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Classroom Resources: Natural History Upgrade

Natural History Upgrade
By Richard Conniff

Fall 2011 / Vol. 12 No. 3

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Discussion Questions

  1. What is natural history? Do descriptions of natural history offered in the article match your own preconceptions of the term, or extend it in new ways?
  2. According to the workshop participants described in the article, what are some of the cultural values of natural history?
  3. What is the relevance of natural history to conservation biology?
  4. What’s in a name?  Why does the author suggest it is strategically important to have plant and animal names that the general public can relate to? What are some specific ways new names are being crafted?  What do you think of this?  Does this reduce the scientific rigor or credibility of taxonomy?
  5. What does the article suggest about the relationship between objective science and subjective emotion in the practice of emotion?  Do you feel they should be linked, or kept separate?  Why?

Websites for Further Information

Natural History in the News

Peer-reviewed Literature

  • Fleischner, T.L. 2005. Natural history and the deep roots of resource management. Natural Resources Journal 45: 1-13.
  • Fleischner, T.L. 2011. Why natural history matters. Journal of Natural History Education and Experience 5:  21-24.
  • Greene, H. W. 2005. Organisms in nature as a central focus for biology.  Trends in Ecology and Evolution 20: 23-27.
  • Hampton, S.E. and T.A. Wheeler.  2011.  Fostering the rebirth of natural history.  Biology Letters, published online 31 August 2011, doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2011.0777.
  • Schmidly, D.J. 2005.  What it means to be a naturalist and the future of natural history at American universities. Journal of Mammalogy 86: 449-456.

Key Concepts

  • Natural history
  • Taxonomy
  • Scientific nomenclature
  • Use of technology in ecology
  • Rationality and emotion in science
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