How do you keep your personal records?

Might I point out that with updates to technology, it is now easier to access data printed in a book in 1900 than data from a website archived in the 1990s, or worse, stored on 3-1/2 inch floppy disk. When Excel goes the way of Lotus-1-2-3, data tables on paper will still be readable.

To put it another way: I disagree that [your favorite online resources here] “make notebooks obsolete.”

Might I also remind you: the OP specifically asked, “The question is: what non-online system do you use?” Some of the replies seem to have missed that part.

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I missed that…thanks
answer is: none anymore, I should be backing up my records!
But then: the records are not lost online (assuming that these nationwide databases are stored (and rearchived properly for posterity). On paper they are just endless lines of records…
I would not give them a second look I guess, without the photos/soundrecordings to spice/back them up.

hmm…food for thought

G erben

But non-online does not exclude computers.

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I’ve heard the argument that all important scientific data – whether they’re publications, databases, or someone’s field journal – should be in printed form on paper as well as electronic and that we should not rely on computer/server storage since that could be lost if there is a technological catastrophe of some sort. My counter-argument was that if there is such an occurrence that wipes out digital storage of all such data, we will have bigger problems than lost journal articles or field notes. But I do still lean towards ink and paper as more reliable than digital data.

With my hand-written field notes, I find that photos I’ve archived on iNat have an important secondary purpose – they allow me to find particular field notes since I can search on what species I recall photoing and find the date that way. So iNat serves as kind of an index for searching my field notes.


I read some of the replies and it conjured up a mental image of two hunter-gather ancestors crouching in a cave. One is making marks on a bit of dried animal skin with a flinthead and ochre. The other sips a drinking horn of mead as he contemplates the universe and says, "I don’t why you bother writing things down. That animal skin will decay or get lost, and anyway future generations will not understand what you are writing. It is much better to pass information on verbally. You can mix it up with tales of demons and Gods to make it more memorable. That’s got to be much more effective and longer lived than scribbling on a bit of skin."

Back in 1984 I built a personal observation recording database using the ‘Archive’ database on my brand-new Sinclair QL micro bought with my first pay check. The data has migrated through various platforms and redesigns over the decades and currently sits in a custom-built MS-Access db with all the forms, queries, reports, imports and exports I need, and linked to QGIS for mapping. If I need another field, form, query, or report then it takes a few minutes to add. It does precisely what I want it to do and pulls information from other online systems as I need it. It was a substantial commitment to get the various incarnations of database tools to do what I want, but the incentive was there. In retrospect acquiring that skillset was immensely valuable.


It would be great if there was some way to get a visualisation of the species one has seen as it compared to an overall tree of life. I know there is the taxonomic life list here on iNat ( but you don’t really get a feel for an overview from this. Does anyone know of something like this?

Thanks to you and Bazwal for some reassurance.

Recorder 3 will export to a spreadsheet no problem, but you lose the three-dimensional aspects of the database by doing that.

I carry a pocket sized Moleskin notebook whenever I go exploring, and write down anything I see or hear or find interesting. (I have found the Moleskins brand to be very useful and reliable). I started doing so because I loved reading other people’s wildlife observation notes, which is why I like threads here on the forum about actual envounters with wildlife. Plus it makes me feel more like a real explorer.

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