Published on May 10, 2010 by William Nunnelley  

For 15 years Samford biology professor Larry Davenport wrote a popular nature column in Alabama Heritage magazine.  Readers came to enjoy his artful and witty descriptions of common species encountered in the Alabama outdoors.

Now, the University of Alabama Press has published a collection of Davenport’s best writing in a newly-released book, Nature Journal.  But the book is more than a collection of essays.  It is designed as an educational tool that will encourage readers in the art of keeping a nature journal for themselves.  Davenport describes it as a “working journal.”

Each chapter is designed to stimulate readers to make their own observations, collect their own information and present their own findings.  Several blank pages follow each chapter so that readers can record personal observations.

“The keeping of a nature journal is a time-honored practice, and one directly tied to the very best natural history and nature writing,” Davenport writes in the book’s introduction.  He suggests that readers’ models should be “folks like Henry David Thoreau, John Burroughs, and John Muir—patient observers and dedicated note-takers who turned those notes into literature.”

The book offers a list of sources on nature journals and nature writing to help interested readers get started.

Davenport worked hard to change his basic writing style from a scholarly factual approach to one more suited to a popular magazine.  He became more of a story-teller, as reflected in the essays of this book.

Some are humorous, as Davenport’s reporting of colleague Mike Howell describing how the “soldier fish” got its name.  Other are poignant, as in the author’s recounting the death of a great blue heron who resided near his father’s cabin during his childhood days.  All are filled with facts about nature-study for the general reader and nature enthusiast alike.

Davenport is Professor of Biological and Environmental Sciences and former Director of the Vulcan Materials Center for Environmental Stewardship and Education at Samford.  A Samford faculty member since 1985, he was the Carnegie Foundation Alabama Professor of the Year in 2007.

The 235-page volume is illustrated with 26 full-color illustrations. Part of the Gosse Nature Guide series, it is available from the Samford University Bookstore or the University of Alabama Press.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 66th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 104th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,683 students from 47 states and 19 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference, and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.