a biologically diverse habitat.  Despite the fact that the majority of medicines are plant-based, it may be argued that preserving species is not important due to the success of synthetic medicines.  Modern synthetic drugs, while effective initially, are usually made by varying a pre-existing drug.  This means that the drug is still ineffective against pathogens which have evolved to be more resistant to the drug, when a pathogen may not be able to combat a drug derived from a new natural compound.  In addition, successful synthetic drugs are discovered very slowly, with the “potential for finding major new drugs is in the order of one in 10000 for each compound tested” (Dobson).  We cannot rely on synthetic medicines to eliminate diseases that pose a threat to humans.  With thousands of undiscovered plant and animal species, not yet studied for their medicinal benefits, it is crucial to preserve biodiversity to prevent the extinction of these species.

            Agriculture and medicine are just two examples of the systems that are a risk of collapse from biodiversity loss.  Decomposing organisms are far more effective at breaking down the billions of tons of organic waste produced by human activities than mechanical methods.  Trees are key in the reduction of carbon in the atmosphere, controlling compounds which contribute to climate change (Pimental 754).  Combining all of the economic and environmental resources from biodiversity, “the benefits are estimated to be $2928 billion per year” (Pimental 754).  When the value of biodiversity is put into this financial perspective, I would expect that governments across the world would take biodiversity conservation far more seriously.  If there is anything effective at bringing action, it is the threat of losing large sums of money.  Yet the extinction rate continues to accelerate and forests continue to be broken up and reduced.  We are faced with an ever-more pressing debate:  how to make people respect the environment’s resources like our ancestors did. 

            The answer to this debate is simple:  we must make a return to nature.  Instinctively, we are still ancient hunter-gatherers surviving off hard-earned resources.  As stated in “Evolutionary Psychology and Consumption,” “humans are biological creatures, primates that evolved over many millennia whose adaptations were shaped and selected by environments long past” (Hantula).  Our obsessive need to consume is a manifestation of the still-thriving survival instinct.  We stockpile food in case of a hard winter; we dress up and shower ourselves in fragrance to attract mates.  But our consciousness denies that we are a part of nature.  Certainly, mankind is incredibly adept at changing nature to meet our needs.  This has led for some to claim that humans should separate from nature in order to preserve it, that “human presence in an area automatically destroys its true wilderness designation” (Mosden).  Mosden sums up my belief on this issue very well:  “rather than setting the entire globe aside as a wildlife refuge, wouldn’t it make more sense for humans to decrease their impact (considerably) so that they are able to live alongside the rest of the biosphere, just as all other species do?”  As Leopold states, we must relearn to view the biosphere’s resources not as mere goods to be consumed, but as “a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants, and animals.”  Humans are inescapably linked to this flow of energy.  At present, however, we are demanding too much of this energy cycle rather than functioning with it.  We must “regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature,” instead of as a part of an unsustainable society fighting to break from nature (Thoreau).  From the article “Can Ecopsychology Save the Wilderness Debate?”:

           

“We are a product of nature and we cannot, and should not, deny that relationship; it has proven itself harmful to try to do so…Humans evolved with and from the natural world, and by taking humans out of the concept of wilderness, we are taking humans out of their rightful place in evolution” (Mosden).

 

            Separating from nature will do nothing to encourage biodiversity conservation.  Our present ecological crisis is already a factor of apathy toward the natural world.  We should increase our involvement in nature because “we can be ethical only in relation to something we can see, feel, understand, love, or otherwise have faith in” (Leopold).  This does not necessarily mean that we should abandon our modern developments and go gallivanting off into the woods to scratch a living off of the rocks.  Rather, I am advocating a new mentality of eco-consciousness.  It is time for us to stop going through our daily activities blind to the impacts our actions have.  We must stop listening to politicians who deflect facts about the environmental crisis in their efforts to gain political power or corporations who mislabel their products and try to hide the destructive chemicals they feed into our bodies and biosphere.  It should be accepted as in indisputable fact “that man-made changes are of a different order than evolutionary changes, and have effects more comprehensive than is intended or foreseen” (Leopold).  Our ancestors once honored natural systems because they understood how crucial those resources were to their survival.  Living in a state of eco-consciousness, or an awareness of their impact on the land, their day-to-day functions used the land in such a way that the ecosystem could support and left no permanent impacts.  Eco-consciousness “means the deep reflection and respect (which) must accompany each act of use, and means too that we must always consider the possibility of non-use” (Mosden).  It means to accept the demand our daily lives exert upon the land and that the land cannot support excessive consumption indefinitely; we must reduce our consumption if we want to preserve natural resources for future generations.  Eco-consciousness, however, is something that most people cannot simply embrace one day, as most people struggle to change their current mentalities and routines.  Exploring nature, home to our instinctual self, is the only means to reach eco-consciousness.

