Reflecting, Debating, and Field Note Taking

Wilderness Writers kayaking on Roanoke River

Roanoke River Paddle Trip Reflection (10 minutes)

What stands out to you from our trip this past weekend?  What did you learn about wilderness, yourself, or others?  What is the value of the Roanoke River?

Full Group Discussion (10 minutes)

Roanoke River Debate (60 minutes)

Scenario:  You are about to attend a meeting with various groups whose interests intersect with the Roanoke River.  You and your team will prepare the best arguments possible to defend your position and argue for your vision of the Roanoke’s value and future.  You may not agree with the position you are given, and that’s ok.  It makes you a stronger rhetorician when you practice arguing against something you believe in.

In your group, you will talk, do some research if necessary, and decide:

  • What is the mission of your group/ organization?
  • What values does the Roanoke River hold for your organization (use Bergstrom et. al)?
  • What does your organization want in terms of a long-term vision for the river? Why?
  • Why should your group’s vision be recognized, honored, and granted?
  • How might this vision be contested by other groups?

Roanoke River Partners: Taylor, Chris

Virginia Uranium, Inc.: Daniel, Elanie, Kelly

Roanoke River Basin Association: Kate, Zach

Triangle Municipalities: Stephen, Erin

Kapstone Paper: Mallory, Katherine, Sydney

NC Wildlife Resources Commission: Corrie, Ryan

Debrief (10 minutes)

Discussion of Field Note Archive and Reflection (Due April 3)

  • 3 Complete Sets of Field Notes (at least one using Grinnell method steps 1 & 2) Posted to Blog and Tagged “Field Note Archive”
    • (Note, you must also put a Tag Cloud Widget on your blog so that readers can click the Tag Category)
  • Screen shots of the Field Notes you contributed to NOAH tagged “Field Note Archive”
  • +/- 1000 word analytical reflection that accomplishes the following:
    • Outlines what you think is essential in Field Note reporting and points to examples in your own notes that illustrate these practices.
    • Discusses the purpose and function of field notes as you understand them, pointing specifically to what you were able to see, learn, and understand through the practice of taking field notes.
    • Explores how the organization of field notes and field note systems (such as Grinnell) forgrounds certain types of knowledge-making.  In other words, what does the structure of the system reveal about values held by field scientists?  AND what system do you prefer and why?

Field Notes for the Citizen Scientist (45 minutes)

Explore Project NOAH and participate as a citizen scientist, uploading your field notes.


Field note archive and reflection due April 3, posted and tagged on your blog.  Read Beautiful Data: The Art and Science of Field Notes and Look At Your Fish to help you think through and compose your analytic reflection.  Feel free to quote or cite from these sources sparingly, but remember to cite according to an accepted style (Chicago, APA, MLA).

Also read  Aldo Leopold, “Wilderness” and Noss, “Soul of the Wilderness,” available on the course readings page.  Be prepared to discuss how these perspectives contribute to our ongoing conversations about wilderness and its values. On this post, comment on the following: how do these articles influence or impact your emerging ethic about wilderness values?

13 responses to “Reflecting, Debating, and Field Note Taking

  1. These articles impacted my understanding of the importance of the wilderness. I understood the basic facts, that the wild is important for numerous plant and animal species and is a beautiful native part of this planet that should not be destroyed. The articles expanded upon this thought and explained the importance of biodiversity in the wild and how the degradation of the land is harming biodiversity. What really stuck out to me was Noss stating the contribution of the wilderness to the goals of, “protecting and restoring native biodiversity and ecological integrity to our planet.” I agree with Noss that active management should be in place to restore nature and protect what still exists of the wild. However, I am more optimistic than he states because I believe we can all reconcile the existing concerns about biodiversity and the wilderness. I did not realize how important the concerns were among scientists, activists, recreationists, and more groups of people. Environmental degradation effects the general public as well. Leopold informs readers, “No living man will see again the long-grass prairie… the flatwoods of the coastal plain…or the giant hardwoods.” This statement shows the negative impacts of the degradation of the wild. I believe action must be taken protect and restore the wilderness for the goals that Noss states, biodiversity and ecological integrity, as well as for science, wildlife, and recreation as stated by Leopold.

