How to Create a Nature Journal

Why Keep a Journal?

Scientists, naturalists, and wildlife enthusiasts keep journals to help them remember what they have seen. Many things may happen when you are out in the wild. The purpose of the journal is to record your observations for later reading. If you do a good job, you may discover exciting patterns emerging. These patterns are what usually lead to new discoveries about the world around us.

Selecting a Journal

I have found that small, unlined sketchbooks with a hard cover work best. The journal should be small enough to fit in a daypack, but large enough you can draw pictures and comfortably write in it.

Many people write in two journals at a time. I carry a journal with me in my backpack that I can jot down quick notes and illustrations while I’m out in the field. This journal tends to get dirty and a bit beat up. I write fast since I expect to be the only one reading my backpack journal.

I keep a second, nicer journal at home. After my outing into the wild, I transfer all of my notes from my backpack journal into my nice journal at home. Good journals may be found at: large bookstores, art stores, or museums.

What do I write in a Journal?

This is the fun part. What you actually write in your journal depends on what you are interested in.

You might like reptiles or other animals, plants, rocks, weather, or even the stars in the night sky. Any of these are great topics for you to write in your journal.

If you are interested in what certain animals eat, you may sit for long periods of time watching a particular animal and recording what it eats. You may draw pictures of the food items or even press leaves from the plants they are eating in the pages of your journal. You may be interested in the different animals seen during a hike. In this case it is more important writing down information you can use later to identify the animals.

You may be surprised what you have already forgotten by the time you have gotten home. The key to a good journal is in the details. Not only write in detail about what you are interested in, but also the time of day, the temperature, the weather, and specifics about the habitat that day. Insignificant details jotted down at the time may be the essential clue to an answer you have been searching for.

You also may include information you learn about animals or nature while visiting a zoo or nature center. A trip to the zoo is a great way to see lots of animals from all over the world and a trip to a nature center is a great way to see animals from your own neighborhood!

You may have a question about an animal or other subject that you could find the answer to in a book at the library. After you have found your answer, include it in your journal along with the bookss title and author.

Don’t feel that you have to stick to objective observations. Include a funny thing that happened, your feelings or your thoughts, maybe even write a poem or a song. The most interesting reading later on tend to be the author’s reaction. The next great scientific find may start with your thoughts!


So, you are no Leonardo or Picasso, fear not! Check out the book The Voyage of Beagle by Charles Darwin. You may agree that many of the pictures in his journal were not great works of art. They weren’t meant to be. Most drawings are used as reminders on how something looked. Drawings are essential, especially when you need to remember exactly what color the stripes were, or how long the tail was.

Don’t forget to illustrate landscapes and habitats. Include sections of trail maps, and draw your own maps. Pictures may also be used to describe animal behavior and movements.

Photographs are also helpful. I take my digital camera with me on outings. Print small pictures on photo paper and glue them directly to journal pages. Use picture safe glue or archive safe photo tape (found in the scrapbook aisle in your local arts and crafts store).


Sea Turtle Volunteer Application

Dear Applicant:

Thank you for your inquiry into the 2010 season of the Hawaii Island Hawksbill Turtle Recovery Project. We will begin selecting applicants in early 2010. The following is some background information on our project and a description of the volunteer duties and requirements.

Since 1989, volunteers have assisted project biologists with monitoring, protecting, and collecting baseline data on nesting hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata). The endangered hawksbill is very rare throughout the world. Hawksbills in Hawaii face numerous threats, including non-native predators, invasive plants, artificial lights, vehicular traffic, and ocean debris. While approximately 90% of documented nesting in the Hawaiian Islands occurs on the southern coastline of Hawaii Island, only 100 nesting turtles have been tagged since 1991. Typically 5 to 15 nesting turtles and 25 to 50 nests are documented per season.

For the 2010 season, approximately 15-30 volunteers will at any given time be needed to monitor the nesting beaches from June to December (possibly later). Volunteers commit to work on the project for a minimum of 10 weeks and preference will be given to applicants who can commit to a longer term. Exceptions can be made for Hawaii Island residents who are able to provide their own housing and transportation to and from the National Park.

Applicants are not required to have prior experience working with sea turtles. Successful applicants will be self-motivated, conservation-minded, and able to get along well with others. A positive attitude, diligent work ethic, and a love for the outdoors are a must.

Turtle Volunteers must:

* Be at least 18 years of age.
* Possess a valid driver’s license (U.S. or international).
* Possess current first aid and CPR card
* Be able to commit to work on the project for a minimum of 10 weeks. Preference given to those able to commit longer. (for exceptions, see above).
* Be able to hike up to 12 miles over rugged lava terrain in difficult conditions with a 30+ pound backpack.
* Be able to hike and work in vog (sulphur dioxide emitted from the nearby volcano, which can be problematic for people with respiratory concerns).
* Be able to get along well with others.
* Be able to stay awake late at night.

