I’ve mentioned some reasons for reviewing my nature journals, but one of the most obvious is in order to make an index for it. An index makes it possible to quickly locate what you’re looking for. While it seems like a daunting task, it doesn’t have to be.

I love Marley Peifer’s illustrated indices, but I didn’t have room for that. Any pages that have really dramatic images are fairly easy to find by just flipping through the book. It’s information on the pages that are mostly text or data that is hard to find quickly, so my index includes topics that will help me with that.

I started by going through my journal page by page and making a list. When I remember my nature journaling sessions, I think of one of three things: where I was, what I was observing, or what kind of data I collected. So for each page, I thought about location, subject, and anything I measured.

Once I saw how long my list was, I decided to break it down even farther. It was much easier for me to make separate lists for birds, animals, and plants, than try to do one giant alphabetized list of everything. I put locations, class notes, and events in separate lists as well.

There is definitely some overlap in the references, but I wanted that. For me, that’s a big reason for taking the time to make an index to begin with. I may remember seeing a thousand cackling geese at Fossil Creek Park quite clearly, but not remember that I saw redheads and wigeons as well. Listing both the location and the birds I saw on that trip makes it more likely I will find what I need.

What to include in the index is entirely a personal matter and may vary from journal to journal. I keep a specfic journal for observations I have made in my backyard. I don’t need to list locations for that one because it has only one. Instead, I need to focus on projects and species. I can also include seasons and specific weather conditions in the index so I can look for patterns.

My index is not pretty. It’s not perfect. But it’s got the information I need broken into groups that make sense to me and will help me to quickly find what I’m looking for. It took me a couple hours to make it, but I’m sure it will save me lots of time in the future.

Do you index your nature journals? What topics do you include?

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