  2. These articles brought up components of wilderness preservation that are already a growing concern for me: the use of wilderness as a means of maintaining biodiversity as well as utilizing it as a source of recreation. Noss immediately brings up the point that large, conserved areas are important for maintaining biodiversity. As someone who works with and cares very much about wildlife, biodiversity loss is a topic I find very unsettling. Humans are efficient at eliminating biodiversity from an area, and continue to do little to slow the process. As for using the wild for recreation, Leopold in particular seems to be in support of the idea that wilderness can be used for recreational purposes. He states that keeping to the “primitive arts” that can be found in enjoying the wilderness (canoeing, packing, etc), are important to remembering that the wilderness is an important component of mankind’s survival. After all, “wilderness is the raw material out of which man has hammered the artifact called civilization,” and without its resources, we would not exist. Because allowing people to enjoy the wilderness recreationally helps them to appreciate it, and in turn work to preserve more of it, I reject the idea that conserved areas should be completely off limits to people. Certainly, people can do some damage to wild areas when they casually enjoy them, but to try to eliminate access to the wilderness from their lives only perpetuates the problem we have right now: very few care about the wilderness. This may be the ideal I shared the most from these readings- a sense of frustration about how people perceive the wild today. Leopold cites the ridiculous pressures to destroy wilderness, such as the construction of unnecessary roads or the destruction of big predators because of irrational fears. Wolves, for example, as still falsely viewed as threats to livestock herds and continue to be eliminated despite their essential role in their native ecosystem. Even scientists, according to Noss, are reluctant to embrace wilderness conservation because it is viewed as such a romantic ideal and a difficult topic to handle. And resistance to change in a more eco-conscious direction is prevalent; people cling to their gallons of bleach and politicians dismiss scientific evidence as propaganda.
    My favorite statement from Leopold would be the following: “…the land is sick…symptoms of sickness…are occurring too frequently to be dismissed as normal evolutionary events…The shallow-minded modern who has lost his rootage in the land assumes he has already discovered what it important…”
    This is the greatest problem with people today. We think that who is liberal or conservative, or who believes in this religion or that religion, or what is on the television is more important than working together to save the beautiful world that is crumbling around us. We brought the destruction ourselves and only continue to consume as a fair few cry for it to be stopped.

  3. While I have always believed there to be value in wilderness, these two articles definitely expanded upon that belief. I believed that wilderness was areas that has been untouched by humans and civilization. Realistically there just aren’t areas like that anymore. Human civilization has recreated our Earth and environment. Leopold says, “Many of the diverse wildernesses out of which we hammered America are already gone” proving the impact we have done to North America alone in such a very short time period. We haven’t been a part of America nearly as long as we have been in Europe and the areas of wilderness in America are almost obsolete due to our impacts. These two articles make me question my idea about wilderness because what I believe constitutes as wilderness means that it is essentially gone, but after reading these articles, I believe that nature in other ways should be classified as wilderness as well. We use our environment around us for recreation, developing medicine, habitats, and many other things. If we are protecting only things classified as wilderness from destruction then maybe my definition of wilderness needs to expand to include other things. Noss comments on the fact “small wilderness areas aren’t even real wilderness.You can’t even get lost in them” agreeing more closely my idea of wilderness. However, Noss goes on to discuss the fact that large or small, wilderness and nature needs to be defended. And that statement alone proves the fact that protecting the areas of nature around us should be a priority, whether its classified as wilderness or not, otherwise it will all be gone in a matter of time.

  4. These articles, especially Leopold’s, really help strengthen by believes that our wildernesses truly our special places deserving of protection. What surprised me about Leopold’s article is that it was written in 1948. When I first read the article, I assumed it was written in present day. Once I realized that it was written roughly 60 years ago I was suprised, because I did not realize how much wilderness was being destroyed, even then. I think that if Leopold saw the amount of wilderness left today, he would be even more saddened by the rampant disregard for wilderness. I also liked how Leopold said that recreation should differ from regular life instead of conform to it. So many parks and natural areas fall victim to civilizing the wilderness. Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park is a good example of this. Instead of hiking out to it, the geyser is easily accessible by car to a parking lot near the geyser. The geyser itself is surrounded by a hotel, food vendors and various walkways. Then a clock sits nearby to let people know when the next scheduled “show” will take place. That is not the point of wilderness. The wilderness should not be easy, and in its pure form, is not. I liked the quote Leopold used about strange men dying strange deaths. It reminded me of the book “Into the Wild,” in which Chris Mcandles, by modern societie’s standards, a strange man, does die a strange death after being cut off from civilization by a river. Noss’ article was also interesting, as it came from a more modern perspective. I find it interesting that he sees many conservationists failing in their duties to protect the wilderness. I think many of these conservationists are simply afraid to admit that they like the wilderness. They talk about the scientific reasons the wilderness must be saved, but, in fear of sounding like a romantic, will never actually admit that the like the wilderness. Instead, they just go on endlessly about the importance of biodiversity, even though that certainly is important. I think Ness is right to criticize the current wilderness areas, because conservationists should do their best to not just take what they can get, but actually have large wilderness areas that truly benefit the species that inhabit them.