            My argument for returning to nature is based upon my own personal experiences with pursuing a more environmentally aware lifestyle.  I have always been a person who enjoys nature, hiking and kayaking with my father at a very early age.  But until approximately a year ago, I fell out of exploring nature.  I spent very little time in the outdoors, preferring to dedicate my time to the modern distractions of the television and internet.  This made it incredibly easy to ignore the present concerns of the natural world.  While volunteering at a zoo, I was frequently involved in the discussion about biodiversity and climate change- but these things remained distant.  On an odd adventurous day, I made my way to Raven Rock State Park.  This long-awaited return into the outdoors revitalized my love for the environment.  The separation from the stressful, often superficial, hustles of the modern world reawakened a sense of belonging:  a reminder that I came from nature, just like every organism around me.  With a sense of belonging comes a sense of value for nature’s limited offerings.  I am increasingly aware of where the products I use originate from and what affect they have on the environment.  I try to throw fewer things away, repurpose what does not necessarily need to be disposed of, and work to consume less overall.  I believe that it takes natural experiences for others to have a similar change in their mentality.  The mass majority of people today rarely spend much time outside; they are trapped by the “comforts” of the indoors, surrounded in a supply of goods which never seems to end.  But if we do not change the way we use Earth’s resources, our endless consumption will come to a harsh and shocking halt.  If we allow ourselves to lose our ancestral roots as wild creatures in the natural world, we will eventually lose the resources which our survival depends upon.


 

Works Cited

Allman, Tim.  World at Risk.  2nd ed.  Washington:  CQ Press, 2010.  16 April 2013.

Bernstein, Aaron.  “The Importance of Biodiversity to Medicine.”  The Journal of the American    Medical Association.  300.19 (2008):  2297-2299. April 2013.

Cronon, William. “The Trouble with Wilderness.” Williamcronon.net.  April 2013.

Dobson, Andy.  “Biodiversity and Human Health.”  Trends in Ecology and Evolution.  10.            (Oct. 1995): 390-391.  April 2013.

Hantula, David A.  “Evolutionary psychology and consumption.” Psychology & Marketing.  20.9 (Sep. 2003): 757.  April 2013.

Leopold, Aldo.  “The Land Ethic”.  A Sand County Almanac. 1948. April 2013.

Leopold, Aldo.  Thinking Like a Mountain.   A Sand County Almanac.  1949.  April 2013.

Mosden, Kari.  “Can Ecopsychology Save the Wilderness Debate?”  Ecopsychology.org.  April     2013.

Pimentel, David.  “Economic and Environmental Benefits of Biodiversity.”  Bioscience.  47.11     (Dec.,1997):  747-757.  April 2013.

Thoreau, Henry David.  Walking.  1862.  April 2013.

 

River Park North- Portfolio Edit w/ Memo April 29, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — lockleart @ 9:55 pm
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            I must preface this reflection on my River Park North piece with a very honest confession:  This is one of my favorite pieces that I have ever written.  As someone who struggles to be confident about sharing my writing with others, and therefore being proud of it, it means a lot when I complete a piece that I really want others to see.  I am typically the type who keeps my writing very private, especially anything that is written with a strong amount of creativity or personal opinion.  I am my greatest critic, after all. 

            What I like most about this piece is the fact that it was written without much planning.  I find that when I plan out a paper ahead of time, it will usually end up as a well-structured paper with little heart.  A lot of outlining and structure has a way of destroying my brain-to-words writing processes.  While the amount of time spent planning this piece was minimal, it was also incredibly easy for me to write.  This paper is really an edited free write, supported with a small amount of outside evidence just to justify an existing opinion.  It allowed me to be very opinionated and emotional about a subject that means a lot to me:  false, uneducated mindsets about a particular place or thing.  While my appreciation of swamps is a relatively new idea, established by my visit to River Park North, I have always been frustrated by media portrayal of important parts of nature.  Reptiles, just as an example I am very familiar with, are almost always displayed as scary/slimy/evil etcetera, and people fear them for the absolute stupidest of reasons.  It horrifies me to hear someone say things like “the only good snake is a dead snake,” as they have absolutely no idea how valuable and non-dangerous these animals are.  Swamps are in a similar boat:  people know nothing about them, so they chose to fear and eliminate them instead.

            Looking to combat this foolish fear, I wanted to project this paper to every possible audience.  I wanted to address experiences that almost everyone has had- visiting some scenic tourist spot or seeing it on a post card, experiencing a film or book that showed swamps in a negative light.  More importantly, I wanted to address those that would deflect every other argument in my paper, those who would not be impressed by the argument for beauty or species conservation:  by mentioning money.  In our modern society, I think that money is the only way to get through the thick skulls of some people.  If they cannot be impressed by beauty, then at the very least they can be concerned about their wallets.

            As for improvements, I have few.  I would be terrified to change much in this writing for fear of hurting its effectiveness.  To add any more research would make it too much like a scientific work; to lengthen it would make it seem more like a long-winded tangent and make it less accessible to potential readers.   

            My hope for this paper is that I find the courage to publish it, and that it is well-received.  I want it to convince others to try similar experiences and get out there!  I want people to read things like this and realize that it is time to be more educated and change the way they approach nature.

Redefining the Swamp

            What does the word “swamp” conjure for you?  Does it bring forth dragging through mud as black and thick as molasses, a maze of sagging trees with no creature in sight or sound, save for ragged crows taunting you from above?  The world of fictional media tends to depict swamps in this manner: as places of rot to be feared.  Atreyu, protagonist of “The Neverending Story,” lost his beloved white horse in a swamp and nearly gave up on his quest.  Frodo and Sam had to cross a dismal, body-filled swampland in The Lord of the Rings.  Both swamps are portrayed as eerie and confusing, and easily comprise one of the most challenging parts of the heroes’ journeys.  These are but a few popular modern examples of how our media perpetuates distaste for wetlands, but a dislike for swamps has grown over the decades.  From their function as hideouts for fugitives in days past, to Native American myths about creatures dwelling in the fog, swamps have been given a negative image throughout the decades.  Driven by these foolish cautions, few take the time to appreciate or understand the peaceful ecological wonderland that is a wetland.  I was struck by a calming hour in Greenville’s little known section of nature, River Park North, in the chill of January.  River Park North is essentially Greenville’s only example of conserved wild space, surrounded in a chaotic urban sprawl.  This was my first visit to the park, where a simple class assignment turned into a new sense of purpose for the preservation of swampland.

