By Lesley Parilla, Field Book Project
Field book content is diverse and fascinating, especially when comparing books from across natural history disciplines. Differences between fields and recording methods can make cataloging and comparing their information a challenge. One of our favorite projects (VertNet) did a wonderful job of pointing out the challenges when aggregating just the data from specimens, let alone the more free-form information found in field notes. VertNet is an umbrella project that coordinates four distributed database networks (MaNIS, HerpNET, ORNIS and FishNet). When aggregating the 2.7 million specimen records from the 20 participating institutions, they found, “189 distinct values in the sex field that mean ‘male’”!
We talk a lot about what you can find in a field book, but why just take our word for it? Many natural history institutions around the country provide guidance and instruction for field book recording to help standardize the information that comes in with their specimens. Below are just a few of ones we have found online. The information and range of detail can be surprising.
- Australian National Herbarium: http://www.anbg.gov.au/cpbr/herbarium/collecting/field-note-book.html#SOME
- Museum of Vertebrate Zoology [Berkeley] Guide for Recording Localities in Field Notes: http://mvz.berkeley.edu/Locality_Field_Recording_Notebooks.html as well as their suggestions on field note taking, based on the Grinnell Method: http://mvz.berkeley.edu/Suggestions_Collecting.html
- Queens University Department of Biology, under “2.5 Notes to take”: http://www.queensu.ca/biology/facilities/herbarium/collecting.html
Also check out the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, who has a great set of examples of birding field notes from staff members: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/page.aspx?pid=1852#fitz
Do you know of any other online guidance for field book content? Let us know in the comment section below!