CalNat Yosemite – Day 1 (Field Journaling)

Spending the week of 1 November as a participant in a UC California Certification Naturalist course in Yosemite National Park.  This is part of my search for my particular career niche in the natural resource world, to meet with natural resource professionals, and to, well…who could turn down the opportunity to spend a November week in Yosemite?

A bit more about the UC California Naturalist Programs.  They are offered in various locations throughout the state during the year (to check for an opportunity near you, click here).  According to the program’s “about” section, these programs:

  • “(are) designed to introduce Californians to the wonders of our unique ecology and engage the public in study and stewardship of California’s natural communities”
  • “(use) a science curriculum, hands-on learning, problem-solving, citizen science, and community service to instill a deep appreciation for the natural communities of the state and to inspire individuals to become stewards of their local resources”
  • “(promote) environmental literacy and stewardship through discovery and action

This week in Yosemite will include 40 hours of instruction, discussion, and outdoor learning exercises.  Then, to complete our certification, we are required to engage in 40 hours of community service and complete a capstone project after this week’s course.


Today was mostly an introduction day.  We got our housing assignments for the weeks in cabins that are part of the Sierra Nevada Research Station (SNRS).  We met in a classroom (formally a stable) that all our lectures for the week will be given in.  There, we were given a field journal, discussed the course’s textbook (The California Naturalist Handbook), and received copies of The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada (beautiful and incredible illustrations).

Part of the lure of keeping a journal is the world you enter when you open it… an island of quiet and deliberateness to which you will long to return to (Hannah Hinchman)

Our main activity for the day was to discuss and engage in field journaling.  Visual artist Andie Thrams guided us in some field journaling exercises.  That is her medium : forest-inspired water colors composed and completed in field journals while in the field.  Her life story, passion behind her work, and all she said about the importance of field journaling – the meaning we find in natural history and how we “find our own natural history” (as she said) in the act of field journaling – was incredibly inspiring.

Whatever you pay attention to changes everything. (Andie Thrams)

Although I have long been a journaler (both in nature and in life), I have steered well clear of doing any sketching.  However, we were asked to engage in just that, and I was surprised to find that (while I have the talent of a violently hiccuping preschooler) I was actually not only finding sketching pleasant, but was left hungry for more.

As a visual artist, sketching was her emphasis for the activity, but she also advised us on the word side of field journaling too (which is much more my forte).

There is the more widely known method of field journaling for purely scientific purposes – the Grinnell System.  This requires you to (in brief) write down the time (of arrival + departure), date, location, habitat, flora/fauna observed, route taken to location, and weather.

Let me keep my mind on what matters which is my work which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished (Mary Oliver)

What Andie added, however, was what she called “documenting your own truths.”  This included things like what you are thinking about as you observe, what you are inspired to create when you are outdoors, what you are curious about, what spiritual connection (if any) you feel to the things you experience in nature.  In short, this adds personal narrative to scientific observation.

Excited to continue sketching (in both images and words) the rest of this week as the Naturalist Boot Camp continues.

The pleasure and value of every walk or journey we take may be doubled to us by carefully noting down the impressions it makes upon us.
(John Burroughs)


One thought on “CalNat Yosemite – Day 1 (Field Journaling)

  1. Hi!
    How wonderful that you’re doing just what you want to be – that is such an accomplishment. I think about you often so it was nice to read up on what you are up to. is not finished… So you won’t be too impressed if you happen to check it out I’m afraid.
    Can’t wait to read more of your posts!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s