             Swamps are invaluable shelters for multiple species, including endangered plants and animals that cannot be found in any other habitat. As they are reservoirs of nutrients through runoff, wetlands function as key living areas and breeding grounds for virtually every type of animal imaginable:  fish, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates. As I sat in a secluded place by the waterside, River Park North offered just a tiny sample of its rich species variety.  A single duck made its way lazily across a pond surface, undisturbed by my watching.  Birds, from flocks of tiny sparrows to a cinnamon colored wren, rustled about in the undergrowth.   Curious creatures I could not recognize called from the trees.  A male cardinal, such a vibrant shade of red that I could hardly believe he was a living thing, put himself on display for me for many minutes.  He cheerfully danced about on a dry branch, almost as if he knew I was observing his little show and he wanted to make sure I noticed what a handsome cardinal he was.  Tiny bright green sprigs of new growth burst from a branch nearby.  A collection of mushrooms colored like lightly burnt marshmallows grew on the surface of a fallen log, already breaking through the long season of cold.  The trees, casting long shadows on the reflective surface of the water from which they grew, created an image that was far from dark or eerie.  Instead I was met with a sense of beautiful mysticism, wondering what other fantastic creatures flourished above or below the water.  I relished the opportunity to escape into a more natural setting, after long weeks largely spent on East Carolina University’s busy campus.  With nature freely continuing about its activities and allowing me to quietly observe, I found the swamp to be quite beautiful.  Around every corner, a new small piece of life presented its calming, but subtle, magnificence.

            This hardly matched the image of swamps sensationalized by novels and films; River Park North was bursting with life even on a chilly winter day.  This is not to say that I expected to go into a dark, dingy swamp like something out of a fantasy novel, but this was the first time I took the time to truly appreciate what the swamp had to offer.  The beauty of a swamp is not conventional to the modern perception of natural beauty.  When we are asked what we think “beautiful” nature looks like, most probably envision cloud-topped mountain ranges or green forests, aesthetic tourist destinations like the Grand Canyon and other hot spots.  A swamp is not the kind of splendor that comes on a postcard or as a pre-programmed wallpaper on a new computer.  It does not feature dramatic, terrifying cliff-faces or humungous mountain ranges, but it does not need these things to be just as beautiful.  River Park North proved, with its constant humble examples of life and wonder, that a swamp is just as deserving as any other natural space to be admired and preserved.

            Yet, my enjoyment was repeatedly faltered by the obvious presence of modern society in the park.  The calls of the birds overhead were constantly met with the sounds of construction equipment.  Car horns sounded in the distance, blurring my thoughts of the outdoors with images of red lights and bustling traffic.  The park’s other visitors spoke in loud, distracting tones, and their voices were audible no matter how far away from them I tried to get.  My view was spotted with the smooth tops of tree stumps, cut by human hand, and I could see the nature center and parking lot not far off.  Many of the trees were thin and young, suggesting that they were regrowth in a previously cleared area.  The fact that the wild growth itself had already been adjusted and tamed by humans was discouraging to my hopes of finding a preserved natural space.  Even upon moving deeper into the woods, the city sounds of Greenville were impossible to avoid.  The constant assault of mankind’s noise made it impossible to truly escape into the nature experience.  Power lines crisscrossed over the tree tops, awkwardly stuck throughout the park.  But the most disenchanting thing was the sight of litter floating in the ponds or lying in leaf beds.  It was a blatant expression of disregard for the values of the swamp, and it disgusted me to know that visitors to the park could be so careless with their waste.  This was a sound reminder of humanity’s invasive presence in the natural world.  But unlike the tropical rainforests or other stereotypically picturesque habitats, campaigns for the preservation of wetlands are virtually nonexistent.  We are bombarded with phrases like “Save the Rainforests,” “protect the cute fluffy panda,” etcetera.  And while these habitats and animals are equally as important to protect, their marketability as cute and/or majestic allows them to overshadow concern for wetlands and other undervalued areas. 

            Out of the world’s habitats, swamps have seen some of the greatest destruction, especially in the United States.  According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, in the five-year span of 2004 to 2009, over 60,000 acres of wetlands were drained and paved over in the United States alone.1  This is simply an estimate for a brief span of time, and less than half of the total wetlands to be found in the states exist today.2  Even though it is clear that swamps are an invaluable resource to wildlife, swamps continue to disappear due to human development.  Those that remain protected are damaged shells of their former health and vigor, choked by amassing amounts of pollutants or stripped bare by grazing domestic animals.3 Fragmentation prevents endangered species like the Tar River spinymussel, a rare freshwater mussel occurring only in the Tar and Neuse Rivers, from finding new mates.4 The nation’s beloved Bald Eagle, the symbol of our country, is commonly found in marshland habitats and also greatly suffers from the loss of these areas.  Many waterfowl, from ducks to herons, are reliant upon the rich food supplies of wetlands as well.5 In the case of the mussel, it is already regarded that surviving populations no longer have the population size or genetic viability to persist.6 It is doomed to extinction, with little effort to conserve the areas it inhabits.  This is not the only wetland species at such a desperate point of continuation; it is one of countless in crises.  As wetland destruction continues, the list of endangered and extinct swamp-dwelling species will only continue to grow.

