Site Journal

Multimedia Naturalist’s Site Journal (80 points)

“The truest art I would strive for in any work would be to give the page the same qualities as earth: weather would land on it harshly; light would elucidate the most difficult truths; wind would sweep away obtuse padding.”

– Gretel Ehrlich, The Solace of Open Spaces

By the end of the first week of school, you should choose an off-campus, outdoor site that you will visit, observe and critically examine during the quarter.  The location of the site is up to you (up in the Flatirons, in Cherry Creek State Park, a spot on the South Platte, your favorite campsite or hiking trail, Observatory Park), but it should be a place that you can get to easily and often.  That is, don’t choose a site that will be inaccessible because of snow or distance.  Once you’ve chosen your site, you should plan on going there six or more  times over the course of the term (the “field trips” for the class).  When you’re there, hike around, explore, relax, and pull out your journal and fill its pages with your thoughts, analyses, and ruminations (Galvin is a good model here), particularly making connections to the course readings and films. Since it’s a blog, your audience will be the public – interested web readers who come across your blog. Your site journal should include many photos, ones that capture your site’s seasonal changes, just as you are required to identify some of the plants, trees, and wildlife at your site. Expect to share your blog entries with your colleagues for feedback. In the end, the purpose is to complete an outstanding naturalist’s journal, one that is a cohesive, informative, and interesting examination of place.

Due Dates and Timeline for Peer Feedback (have your new entries on your blog before class)

  • M 9/16 (before class): Focus on the description and the location. Include several photos of your site in the late summer.
  • M 9/30 (before class): Identify your site’s flora, fauna, and any wildlife (You may want to check out a library copy of a plant and tree identification guide).
  • M 10/14 (before class): Make connections to the course material
  • M 11/4 (before class): Ponder the interconnectedness and sustainability of your site and its future.
  • F 11/8 at 11:59pm: The whole enchilada, including the self-evaluation

The Site Journal Scoring guide explains the evaluative criteria: site-journal-scoring-guide

Maps help!

For sites closer to DU, this Denver Parks Map can help you pick a site. For sites farther west, this Open Space Map will be useful.

Evaluation will be split into two areas:

1) Writing process and participation in peer review (50%). Half the points will be earned by meet all the deadlines for entries and participating in the peer review activities.

2) Final Site Journal, including the self-evaluation (50%). The remaining points will be evaluated on a sliding scale based on the following criteria: Cohesion, Content, Research, Multimedia Elements, and Delivery. See the scoring guide in Canvas.

Things to Do: Some Options

  • Identify the major points on a compass: North, South, West, and East
  • Katie Lee has argued that kayakers have no business on the river if they can’t identify what’s under the water. Apply this to your site and get a hold of a good naturalist guide and identify the following: three types of trees; the grass and other shrubs and vegetation; any birds you see; wildlife tracks and scat; the rocks and geologic formations.
  • Think about Joyce Carol Oates’ claim about the types of responses nature evokes in nature writers: reverence, awe, piety, mystical oneness. Does your journal represent these discourses? What others can you include?
  • Make connections to the readings and material covered in class. How have they informed your perspective of the site and vice versa?
  • Climb a tree like Muir.
  • Find a good topographical map; then locate your site on the map. What’s the surrounding topography like and your site’s relation to it? Compared to Google Maps?
  • Pay attention to seasonal changes like more or less snow, rising river levels, more or less mud.
  • If other humans are there, interview them and ask them when, why, and how often they come to your site. Analyze your findings.
  • Visit your site at night, perhaps when the moon is full.
  • Even better: sleep there.
  • Collect a few artifacts like leaves or rocks; these can be scanned and incorporated to your blog.
  • If you’re so inclined, draw a sketch, paint a picture, shoot a video of or about your site. Or write a poem or two about it.
  • Ponder the past and future: what’s the natural history? What will and won’t be there in 100 years?
  • Explore these categories of place
  • LOCATION region, road, street number
  • TOPOGRAPHY feature, slope
  • GEOLOGY rock type, formation, source of plant nutrients
  • CLIMATE insulation, temperature, precipitation, humidity, wind speed and direction,
  • AIR QUALITY sources of raw pollutants, smog types
  • NOISE sources, levels, duration, shock value
  • SOIL grain size, permeability, fertility, erosion, or deposition
  • SURFACE WATER pond, lake, creek, river, intermittent, seasonal, perennial flood plains and terraces drainage basin
  • VEGETATION grass, brush, wood, forest, native or non-native, human and wildlife impact
  • LAND USE alteration of topography, stream alteration, conservation techniques

These are suggestions and their relevance will depend on your site.  Part of the goal is for you to stretch your horizons a bit, to leave your comfort zones, thus the defined entries for readarounds.  In the end, though, the goal is to complete an outstanding blog with different elements and genres assembled into a cohesive, informative, and interesting examination of place.


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