Records and Field Notes

Hastings field notes

"Our field-records will be perhaps the most valuable of all our results. ...any and all (as many as you have time to record) items are liable to be just what will provide the information wanted. You can't tell in advance which observations will prove valuable. Do record them all!" (Joseph Grinnell, 1908)

As the first director of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, Joseph Grinnell brought an unusual clarity of vision to studies of the vertebrate fauna of California and western North America. In thinking about the future value of work by MVZ researchers, Grinnell developed and implemented a detailed protocol for recording field observations that included a catalogue of captured specimens, an in-depth journal, species accounts that documented individual behaviors, annotations of topographic maps to show specific localities, and photographs of collecting sites and animals captured. These integral materials recorded such important biotic and abiotic parameters as weather conditions, vegetation types, vocalizations, and other evidence of animal presence in a given locale.

iNaturalist observations

Animals within Hastings


Birds (general)


Following this philosophy, data gathered for studies at Hastings are recorded in copious fieldnotes that document observations on particular species, as well as daily and monthly bird records. The species accounts span the history of the reserve, and the bird records date from approximately 1937-1957. All of these notes coincide with the collection of weather data on-site, and together they provide an unusually rich set of information for examining the effects of local and regional climate change on ecological communities in the central Coast Range of California. The notes also contain interesting historical facts, such as discussions with a rancher about the presence and trapping of grizzly bears just south of the reserve in the late 1800s, and the use of thalium to poison rodents in 1938.

Until recently, the fieldnotes at Hastings (estimated at over 38,000 pages) have been housed on-site where they were essentially hidden from the research community (view general inventory). In January 2012, The Museum of Vertebrate Zoology was awarded a three-year grant from the Council for Library and Information Resources to catalog and make more accessible these hidden treasures, among others at the Museum. The MVZ Archive Project will inventory and provide access to a wealth of new information that will help understand how the local ecosystems have changed over the past decades.