            For those that question why the preservation of a little invertebrate or any other wetland species is relevant, wetlands offer a direct benefit to human civilizations.  Flood damages continue to rise as swamps, originally sponges to hold excess water and river overflow, are developed.7 The severe flooding in New Orleans caused by Hurricane Katrina was a direct result of wetland loss.  Wetlands that were once naturally designed to absorb floodwaters had long been converted to concrete and neighborhoods.8 Flood control is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the services wetlands provide. They are natural filters of water pollution, as a 2,500 acre wetland alone can filter an estimate $1 million in pollutant removal per year.9 Wetlands limit river currents to reduce erosion rates and support a bulk of the $2 billion fishery and shellfish industry.10 Without wetlands, we put ourselves at a much higher risk to the parts of nature that we cannot cut down and mow over, threatening severe damage to our economic processes.

            Even as the concerns of species conservation and direct wetland benefits to humans come to light, swamps are still regarded as the primary sections of land for development.  A simple Google search brings up a tutorial on how to drain a swamp yourself, with no comment on the damages this can cause.  Environmental conservation is growing in the media spotlight, but still focuses on the photo-friendly spaces and species.  We still operate under the assumption that swamps are merely scary insect breeding grounds that are of no value. 

            I cannot imagine the span that the swamp in River Park North once covered or the number of species that it supported.  But now it is a miniscule fragment, scarred by mankind’s garbage.  Waterfowl swim alongside plastic bottles and brightly colored artificial trash sticks out from the dirt.  I am certain that the water itself is probably already congested with the poisons of the city’s runoff.  The audible pollution in itself was hardly bearable; to hear traffic overshadowing the peaceful conversations of the birds marred what was otherwise a fantastic experience.  It still unobtrusively functions to Greenville’s benefit, filling up with floodwater heavy rains and giving the city’s residents a place to separate from urban life.

            My visit to River Park North was a pleasant natural rest from the urban sprawl of Greenville.  I walked into the park uncertain of what to expect; I could not possibly envision what sort of wild area could be crammed between the buildings of the Greenville cityscape.  What I found was an opportunity to change my perspective on the underappreciated swamp.  The small section of protected wetland openly presented its quiet bounty.  However, it was also a saddening reminder of the status of swamps across the United States.  The evidence of human influence was far too prevalent to ignore, taking shape in abandoned garbage and constant noise pollution.  Damaged and reduced by human development, River Park North was just a small example of the destruction that has been wrought upon the world’s wetlands.  Despite its flawed state, I would encourage others to visit the park at least once, especially those hungry for the outdoors trapped in Greenville’s busy streets.  If more people were to make such a visit, it could cast light on the misunderstood position of wetlands in the United States.  I hope it could bring others to an experience like mine, giving the swamp an opportunity to teach them how important it truly is.  If we do not begin to make changes in the way we treat wetlands, the effects will continue to manifest themselves.  Wetlands are essential for the survival of many species (some which carry special cultural value) and freely offer billion-dollar services such as flood prevention and reduction of pollution.  We must rethink the way we consider a natural place’s value; do we only protect what our society views as beautiful?  Our carelessness in ridding the landscape of such a crucial resource is already making its punishments known, and they will only continue to worsen if we do not change how we treat wetlands.

1 “Wetlands – Status and Trends.” Water.epa.gov. United States Environmental Protection Agency, n.d. 2013.

“Wetlands-Status and Trends.”

3 “Wetlands- Status and Trends.”

4  “Tar River Spinymussel.” Fws.gov. United States Fish and Wildlife Service, n.d.  2013.

“Values of Wetlands.” Water.ncsu.edu. NCSU Water Quality Group, n.d. Web. 2013.

“Tar River Spinymussel.”

7 “Values of Wetlands.”

8 Smith, Stephanie A. “Why New Orleans Flooded and Why It Will Happen Again.”  Voice.yahoo.com. Yahoo! Contributor Network, 6 Sept. 2007.  2013.

9 “Values of Wetlands.”

10 “Values of Wetlands.”

Works Cited

Smith, Stephanie A. “Why New Orleans Flooded and Why It Will Happen Again.” Voice.yahoo.com. Yahoo! Contributor Network, 6 Sept. 2007.  2013.

“Tar River Spinymussel.” Fws.gov. United States Fish and Wildlife Service, n.d.  2013.

“Values of Wetlands.” Water.ncsu.edu. NCSU Water Quality Group, n.d. Web. 2013.

“Wetlands – Status and Trends.” Water.epa.gov. United States Environmental Protection Agency, n.d. 2013.

 

Earth Day Reflection April 25, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — lockleart @ 5:25 pm

I tried to spend the weekend building up to Earth Day embracing the outdoors as much as possible.  The majority of my free time was spent in two places:  in a kayak at NRC or in my hammock.  I had an especially great time watching my friends trying to master the art of slacklining and figuring out to get into my hammock when its almost above my head (needless to say, I felt like I was going to break my face).  I think it is important for people to pursue outdoor activities like these as much as possible, not only on Earth Day.  Breaking away from technology, in my opinion, is one of the best ways to become more aware of the natural world.  While technology is a great resource to find new ways to be more environmentally friendly (I am constantly searching for less polluting alternatives to my daily products), it also distracts from enjoying the outdoors.  As stated in my manifesto, the only way to appreciate the values of nature is to experience it. 

