Is Outdoor Observation Still Relevant for Nature Conservation?

Nature Conservation Needs More Observers

Ben Kilham argues that simple observations are still an important component of conservation science.  Everyone can learn to recognize birds and butterflies and note when and where they’re seen.  This is the argument I made in the Arizona Wildlife Notebook.  The notebook gives Arizona residents and visitors a practical tool for recording animal sightings.

As conservation science increasingly draws from sophisticated models and genomics, does natural history still have relevance? Benjamin Kilham, a dyslexic who has made significant contributions to bear research, builds a powerful case for field observation in his book, “Out on a Limb.”

See on

Intelligence and Rise of the Tsaeb Civilization

What is Intelligence and How is it Used in Fiction?

NASA Header ImageFamiliar components of intelligence are reaction time, sensitivity, problem solving, foresight, and memory.  Novelists often elevate one or more of the components to make their characters more interesting or to give them the necessary ability to achieve plot elements.  Sometimes we pick up hints that a character is intelligent and then we are delighted when she almost magically connects disparate clues and solves the crime.  Dr. Who and Sherlock Holmes are spectacularly successful at this.  In other instances we enjoy watching a character’s routine use of his powerful intellect.  It is fun to watch Lee Child’s Jack Reacher use his exceptionally acute hearing to follow the progress of a professional tail who thinks Reacher is totally unaware of his presence.

Characters are also defined by their temperament, they way they experience and express anger, love, jealousy, regret, and so forth.  Temperament might seem to be the only real concern for character building, because it so clearly distinguishes individuals.  Intelligence, however, sets limits on the expression of temperament.  A smart wise-ass is more likely to produce interesting insults than a dumb one.  And an intelligent character is more likely to notice a detail such as the shape of a tree and see the connection between shape, competitive ability, and history of the tree.  Intelligence determines the depth and richness of a character’s response to experience.

What produces intelligence?  We know that brain size, composition, and internal connectivity are involved, but we only know that these are correlated with measured intelligence (see the references).  We do not know how they work, and we do not know the full list of factors that are necessary.  Perhaps high intelligence requires the presence of structures such as complex hands, thumbs, and voice box, or perhaps an undiscovered chemical.  Whatever the requirements, why haven’t they been met in many complex organisms?  Why aren’t all animals intelligent?

The theme and plot for “Corr Syl the Warrior” required highly intelligent characters with powers of thought beyond human ability.  I used evolution to create them.  I imagined an Earth on which evolution, in its gloriously random way, included intelligence among the traits of the first higher organisms.  I imagined that intelligence was common to all animals, and that along with other character traits, natural selection would continue to improve intelligence.  By the time dinosaurs appeared, most animals were as intelligent as humans are now (see the references).

Before I could use intelligence in my story, I had to answer numerous questions.  A central question concerned competition and conflict.  Would the many intelligent species on Earth have lived and worked together peacefully?  Or would they have built weapons and fought wars?  Observing the warlike tendencies of our modern human civilization, we might expect that universal intelligence would have raged across the Earth like a firestorm leaving nothing behind, perhaps not even the planet itself.  So this is what I decided must happen:  🙂 Continue reading

Wildlife Checklists Update

By Garry Rogers

Checklists of plant and animal species one might see in a particular place make useful notebooks for recording sightings.  Sometimes called life lists, the species names in such notebooks are comparable to the stamps, coins, and arrowheads collected by others.  Though their objects are different, all collectors want to protect their collections.  They are all curators or conservationists.  Checklists are one of the basic tools for nature conservation.

Rock Squirrel on a Fence PostThe photograph shows a Rock Squirrel (Spermophilus variegatus) on a fence post.  Rock Squirrels prefer rocky areas and we often see them serving as sentries atop boulders.  This one lives in a colony near my home on the floodplain of the Agua Fria River in Dewey-Humboldt, AZ.  Only one boulder, a stone the size of a large watermelon, can be found anywhere on my 20 acres.  So the squirrels lookout from fence posts, tree branches, and tractor seats.

Continue reading

Writers #Publishing & #BookMarketing Links

Links to Resources for Writers



Here are a few quality links to writing references.  There are hundreds more, but these might be all you need.  If you have a favorite that isn’t listed (or is), tell us about it. Thank you.

Many of the sites provide their own lists of resource links.  For instance, Every Writer’s Resource has a great list of publishers.

Contact me:  [contact_form lang=en]