George Matsumoto, I Was A Kid
Researcher and educator George began his work life as a scientist, which meant keeping a science notebook.
“As a scientist I was always taught the importance of keeping a science notebook for documentation purposes. You have to be able to go back and prove when you did the lab work and document the fact that you actually did do the lab work and you got the results that you said you did. So the idea of a lab notebook is being able to verify your work when it comes time to publish it. You read stories about this: more often now, papers are being retracted, being disallowed, essentially because people cannot prove that they did the lab work.”
George shares an early notebook in which he not only took careful research site notes, but also drew pictures.
“The idea of something like this would be to be able to go back to the site if we wanted to, and be able to repeat any experiments we happen to do there, or in this case, any observations. So you know, say we’re looking at climate change. Say I went back down here to Baja Magdalena and there were no frigate birds? I could say, ‘well, that’s interesting; there used to be frigate birds here — the great frigate bird and the lesser frigate bird.’ So that’s where I was going with these notebooks.”
Art is a useful part of science notebooks, George says, not just for site identification, but for identification of species he observes.
“This page came from a time I was really trying hard to work on my artistic ability. So one of the things I was trying to make myself do every day was to sketch something, because you know, a sketch is much more descriptive than trying to write down what I saw. Like how would I explain that beach? With a church and a shipwreck, you know… it takes so many words to describe it. And I still wouldn’t be sure I was in the right place if I was in the water looking at the beach. But if I had a sketch like thais and I happen to be on a boat in the bay again, I could probably pinpoint exactly where I was when I sketched this.
Drawing is an important part of his work for a different reason, today.
“This notebook documented one of the collecting trips for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where they’re putting together the deep sea exhibit.
“So these are mostly just notes to myself, again, sort of natural history: nice high definition footage… chiroteuthis, histioteuthis, taonius, these are all squid…lampocteis is a ctenophore, tomopteris is a worm.
“It’s an exhibit that’s going to last eight years, and so the aquarium will be going out there a couple times. What these pages give me is an opportunity to jot down what we saw at each location and the depths we collected them at. That’s key, isn’t it? An we have all that information in our database as well because every time we collect, it gets logged.
“If I’m on a research cruise, I will draw, because when I’m looking at animals and I don’t know what they are, I sketch them. I learn best by trying to draw them. That’s when I started doing things like counting canals and counting gonads and counting tentacles. Because I want to make sure I get the right number in the sketch, and you don’t do that if you’re just taking photographs. You only do that when you’re sketching. So when I’m looking at something I don’t know and I’m trying to identify it, I will usually draw.”