I’ve found that, in the past few years I have experienced Earth Day, a question has become increasingly prevalent in my mind:  Why isn’t every day Earth Day?  Why does it take a holiday to make large numbers of people suddenly find protecting the Earth to be relevant, and why does it only last for a single day?  Don’t mistake this as a dislike of Earth Day- I love the idea of a special day to celebrate the magnificent Earth we live upon.  But I’m beginning to feel that Earth Day isn’t so much about spreading the need to protect the Earth as it is a means of people relieving some pent-up eco guilt.  “Well, yes, I still follow the same consumer habits I always have, I clean everything with 50 gallons bleach and whatnot, but I recycled on Earth Day so I’m okay.”  We should be waking up every day with the preservation of Earth’s fragile systems in mind.  “Earth Day” doesn’t spontaneously reverse the generations of over exploitation and devastation humans have inflicted on the biosphere; it doesn’t excuse us from our irresponsible and destructive behavior.  It’s like saying a serial killer is excused from his crimes because he attends mass once a year  (that’s a harsh analogy, I know, but it was what immediately came to mind).  The Earth is our home for the entirety of our brief existences; every single day should be about working toward taking care of it. 

 

 

Manifesto (Rough Draft, with some WordPress caused formatting issues) April 24, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — lockleart @ 12:17 am
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                Humans, as much as we struggle to deny it, are animals.  We evolved on the same foundation as every organism around us:  the need to survive.  Generations ago, our ancestors lived off of the land to meet these needs, but without demanding too much of its valuable and limited resources.  Today, we have lost grasp of the finite nature of our world and have no concept of the destruction we have wrought upon its fragile biosphere.  Only by returning to nature can we regain consciousness of the environment’s significance and how to use it in a careful, thoughtful way. 

            The mass majority of humankind fails to appreciate the importance of a healthy and biologically diverse biosphere to our persistence as a species.  As stated in World at Risk, “richness and variety of life are perhaps Earth’s greatest wonder and one of its most important resources because human survival completely depends on the effective functioning of global biological systems” (Allman).  “Healthy natural systems provide us with ecosystem services—essential attributes such as food, fuel, water, fiber, medicine, recycling of nutrients, purification of air and water, and pollination of crops”  (Bernstein).   Human activities, however, are currently wreaking havoc on biodiversity, posing dramatic economic and possibly catastrophic risks to human survival.  From World at Risk:  “Habitat destruction is the primary driver of biodiversity decline in almost every area of the world, with overexploitation, introduction of alien species, and pollution also contributing,” all results of human activity (Allman).  The present extinction rate is estimated to be “1,000 times the background extinction rate indicated in fossil records,” putting the biosphere at risk of another mass extinction (Allman).  “As many as 2 million species of plants and animals will be exterminated worldwide by the middle of the next century” putting “the natural ecosystems on which humans depend” in danger of collapse (Pimental 747).  Yet, “our educational and economic system is headed away from, rather than toward, an intense consciousness of the land” (Leopold).  We continue to consume in excess, oblivious of the source or content of our products, and debate temporary issues that distract from the real problems at hand.  To stress the importance in becoming more conscious of our interactions with the environment, I will first explain the value of biodiversity from a more economic perspective.

            Agriculture is an exclusively human behavior, often representative of our ability to tame and manipulate the landscape to our needs.  However, successful agriculture is just as in need of biodiversity as any ecosystem.  Quality crop production is reliant upon “diverse soil biota” and the presence of nitrogen fixing plants (Pimental 748-749).  But irresponsible farming methods, such as planting the same crop every year and not rotating fields, exhaust the soil to the point where it is not usable for crop production and takes years to recover.  Declines in biodiversity also increase the risk of crop damages due to pests.  “Worldwide, pests reduce the yields of major crops by approximately 42% each year, despite the application of an estimated 2.5 x 106 t/yr of pesticides as a cost of $26 billion” (Pimental 751).  As pesticides are largely ineffective at pest control, pests cause losses of an estimate $244 billion per year in crop damage (Pimental 751).  In stark contrast, “approximately 99% of pests are controlled by natural enemy species and host plant resistance” when these pests occur in their natural habitat (Pimental 751).  If the natural enemies of pests were to vanish, “70% of crops could be lost to pests…increasing the cost of losses to approximately $400 billion per year” (Pimental 751).  As previously stated, extinction rates are at phenomenally high levels, making the disappearance of natural predators a concern for the agricultural economy.  There is an increasing number of foreign species introduction as well, as a result of human travel.  These alien species have no natural predators in their new habitat and the plants they feed upon have no natural protection, allowing them to wreak havoc upon crops and local wildlife populations.  The brown snake, as an example, is an invasive species from Australia who made its way by plane to islands such as Hawaii and Guam and is destroying native bird populations.  The kudzu bug, an Asian migrant, has made its way into the United States and consumes soy beans without any competition. These are but a few examples of alien species which can make their way to new habitats through human carelessness.  Pollinators are affected by “habitat fragmentation and loss…causing precipitous declines in wild pollinators, thereby threatening their beneficial activities in both natural and agricultural systems” (Pimental 753).  The immense amount of food required to maintain the human population depends upon the successful functioning of the surrounding ecosystem.