  5. These readings really enforced my idea of wilderness being about balance. Aldo Leopold discusses how we can’t undo what we’ve done to wilderness. He explains how we can work to conserve what we have and try to recreate what was been, but is that really wilderness? The thought of wilderness being a place that can only get smaller really emphasizes the need for balance. Leopold also discusses many uses of the wilderness, such as recreation (hunting, fishing, canoeing), science (land pollution, soil conservation, interactions between ecosystems), and wildlife habitats. We rely on the wilderness for all of these things, not to mention we use wilderness for food, shelter, health, and rejuvenation. Yet sometimes our parks and recreations limit this biodiversity, which explains why there must be balance.
    Noss has similar ideas to Leopold, which also contribute to the idea of balance. However, Noss advocates for protecting what’s left of the large areas of wilderness. He says large areas contain more diverse species and aren’t as affected by human pollution. While this is true, is it human’s responsibility to figure out how to survive on what they have already destroyed, before expanding into these large areas of wilderness? Noss discusses how recreating land management won’t restore wilderness. This means that we must balance what we have left. Many people see wilderness as playgrounds and unlimited resources, yet other people value wilderness as a source of relaxation, calmness, purity, and regeneration. Everything in the wilderness is dependent on another, so we must examine our impact on the wild (field notes!) and determine how we can preserve biodiversity among all ecosystems. If more people understood wilderness balance, we could lengthen the lifespan of wilderness.

  6. I believe that after our previous readings and discussions, combined with our out-of-class experiences and in reading “Wilderness” and “Soul of the Wilderness”, I have found that I am beginning to believe the human race is hopeless. In my mind, the war between the sides of preserving wilderness and using it for its resources is a conflict that will never end. With the world’s ever-increasing population comes a demand for resources that cannot be fulfilled in the world as we know it. Along with this demand comes a strong wish for further generations to have the same privileges that we do. This is simply impossible, especially with the extremely fallible nature of humankind. We are such an egocentric, self-serving species that we cannot look beyond our immediate needs to see the perpetuating cycle of destruction that we have created. The needs of other areas, as touched on in Leopold’s argument (recreation, science, and wildlife) are being ignored by the generally apathetic public of the United States. Citizens of our country typically have no direct contact with the issues themselves, so there is no need for them to get involved in anything directly. In turn, as Noss suggests, the very soul of the wilderness is being destroyed. However, I do not agree with Noss’ original notion that large areas of land need to be preserved to fulfill our needs. I think that the need should be met with more intelligent use of the remaining resources we have. This is more aligned with Noss’ adapted position, which I agree with wholeheartedly. I think both large and small land areas are vital to the sustenance of our world. As both authors discuss, I find it sad that our current state of threatened biodiversity is not top priority on many lists. The irreversible damage that we are moving toward will be devastating in unimaginable ways if we don’t heed the wise words of Leopold and Noss. My emerging ethic is affected directly by both of these readings through my new perceptive behavior. Both of these articles persuade me in different ways. Leopold’s writing urges me to look into the different areas that can be affected by our damaging nature, whereas Noss asks the reader to consider the permanence of our actions in relation to the rapidly disappearing wilderness. Ultimately, I have decided that change can only come through more widespread awareness among the general public. Even then, changes and improvements can only be done with the will of large groups of people. It is our job to be advocates and to practice what we preach.