Turtle Volunteer duties include:

* Camping from 6 up to 12 consecutive nights at remote beaches with a project technician or other trained volunteers.
* Conducting nightly watches (from 5 p.m. until at least 2 a.m.) to observe nesting turtles and emerging hatchlings.
* Hiking up to 12 miles (one-way) over rugged lava terrain with a 30+ pound backpack to reach field sites.
* 4-wheel driving on long, bumpy roads to reach field sites.
* Day-checking other nesting beaches on a regular basis to look for signs of turtle activity by hiking up to 12 miles (one-way) or 4-wheel driving.
* Handling adult turtles, which includes restraining, measuring, applying flipper tags, and checking for injuries.
* Ensuring that hatchlings reach the ocean by monitoring nests that are ready to hatch, rescuing stranded hatchlings, and excavating nests.
* Recording baseline data, which includes keeping a field notebook, filling out data sheets, drawing maps, and entering data into the computer.
* Controlling predators by baiting and checking live-traps daily and euthanizing mongooses, feral cats, and rats using carbon dioxide gas.
* Picking up trash and debris along the coastline.
* Photographing turtle activity if needed.
* Interacting with and educating the local community about sea turtle conservation on a regular basis both in the field and in formal presentations.
* Assisting project technicians with logistics such as equipment and camp maintenance, vehicle inspections, office work, and various other duties as assigned.
* Keeping volunteer houses clean and following all housing policy rules.(if living in housing)

Shared dorm style housing can be provided at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The housing is located near the project’s office and National Park’s visitor center in a rainforest environment at an elevation of 4,000 feet. Bedrooms are shared by multiple volunteers. A $10 per work day food stipend will be provided, although additional funds are needed to supplement this stipend for basic needs and entertainment. Furthermore, a vehicle will not be provided for personal transportation.

It can take several weeks for your application to be processed, so please be patient. You will be notified of your status by either phone or e-mail. If you are accepted, a detailed information packet will be sent to you. You must arrive at least one day prior to your orientation date, which will be scheduled when you are accepted. Transportation to and from the National Park from Hilo is provided on your arrival and departure dates.

If you have any questions or would like to find out more information, please contact us by either phone (808) 985-6090 or e-mail [email protected]


Mailing Address: Hawaii Island Hawksbill Turtle Recovery Project

Resources Management Division

P.O. Box 52

Hawaii National Park, HI 96718

E-mail Address: [email protected] Fax: (808) 985-6029

Thank you for your interest in protecting Hawaii’s hawksbill turtles.

2010 Hawaii Island Hawksbill Turtle Recovery Project Volunteer Application

Name: ________________________________________________________________________

Address: ______________________________________________________________________

Phone: Day ( ) ____________________ Evening ( ) __________________________

E-mail address: _________________________________________________________________

Birthdate: _____________________________________________________________________

How did you find out about this project?_____________________________________________


Why do you want to volunteer for this project? ________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________




Dates available to volunteer: __________________________ to __________________________

Predator control is a high priority of this project. Volunteers are trained in the procedure of dispatching mongooses, feral cats, and rats using carbon dioxide gas. All volunteers are required to euthanize trapped predators. Are you comfortable with this aspect of the program? YES NO

Do you possess a valid driver’s license (U.S. or international)? YES NO

Many of our sites are accessible only by 4-wheel drive. Do you have any 4-wheel drive experience? YES NO Can you drive a standard transmission? YES NO

Will you be able to provide your own sleeping bag and large frame pack?

Sleeping Bag: YES NO Pack: YES NO

Are you currently certified in First Aid and CPR? YES NO


Name and Location of Universities or Colleges Attended or Attending: ____________________


Major area of studies: ____________________________________________________________

Degrees obtained:_____________________________ Date obtained:______________________

Pertinent Courses: ______________________________________________________________


_______________________________________________ (Attach a separate sheet if necessary)

Outdoor field experience:

Describe relevant experience: _____________________________________________________



Work Experience from two of your most recent jobs:

1. Name and address of employer: _________________________________________________


Name, phone #, and e-mail address of immediate supervisor: ____________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Your job title:__________________________________________________________________

Dates employed:______________________________ to ________________________________
Average number of work hours per week? ___________________________________________

Description of Duties: ___________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________ (Attach a separate sheet if necessary)

2. Name and address of employer: _________________________________________________


Name, phone #, and e-mail address of immediate supervisor: ____________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Your job title:__________________________________________________________________

Dates employed:_______________________________ to _______________________________

Average number of work hours per week? ___________________________________________

Description of Duties: ___________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________ (Attach a separate sheet if necessary)


List three work or school related references who know about your qualifications for the position.
Name: ___________________________________ Title: _______________________________

Address: ______________________________________________________________________ Phone: ( ) ___________________________E-mail:_____________________________

Name: ___________________________________ Title: _______________________________
Address: ______________________________________________________________________

Phone: ( ) ___________________________E-mail:_____________________________

Name: ___________________________________ Title: ______________________________

Address: ______________________________________________________________________

Phone: ( ) ___________________________E-mail:_____________________________

Signature of applicant:__________________________________ Date:_____________________


Snake Invaders!