            Much like agriculture, medicine seems to be a very human invention.  In the modern age where synthetics dominate the marketplace, we often forget that most of our modern medicine is based from plants and animals.  In an study of the top 150 prescription drugs in the United States, “74% are based on plants, 18% on fungi, 5% on bacteria and 3% on vertebrates…more than 80% of the world’s population relies upon traditional plant medicine for primary health care” (Dobson).  Worldwide, plant-based drugs are worth an estimate $84 billion per year (Pimental 754).  With “one out of every 125 plant species studied” involved in the production of a key drug, it is crucial to preserve biodiversity for the sake of protecting undiscovered species which may have immense medicinal value (Dobson).  As stated by Bernstein, “ecosystem disruption can be expected to impede progress in medicine and biomedical research through the loss of countless unidentified species.”  “If we estimate that we lose one tree species a day, then we lose three to four potentially valuable new drugs every year, at a total cost of around $600 million” (Dobson).  To worsen these concerns “humans are not only creating a less healthy environment, but are consequently being exposed to a variety of new pathogens” (Dobson).  Increasingly crowded human populations combined with pollutant exposure results in weakened immune systems and freely breeding, quickly mutating pathogens.  Habitat destruction allows certain pathogens to become more abundant, as seen with Lyme disease.  The white-footed mouse is the most common carrier of Lyme disease and a popular host for ticks.  Typically, white-footed mice occur in forested areas where their predators, which do not carry Lyme disease, are prevalent.  But unlike foxes, owls, or other animals that consume mice, mice do very well in fragmented habitats.  Therefore, the mice can occur in abundance with little regulation, dramatically increasing the presence of Lyme disease in the local tick population.  Humans who encounter these ticks are far more likely to contract Lyme disease than from ticks in a biologically diverse habitat.  Despite the fact that the majority of medicines are plant-based, it could be argued that preserving species is not important due to the success of synthetic medicines.  Modern synthetic drugs, while effective initially, are usually made by varying a pre-existing drug.  This means that the drug is still ineffective against pathogens which have evolved to be more resistant to the drug, when a pathogen may not be able to combat a drug derived from a new natural compound.  In addition, the “potential for finding major new drugs is in the order of one in 10000 for each compound tested” (Dobson).  We cannot rely on synthetic medicines to eliminate diseases that pose a threat to humans.  With thousands of undiscovered plant and animal species, not yet studied for their medicinal benefits, it is crucial to preserve biodiversity to prevent the extinction of these species.

            Agriculture and medicine are just two examples of the systems that are a risk of collapse from biodiversity loss.  Decomposing organisms are far more effective at breaking down the billions of tons of organic waste produced by human activities than mechanical methods.  Trees are key in the reduction of carbon in the atmosphere (Pimental 754).  Combining all of the economic and environmental resources from biodiversity, “the benefits are estimated to be $2928 billion per year” (Pimental 754).  When the value of biodiversity is put into this financial perspective, I would expect that governments across the world would take biodiversity conservation far more seriously.  If there is anything effective at bringing action, it is the threat of losing large sums of money.  Yet the extinction rate continues to accelerate and forests continue to be broken up and reduced.  We are faced with an ever-more pressing debate:  how to make people respect the environment’s resources like our ancestors did. 

            The answer to this debate is simple:  we must make a return to nature.  Instinctively, we are still ancient hunter-gatherers surviving off hard-earned resources.  As stated in “Evolutionary Psychology and Consumption,” “humans are biological creatures, primates that evolved over many millennia whose adaptations were shaped and selected by environments long past” (Hantula).  Our obsessive need to consume is a manifestation of the still-thriving survival instinct.  We stockpile food in case of a hard winter; we dress up and shower ourselves in fragrance to attract mates.  But our consciousness denies that we are a part of nature.  Certainly, mankind is incredibly adept at changing nature to meet our needs.  This has led for some to claim that humans should separate from nature in order to preserve it, that “human presence in an area automatically destroys its true wilderness designation” (Mosden).  Mosden sums up my belief on this issue very well:  “rather than setting the entire globe aside as a wildlife refuge, wouldn’t it make more sense for humans to decrease their impact (considerably) so that they are able to live alongside the rest of the biosphere, just as all other species do?”  As Leopold states, we must relearn to view the biosphere’s resources not as mere goods to be consumed, but as “a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants, and animals.”  Humans are inescapably linked to this flow of energy.  At present, however, we are demanding too much of this energy cycle rather than functioning with it.  We must “regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature,” instead of as a part of an unsustainable society fighting to break from nature (Thoreau).  From the article “Can Ecopsychology Save the Wilderness Debate?”:

           

“We are a product of nature and we cannot, and should not, deny that relationship; it has proven itself harmful to try to do so…Humans evolved with and from the natural world, and by taking humans out of the concept of wilderness, we are taking humans out of their rightful place in evolution” (Mosden).