  7. I hate to say it, but I am beginning to agree with Kelly that the human race is hopeless. Leopold makes it very clear in his piece that wilderness can only be conserved, not created, and considering how small of an amount of wilderness is left, saving the wilderness is becoming less and less likely. Reading Leopold’s descriptions of long-grass prairies and the hardwood forests that used to cover America gave me a sense of longing that, sadly, I nor any human alive today will get to fulfill. These prairies and forests are things of the past, and even what remains of them has been tainted so that they are no longer “original”. Leopold’s last line, “it is only the scholar who understand why the raw wilderness gives definition and meaning to the human enterprise” is the excerpt from his piece that really struck me, though. It sums up what the value and purpose of the wilderness really is, to give definition and meaning to humanity. The wilderness is where we came from and the wilderness is where we still return for enlightenment, therapy, and self-discovery. As “useful” as the wild has proven for us as far as raw materials goes, this environment for self-discovery is what I see as the value of the wilderness. The budding biologist in me also sees the scientific value of the wilderness, though, in the fact that it is the only example of how nature actually works, and how nature takes care of itself. We humans can try all we want to preserve biodiversity artificially, but artificial biodiversity is a contradiction in itself. Like Noss, wilderness conservation has always been more for romantic reasons for me than scientific, but after reading his piece I see that wanting to conserve the wild for self-enjoyment is…well…selfish. Literally every creature on this earth yearns for wilderness; to live as nature intended it to live. This fact that wilderness is the ultimate source for biodiversity is a less biased, more noble ground to fight for wilderness on than for personal enlightenment, and one that I had not really considered until reading these two pieces.

  8. Wilderness Leopoldo and noss readings

    Both of these readings have influenced my perception of what wilderness means to some people. I regret to say that these pieces have both somewhat saddened me yet intensified my passion for the preservation of our wilderness. I am a little intense when it comes to seeing people make negligent and ignorant decisions which negatively affect the wilderness around them and these pieces have strengthened my position greatly. I have been occasionally mentioning the bittersweet (invasive vine) takeover in the woods near the greenway and learning Leopold’s position on the fact that wilderness can only be created, not conserved, has only strengthened my passion to find out more about how our wilderness can be depleted by a natural agent introduced by man himself.

    After reading the Noss piece, I realized how accurate the seemingly pessimistic people are who believe that there is truly no such thing as wilderness anymore. Noss says something along the lines of 10,000 acres to 25,000 hectares not being sufficient of enough of an area to be considered wilderness. My first thoughts on this were, “seriously? That’s a LOT of land”, but to be honest, he is absolutely correct. He states, “that’s not even enough to get lost in” which is bitter yet true. Noss continues his melancholic tone and implies that wilderness is more of an historical artifact than a resource. He says, “Wilderness areas are merely cultural artifacts, trivial retmants of a romanticized past to which we can never hope to return”. This makes me so depressed! I can only imagine what my children will consider wilderness. I’m sure that this cycle has been ongoing for years, however. My grandparents or especially great grandparents perceptions of what wilderness truly is have to be substantially different from mine.

  9. When I read the end of “Wilderness” in which Leopold stated “Wilderness is a resource which can shrink but not grow” I was a little put off. My immediate reaction was surely this guy is being really dramatic. But when I continued on I realized that I was the one being naive and oblivious to the issue at hand.
    The wilderness as we know it is different than the wilderness that our great grandparents knew as kids our age. It is not only shrinking, but is also changing due to human interference. We cut down forests and invade habitats that were never meant to be disturbed. We also pollute the air and water, and in efforts to discover and understand new things we taint everything that is pure.
    The wilderness is more than just recreation, which we selfishly view it as. It is, more importantly, a source of biodiversity. Biodiversity is everything in our ecosystem. Without it, everything would surely be wiped out to a single disease or event. Biodiversity is the easiest argument to make when fighting to keep wilderness because it is fact, it is science based, and it can be turned into concrete evidence that people who don’t necessarily care about the wild cannot combat. Surely, we who are selfish by nature can appeciate the fact that the biodiversity that the wilderness provides is helping, nourishing, and ensuring us.
    The argument for the wilderness as recreation also displays the nature of humans as a selfish race. At some point, people began killing animals for things other than food and I think that may have been where the problem started; the ego of man to catch a bigger, better meal than the next man. Whether this assumption is true or not, the pride and negligence of man will be its downfall. Using the land as we so please, taking no heed in the consequences, we will inevitably reap what we sow.

