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Friday, 6 February 2015

BushScience: a new angle.

Another branch is to be added to the ever expanding Bushcraft Education tree, BushScience.

The original concept for this series grew out of conversations between Geoff and myself about the overlap in our different topics of university study (Outdoor / Environmental Education & Ecology and Conservation respectively): there is a whole range of scientific understanding, or knowledge which would now be considered science, which can be of benefit to, and indeed some is crucial, in the practice of bushcraft.

Some of this beneficial knowledge is obvious:
Botany - correct identification of edible plant species or even more important, poisonous species; recognising species which have other uses, such as producing cordage, or which are better for certain tasks than others, which types of wood burn the best or make the best tools etc.

Ecology - understanding what resources certain habitats are likely to offer; understanding animal behaviour, learning links between species which may make finding food or other resources easier and many others.

Not all 'Science' takes place in a
lab - in this case a forensics lab
(West Midlands Police, Creative Commons, 2012)
As you begin to think in depth about the full range of activities that can fall under the title of bushcraft you can quickly add other ‘science’ topics which may be relevant, below are just a few examples:

Physical Geography / Environmental Sciences - land formation, soil types, weather patterns (Meteorology), seasonal variation, and many others which can give all sorts of information.

Chemistry - basically everything to do with fire, the purification of water etc.

Astronomy - specifically in using the stars to navigate.

Nutrition - Ensuring wild food you are gathering is providing a balanced diet.

Physics - You may think I’m going too far, but the preservation of heat in cold environments can be a life saver and this would come under the physics umbrella of the basic sciences.

Mycology - perhaps a new word to some, just the posh name for the science of fungi.

Geology - identifying flint, an appreciation of the permeability of different rock types may help with the location of water sources in some landscapes.

Archeology - perhaps pushing my luck classifying this as a science, but it ends in 'ology' so I think its fair! Understanding ancient methods can be very instructive in how tools or material are used.

Anthropology - another topic granted ‘science’ status under these circumstances because it ends in ‘ology’. However, as the source of much, arguably all, of the bushcraft methods still employed today, it could not be left out!

Ethnography - The study of people as a participant from within a specific culture, society or group. Many of the most influential modern bushcrafters have taken an ethnographical approach to learning their skills. Think of all the TV programmes and books where people spend time with native peoples or indigenous cultures and observe and take part in their daily lives. These ethnographic accounts can be of great value to us.

Many of these overlap and intermingle, and you certainly do not need a great depth of understanding, or any understanding at all in any of these in order to enjoy bushcraft: but cherry picking titbits of information may be useful, helping to refine techniques used, make living conditions more comfortable, or may just be interesting!

This series aims to provide some of those titbits, some may be an aid to streamline your practical application, increase understanding or improve best practice, but some will have little if any practical use and will simply explore the fascinating science that underpins the activities we enjoy. We hope you enjoy too!


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