Caring for and Healing the Earth

Wilderness Caretaking

Scientific Research in Wild Areas in a Caretaking Manner

By Walter Muma

Some pointers to conducting scientific research in wild areas in a caretaking manner.

When placing markers in the research area, whether these be for delineating your study area, or individual plants within the area, or so that you can find the area later...

  • Use markers that are non-obtrusive - ie, markers that don't stick out and loudly announce their presence with loud colours.  Bright yellow, red and orange wrapped around trees in a forest are not a natural occurrence - use muted colours and place your markers lower down.  As well, if your markers do not boldly stand out, other Caretakers are not as likely to remove them!

  • When done properly, it should not be at all obvious at all that a study is going on in the area.

  • Draw a detailed map of where your study area is and how to find it, rather than putting up numerous markers to guide you to it. 

  • Remove all of the markers when your study is done.

  • Use biodegradable markers, in case you miss removing one or more of them.

  • Wrap markers loosely around plants - they need room to grow.

  • Do not use nails to attach markers to trees.  If you must use nails for some reason, remove them when the study is done and fill the resultant holes to help prevent disease and pests from entering the tree.

Applying the Caretaking Philosophy to your work...

  • Place yourself in the "shoes" of the animal/bird/plant that you are studying.  Ask yourself, "How would I like it if I tied this/did this to the animal/bird/plant?  Would it make me stand out in my environment?  Would it impede my movement, even if just slightly?  Would it reduce my chances to mate or obtain food?"  It's easy to assume that something "so light" or "so small" can't possibly have an effect on the animal/bird/plant.  But remember we humans are fairly large creatures.  What may seem insignificant to us, may be very significant indeed to certain animals/birds/plants.

  • Remember that you're not dealing with "objects", but living beings, like ourselves.  These living beings have just as much right as we do to be respected, have their natural space, and to be left alone to go about their lives.


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