  10. Through the readings and the experiences I have had in this class, I feel that wilderness should be balanced. I think that we as humans should enjoy the wilderness and all it has to offer us, but I think that we shouldn’t tread on it to the point where we disturb the natural biodiversity. Both of these articles influence and further drive home my ideas that wilderness is a place that need protection. We need to protect the biodiversity that this wilderness was given. I greatly agree with Noss, “most designated wilderness areas are too small to encompass the patterns and processes of landscape – scale processes and shifting-habitat mosaics. I agree with the fact that we haven’t set aside those vast spaces of wilderness, which aren’t available now, and the small ones can’t fulfill all the processes, which makes it not real wilderness. I also agree that active management should be in place to help to protect the small amounts of wilderness and biodiversity that are still available. But I also feel that even though we put active management practices into place to help protect the parts we have left, we cannot undo the damage that has already been done to wilderness and biodiversity. We can never get the original wilderness back; we can only try to recreate a secondary or tertiary forests that will never harness the true beauty that the original wilderness had. These articles have made me realize how rare and special original wilderness is, and how great of lengths need to go to continue protecting it and it’s natural biodiversity. I agree the destruction of this is greatly seen at the coastline, as Leopold stated. We as a culture are so selfish that we aren’t willing to stop destroying the coastlines to observe all the ecosystems and biodiversity were eliminating, as some costs ceasing to exist. We should continue to protect the wilderness, whether were using it for recreation or science.

  11. Like most people I believe that there is value in nature and wilderness and that each person has a different perspective on those values. Before reading these articles I knew that biodiversity was important and that it was being harmed daily. What I did not realize was how much impact this truly has on our world and how many scientists were so concerned with it.
    Leopold helped put this into perspective for me and made me realize how much we have destroyed and will never again be able to experience. Like Noss suggests, biodiversity is not something that has an easy fix and is something that we must actively try to preserve. If we do everything that we can, we may be able to save what we have and can hope that life will continue as it always has and create a more diverse world.
    The sad truth to this optimistic view is that not all agree or will try to help. There will continue to be industries being built and endangered animals being poached. The only way that we can save what we have is if all were involved in the active protection of nature.
    I am not saying that we cannot use nature for recreation as well. I only mean that we must (very strictly) limit what we know will cause harm to the life around us and not view everything in nature as something that we must conquer and in turn destroy. If we can do this and learn to appreciate the biodiversity and the natural beauty of the world surrounding us then I do not see why we can’t protect and save what is left.

  12. Lepold’s Wilderness really fits with my view of wilderness. When I think of wilderness, I think of pristine, untouched land and forests. He talks about even with all of today’s conservation efforts such as creating national parks we are influencing and damaging the wilderness. In his article, he writes about how by protecting the poor deer and elk from their predators, we are causing an increase in population of the deer and elk, therefore, destroying the plant numbers. Everything was created for a reason, and the circle of life is just that…a circle. Things are supposed to end and be reborn, end and be reborn, etc. By humans trying to control that lifecycle, we are leaving a trace on the ecosystem. For my manifesto, I’m researching the “leave no trace” concept. I definitely think I will be able to use this article as a resource. Noss’ Soul of the Wilderness, talks of the same thing… the correlation of wilderness protection and conservation of biodiversity. I understand that today it seems necessary to block off land and create state and national parks, all in the name of wilderness protection and recreation, but in doing that, we are diminishing biodiversity. Like Noss, I believe that the parks claiming to be “wilderness” are nothing of the sort… they’re too small to encompass the diverse ecosystems and biological processes that are found in true wilderness….or what used to be true wilderness.

  13. Stephen Lanuti

    These articles expanded my definition and thinking of wilderness by providing more scientific thought. I already had the notion of needing a lot of continuos land to be called wilderness, but it was more on the premise of solitude more than biodiversity. When the wilderness was described as shrinking and humans are depreciating the wilderness, I realized how selfish we humans are. I have always viewed nature as an escape from society and a source of enjoyment; when Noss stated that when everyone wants solitude then the wilderness is fragmented and damaged, I realized that my enjoyment is permanently damaging the landscape. I am contributing to the problem of wilderness degradation. This is why my reasoning for needing lots of land for wilderness has shifted from humans needing more reclusiveness to nature needing biodiversity. If humans need outdoor recreation, then we can just use the smaller areas and leave the large wilderness to the wildlife.

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