Fall is the time of year for beautiful foliage,pumpkins, hot cider, and snakes.

Snakes?  What do they have to do with fall?

Throughout the year we are contacted from people who are concerned about finding snakes inside of their homes.  During the fall, however, these calls increase.  Why?  What happens in fall that makes it more likely to find a snake inside of your home?

will-with-big-pumpkin-300x200Two phenomena occur in fall to increase the low probability of finding a snake inside your house:

1.  In most of the United States, snake eggs typically hatch in September and October.  Therefore, a surge in the population of baby snakes occurs in the fall.

2.  Snakes and other creatures are searching for hibernation sites.  In the wild, these sites might include caves, crevices, and hollow cavities under rocks or fallen trees.  Human dwellings are very appealing to animals wanting to hibernate.  Animals ranging from Asian stink bugs to black rat snakes will often make use of accessible human homes to keep cozy during the winter.

So what is a homeowner who prefers not to share their home with wildlife to do?


There are many “treatments” touted online and by pest control companies that are ineffective and sometimes even dangerous that you should avoid.   Chemical products labeled  to keep snakes away are waste of your money.  Mothballs are also not going to discourage snakes and may even cause health problems in humans.

The only effective treatments for deterring snakes from your home are physical.

You need to seal your home from invading animals. Any hole or space into your house, even as small as a pencil, can allow mice, snakes and other creatures access to your home.

Start in the attic.  Check the vents and be sure they are securely covered in fine mesh hardware cloth (hardware cloth is like a really tough metal screen that comes in sheets or rolls).  Search the perimeter of the attic for any spot allowing light in – this might be an access point that needs sealing.  Remember, rat snakes can climb straight up a brick wall to gain access to your warm attic for the winter.

Walk the perimeter of your foundation, both inside and outside, checking for access.  Common access points include:  the area around wires, plumbing or cable entering the home, doors, windows, and vents.

Check the basement and/or crawlspace as well.  If animals can gain entry into either of these areas, they can probably gain access to your home.

Caulk, weather stripping, steel wool, plumber’s foam, and hardware cloth can all be used to seal up your home.

If the idea of handy-man work or the prospect of climbing into an unfinished attic does not appeal to you, there are a few pest control companies that specialize in wildlife exclusion and will remove any wildlife they find and repair your home so animals cannot get back inside.  When contacting an animal exclusion company, be sure to get references and check with at least two companies.  Remember, if they want to use a chemical snake deterrent, do not use that company.  You can find animal control companies in the yellow pages under “pest control” or by googling “animal trapping service” and your location.

While they do not belong in your home; remember, snakes are part of both the rural and urban environment.  They play a very important role and are as important to the health of the environment as the birds, butterflies, and other wildlife more commonly associated with a healthy ecosystem.

Enjoy these wild animals outside of your home, and you will have a healthy, happy habitat for you and nature.

Gardening for Frogs, Snakes & More

Gardening for wildlife is becoming increasingly popular.  Most wildlife gardening information is geared towards attracting birds, bees, and butterflies.  At Reptiles Alive, we also like to garden to attract frogs, toads, snakes and other creatures too.


If you want to attract some awesome critters into your yard, here are some really easy steps you can take.


One of the easiest ways to attract wildlife is to do nothing! That’s right – just let a part of your yard go wild.

Birds, snakes, frogs and box turtles all love to live in areas that humans ignore.

Remember when mowing, trimming, or doing yard work to watch out for small creatures like snakes, turtles and bunnies.

When choosing plants, picking plants native to your area will encourage native animals to take up residence


Leaving fallen logs can give salamanders, worms, and small snakes a place to live.

Rocks can add beauty to your garden and provide shelter for snakes, spiders, toads, and more. Adding a small water feature like a bird bath at ground level can attract not just birds, but many other animals as well. Just be sure to change the water every couple of days so you don’t add more mosquitoes to your yard.


Even a vegetable garden can provide habitat for animals. Under the straw covering this asparagus bed, I find brown snakes and toads.


Here’s a Reptiles Alive secret: My Dad introduced me to my first snake when he was lifting straw off the potatoes in our garden. I was 4 years old. I decided at that moment in our garden that I was going to be a herpetologist when I grew up.
So, who knows where gardening can take you?