 

            Separating from nature will do nothing to encourage biodiversity conservation.  Our present ecological crisis is already a factor of apathy toward the natural world.  We should increase our involvement in nature because “we can be ethical only in relation to something we can see, feel, understand, love, or otherwise have faith in” (Leopold).  This does not necessarily mean that we should abandon our modern developments and go gallivanting off into the woods to scratch a living off of the rocks.  Rather, I am advocating a new mentality of eco-consciousness.  It is time for us to stop going through our daily activities blind to the impacts our actions have.  We must stop listening to politicians who deflect facts about the environmental crisis in their efforts to gain political power or corporations who mislabel their products and try to hide the destructive chemicals they feed into our bodies and biosphere.  It should be accepted as in indisputable fact “that man-made changes are of a different order than evolutionary changes, and have effects more comprehensive than is intended or foreseen” (Leopold).  Our ancestors once honored natural systems because they understood how crucial those resources were to their survival.  Eco-consciousness “means the deep reflection and respect (which) must accompany each act of use, and means too that we must always consider the possibility of non-use” (Mosden).  Exploring nature is the only means to reach eco-consciousness.

            My argument for returning to nature is based upon my own personal experiences with pursuing a more environmentally aware lifestyle.  I have always been a person who enjoys nature, hiking and kayaking with my father at a very early age.  But until approximately a year ago, I fell out of exploring nature.  I spent very little time in the outdoors, preferring to dedicate my time to the modern distractions of the television and internet.  This made it incredibly easy to ignore the present concerns of the natural world.  While volunteering at a zoo, I was frequently involved in the discussion about biodiversity and climate change- but these things remained distant.  On an odd adventurous day, I made my way to Raven Rock State Park.  This long-awaited return into the outdoors revitalized my love for the environment.  The separation from the stressful, often superficial, hustles of the modern world reawakened a sense of belonging:  a reminder that I came from nature, just like every organism around me.  With that sense of belonging comes a sense of value for nature’s limited offerings.  I am increasingly aware of where the products I use originate from and what affect they have on the environment.  I try to throw fewer things away, repurpose what does not necessarily need to be disposed of, and work to consume less overall.  I believe that it takes natural experiences for others to have a similar change in their mentality.  The mass majority of people today rarely spend much time outside; they are trapped by the “comforts” of the indoors, surrounded in a supply of goods which never seems to end.  But if we do not change the way we use Earth’s resources, our endless consumption will come to a harsh and shocking halt.  If we allow ourselves to lose our ancestral roots as wild creatures in the natural world, we will eventually lose the resources which our survival depends upon.


 

Works Cited

Allman, Tim.  World at Risk.  2nd ed.  Washington:  CQ Press, 2010.  16 April 2013.

Bernstein, Aaron.  “The Importance of Biodiversity to Medicine.”  The Journal of the American    Medical Association.  300.19 (2008):  2297-2299. April 2013.

Cronon, William. “The Trouble with Wilderness.” Williamcronon.net.  April 2013.

Dobson, Andy.  “Biodiversity and Human Health.”  Trends in Ecology and Evolution.  10.            (Oct. 1995): 390-391.  April 2013.

Hantula, David A.  “Evolutionary psychology and consumption.” Psychology & Marketing.  20.9 (Sep. 2003): 757.  April 2013.

Leopold, Aldo.  “The Land Ethic”.  A Sand County Almanac. 1948. April 2013.

Leopold, Aldo.  Thinking Like a Mountain.   A Sand County Almanac.  1949.  April 2013.

Mosden, Kari.  “Can Ecopsychology Save the Wilderness Debate?”  Ecopsychology.org.  April     2013.

Pimentel, David.  “Economic and Environmental Benefits of Biodiversity.”  Bioscience.  47.11     (Dec.,1997):  747-757.  April 2013.

Thoreau, Henry David.  Walking.  1862.  April 2013.

 

 

Manifesto Proposal April 16, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — lockleart @ 10:30 pm
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Humans, as much as we try to deny it, are animals.  We evolved on the same foundation as every organism around us:  the need to kill, feed, reproduce, and repeat.  At one point, our ancestors lived off of the land to meet these needs, but without demanding too much of it.  Generations ago, humans knew how to use the earth with respect, because they understood that they could not survive without.  But we have lost track of this appreciative mentality, our capacity for creation and construction exceeding sensible use.  We have lost grasp of the finite nature of our world; only by returning to nature can we regain an understanding of how to use the environment in a careful, conscious way.

                This is the primary ideal of my manifesto:  Man belongs in nature.  I resent the idea than man is separate from nature, as we evolved from nature.  We are comprised of the same atomic arrangements as the birds and bees, we have the same needs and similar weaknesses.  The only thing that distinguishes us from our fellow animals is our mental capacity, which has fooled us into believing that cheap, temporary things are more important than the Earth that supports our existence.  To further separate humans from nature would only serve to deal it more damage.  The way we treat the environment is a function of our loss of appreciation for its values; to separate from it further would only encourage a lack of respect for it.  Certainly, humans deal some damage when trying to enjoy nature; we carve out trails for our leisure, accidentally flush chemicals into creeks, childishly leave our litter lying about.  But only by experiencing nature will we appreciate what may be destroyed in the following generations, if we fail to change our ways.

                I have three primary points to make in this manifesto:

                                1.  That humanity must work towards returning to nature, be it through education, media, or personal choices (most likely the latter).

                                2.  Eco-awareness:  We must consider where our products come from and the influence they have on the environment (reduce-reuse-recycle, in a less cliché way); that little changes in our consumer lifestyles can help reduce each person’s impact on resources.

