At a Crossroads: The Nature of Natural History in the Twenty-First Century

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The relevance of natural history is challenged and marginalized today more than ever. We addressed the hypothesis that natural history is still relevant to the field of ecology by assessing the attitudes and perceptions related to natural history by early-career scientists and environmental-science professionals across 31 universities in California. Early-career scientists surveyed agreed that natural history is relevant to science (93%), and approximately 70% believed it “essential” for conducting field-based research; however, 54% felt inadequately trained to teach a natural-history course and would benefit from additional training in natural history (more than 80%). Of the 185 professionals surveyed, all felt that natural history is relevant to science and “essential” or “desirable” in their vocation (93%). Our results indicate a disconnection between the value and relevance of natural history in twenty-first-century ecological science and opportunities for gaining those skills and knowledge through education and training.

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