September 13, 2021

DIY Field Guide

Create your own field guide to document your explorations and findings.

The field guide is one of the ultimate naturalist tools and a perfect resource for exploring and learning more about nature around you. Combining pictures, maps, and written descriptions, field guides can help anyone begin the process of identifying a mystery organism or object that they find in the outdoors.

And no matter what you encounter, there’s a field guide for it. Printed or digital, there are field guides on all sorts of topics like birds, mammals, fish, plants, and even rocks and soils. Field guides can also be for areas as large as a country or as small as a city park. And while the topic and scope of different field guides can vary widely, most field guides share common elements and patterns.

Since field guides are used to identify things, details are very important. Photographs, illustrations, and descriptions are used to share visual details, and other identifying information like range of occurrence, seasonality, habitat, and common behaviors are included to help differentiate between similar looking organisms. By making personal observations and using a field guide, you can learn more about a place and the things that live there.

You can make a field guide for the nature in your yard or near your house and making a field guide is also a great way to remember wildlife, plants, and views from trips and vacations.

Whenever you see something, write down an identification for the organism or object, its size, habitat, and notes about where and when you found it. If you find something that you can’t identify, describe it in as much detail as possible so that you can try and identify it later. Include visual details like color, shape, size, and texture and collection details like time, date, and location for reference.

And while field guides can help you understand, appreciate, and remember nature more, they don’t just have to be about nature. A unique use for a field guide is to make one about yourself where you share things that are special to you!

Start by collecting a few of your favorite belongings, five is a good number to start with. Look for things that have meaning to your life. They can be toys, knick-knacks, souvenirs, books, or even things like favorite foods.

Next, make a journal using a piece of construction paper and some printer paper folded in half lengthwise. These will be the actual pages of your field guide where you record your entries. Bind the pages together using a stapler. To make your field guide more official, use a bound journal or notebook. Be sure to include enough paper to make a page for each object in your collection and a few extra pages in case you want to add more entries later.

On the first page, make a table of contents with a list of your objects and the page numbers where you describe them. On each of the following pages, record details like the object name, where it can be found, how it relates to you, and when you got it. Drawings and photographs are also great ways to add more details to your entries.

Once you’ve made your field guide you can share it with friends and family or keep it like a diary as a record for what was important to you at that time in your life.