Science Method

The Amateur Naturalist


Best nature how-to

The best hands-on-guide to nature experiments in print. Chock full of projects doable in a few hours to a day, whether you are an adult or kid. Just outside your door, no matter where you live, is the largest laboratory available anywhere. Hello, living neighborhood!

— KK

The Amateur Naturalilst
Nick Baker
2005, 256 pages

Sample Excerpts:

Mounting and displaying bones.
Forget plastic model-making – this is the ultimate model kit!


Resist the temptation to collect lots of spawn or tadpoles. Although you often come across huge quantities in the wild, only a few percent of it will survive. So collect a small quantity of newly laid spawn – it should be quite firm and easy to separate with your finger. Half a cupful is an ideal quantity to achieve a ratio of three to five tadpoles for every liter of water (14-22 per gallon).

Take spawn from garden ponds wherever possible – it keeps your impact and disturbance of wild populations to a minimum. It is also good practice not to risk contaminating a habitat by introducing spawn, pond weed, or any other form of life that you have collected elsewhere. This is commonsense herpetological hygiene. Frogs in particular suffer from contagious diseases that may be spread unnecessarily in this way.


Although the very fragility of a spider’s web is part of its attraction, it is a shame to think that these phenomenal feats of design and construction rarely last longer than a day. However, if you find a web without a spider in residence, it is possible to collect and preserve one of these fabulous structures. Choose a still day and make sure the web is dry, with no droplets of dew.

You will need:
the most gorgeous orb web you can find
a sheet of newspaper
a can of white or black spray paint
a can of artist’s fixative (available at art shops) or hair spray
a sheet of cardboard large enough to fit the web on and in a color that contrasts well with the paint

1. Position the newspaper behind the web so that you don’t get paint all over whatever is behind it, then spray the web evenly and lightly on both sides from a distance of about 40 cm (16 in) – much closer and the pressure of the paint will damage the web. Leave it to dry for a while and repeat.