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field journal

OLogy Series
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card
087

field journal

OLogy Series
tool

When "ologists" observe plants, animals, fossils, or rocks, they know they won't remember every detail. So they keep notes, called field journals. In these journals, scientists write down information about their finds: the date and time, the location, and any interesting details. Sometimes they'll make a sketch of a specimen, or note questions to research later.

Mysterious Monkey Jaw
While browsing through the Museum's collection, mammalogist Ross MacPhee found a jawbone that sparked his curiosity. The small specimen turned out to be the only skeletal evidence ever found of a species of monkey. To learn more about this extinct monkey, he read a field journal that was written when the jawbone was discovered more than 85 years ago. Mammalogist Harold Anthony, who visited Jamaica during a 1917 expedition, wrote the journal. MacPhee wanted to retrace Anthony's footsteps, which was only possible to do by reading Anthony's field notes. He learned that the jawbone was the remains of the extinct xenothrix (ZEE-no-thriks), a monkey the size of a squirrel. The information in Anthony's journal led MacPhee to the same cave where the mysterious monkey's jaw was found. Later MacPhee's team discovered the rest of the monkey's golf-ball-sized skull.

Field journals may also include:

drawings and maps

plane tickets and money

both A and B

Are you right?

Correct!

Field journals are great sources of information. They can tell you a lot about where the expedition took place. Some scientists like to include foreign currency or money, drawings, maps, photographs, and even ticket stubs.

Scientists keep their field journals only in special notebooks.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

At one time all field journals were written in notebooks. Now, many scientists keep track of their field activities on laptop computers.

Scientists usually throw away their field journals after they return from expeditions.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

Notes recorded in field journals can be useful to researchers hundreds of years later. They may even help scientists solve mysteries in the future.

field journal
What: a collection of information accumulated on an expedition
Kept by: any "ologist"
How: by using careful record-keeping skills to record all field observations
Characteristics: contains drawings, records of daily activities, maps, tickets, and any other important information from the expedition that the "ologist" can refer to when they return home

Image credits: Kelvin Chan.