                                3.  How much we rely on biodiversity and the environment, and how much we will suffer if these things disappear.

                As for my defining of wilderness, I am still unsure of how to approach that subject.  Over time, I’ve begun to develop a dislike for the term “wilderness.”  I think it instigates a romantic, idealistic mentality that serves no purpose where change needs to be swift and tangible.  Of course, there is still much research to be done.

Articles to use:

Allman, Tim.  World at Risk.  2nd ed.  Washington:  CQ Press, 2010.  16 April 2013.

                This will likely be the primary resource for my arguments about biodiversity and how essential it is to human survival.  A brief quote from this work reads:  “…richness and variety of life [biodiversity] are perhaps Earth’s greatest wonder and one of its most important resources because human survival completely depends on the effective functioning of global biological systems.”  I plan to argue how most people fail to comprehend how fragile the Earth’s systems are and why they are essential to use responsibly.

Leopold, Aldo.  “The Land Ethic”.  A Sand County Almanac. 1948.

                “…man-made changes are of a different order than evolutionary changes, and have effects more comprehensive than is intended or foreseen.”  I agree with many of the statements Leopold makes in this article about human impact.  In particular, I am very supportive of his idea that the mass majority of people simply regard the land as a resource to be drained.  I want to tackle this selfish ideal and establish how it will lead to eventual destruction.

Leopold, Aldo.  Thinking Like a Mountain.   A Sand County Almanac.  1949.

                I don’t plan on pulling much from this article, but I like the appreciation it expresses for a creature that has otherwise been carelessly destroyed by mankind, just as an example of the many species we have attacked needlessly.

Thoreau, Henry David.  Walking.  1862.

                Thoreau’s Walking has many statements regarding the need to bond with nature and separate from modern developments, and how these things lead to psychological happiness.  This works in support of my belief that humans must return to nature for their own preservation.

Mittermeier, R.A. “Wilderness and Biodiversity Conservation.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. N.p., 20 Aug. 2003.  16 Apr. 2013.

                I haven’t read much of this article yet; I plan on using it in support of World at Risk when detailing the endangered state of biodiversity and why it must be preserved.

 

Field Note Reflection April 11, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — lockleart @ 12:46 am
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Field Note Archive, Noah Submissions, & Reflection

Set 1:

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Set 2:

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Set 3 (Grinnell):

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Set 4 (Extra set I did to get some Noah Submissions, Grinnell):

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Noah Submissions:

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Field Note Reflections:

As stated in Betsy Mason’s article, “Beautiful Data:  The Art of Science Field Notes:”  “…one research tool that many scientists would argue need not be improved is the handwritten field notebooks.”  Field notes comprise their own family of documentation, serving a similar purpose as film or photography but living on a special level of experience.  Like the aforementioned methods of documenting experiences, field notes are a useful way of recording what one finds in the field.  But unlike taking photos or video, which allow for an endless stockpiling of visual images, field notes require a highly involved study.  The advantage of field notes is that they require a thoughtful, detailed, and possibly introspective documentation of findings.

Field notes demand that the observer pay full attention to the subject, observing its appearance and mannerisms, while also considering the surrounding environment in the evolution of the subject.  Field notes allow for the environment and additional organisms in the area to be considered with the subject, as opposed to a photograph.  A photograph only captures a subject in a specific segment of time and rarely portrays the surrounding environment, other organisms in the environment, the weather conditions, etc.  Photography also has the ability to portray the subject in a way that is different from reality.  Angles can create the illusion of different proportions or filters alter the true colors of the subject.  As Mason says, “the act of making an annotating an illustration itself can help a scientist better understand a subject.” Writing down the subject’s actions as they occur and possibly supplementing with color illustrations is an excellent method of truly analyzing a subject.

Of course, there are multiple approaches to taking field notes.  I personally have only utilized two certain systems.  The Grinnell method is very data-oriented, having the observer note the specific geographic coordinates of the organism noted.  It does not look for much detail on thoughts about observations until the conclusion of the observation.  For example, one line of my Grinnell notes reads:  “2:50- spider, orange-yellow with white abdomen, nearly microscopic.”  My personal reflection at the conclusion of my field-note taking was brief, compared to the large amounts of personal thoughts I used in another type of note-taking.  The other method I used was an immediate observation-to-reflection system.  I listed an organism I saw or notes on the environment to one side of the page and followed it with my personal thought on the subject.  This method was definitely more focused on contemplative views.  From a field note session as River Park North, I comment on the presence of trash as evidence of “the invasive nature of humans” multiple times.  This is certainly a less-than-scientific viewpoint.

Compared to the field notes shown in Mason’s articles, my field notes are completely lacking illustrations.  My notes also tend to have little detail on certain subjects; rather, they portray quick notes on a variety of subjects rather than extensive details on a particular one.  This occurs in both of the types of field notes I took.  Even when using the Grinnell system, I was more focused on documenting the abundance of organisms I saw rather than describing any organism in special detail.  While this is a useful strategy for documenting a multitude of thoughts over a timeline, it fails to truly research one particular subject.  Rather, it moves about randomly, and describes the organisms I viewed in little detail.  Based on how my notes are really only a skeletal outline of my experience, I realized that I believe that I can remember far more than is possible.  Rather than detailing what I see with descriptions and illustrations, I try to commit these things to memory.  Now, when I reread my field notes and try to conjure the notes taken in my mind, I can remember little.  I certainly cannot remember