As we approach another new year, it is time to look back and reflect. As someone interested in
science I often wonder about the changes in scientific method over time and how older scientists would view today’s methods. Looking at the past helps you to understand how we arrived at the current state. Whether you are reading Clement’s papers on plant succession, MacArthur’s papers on niche partitioning, or Riley’s amazing economic entomology papers going back and reading these original documents is both inspirational and informative.
Back in the olden days of the 1990’s you had to go to a good library and ask a research librarian to obtain these original works in the secret room where books go to die. It was magical when the Searchable Ornithological Research Archive (SORA) showed up and suddenly old (pre-1900) issues of ornithological journals were available on any computer. The Biodiversity Heritage Library and Google Books are treasure troves of information that also show up on your computer or mobile device. Of course on-line research databases (e.g. EBSCO) and open access journals (e.g. Jouranl of Botany and Journal of Insect Science) mean you can research almost any topic from almost anywhere. Best of all, it is so much easier to file and store the .pdf files than photocopies or the older, pre-photocopy, monk-transcribed versions.
Imagine studying moths before electricity was common place: no UV light traps, no flashlights, no digital cameras, no Moth Photographers Group, and yet moths were studied and appreciated under these extremely primitive conditions. Holland’s The Moth Book is a classic that will inspire you to be a little more moth friendly (don’t forget to submit your your photo records to BAMONA) and it is available free just by clicking through on The Moth Book link to Google Books where you can download your own copy! Holland’s descriptions will take you to another time, being able to fast forward into current moth efforts like National Moth Week, will give you a new found appreciation for both the past and present – and have you eagerly anticipating 2013!