Giselle Clarkson’s life as an observologist

The Observologist – A handbook for mounting very small scientific expeditions is a highly illustrated, playful field guide for budding natural scientists and curious observers of the world right under our noses.

The author and illustrator of this book, Giselle Clarkson, 2023 Arts Foundation Illustration Laureate, writes below about her experience of being an observologist!

Anyone can be an observologist. The book describes an observologist as someone who makes scientific expeditions every day, albeit very small ones.

Giselle Clarkson holding a copy of The ObservologistHello! I’m Giselle, author and illustrator of The Observologist: A Handbook for Mounting Very Small Scientific Expeditions.

I’m absolutely fascinated by all the smallest details in nature. I especially love tiny invertebrates. I wrote this book because I want to share all my favourite things about them with other people.

Image of ants eating bird poo Everywhere I go I keep an eye out for interesting things. Once you start looking you never know what you’ll spot. I met a tiny jumping spider in an electronics store once.

I like to take photos of what I see, to remind myself of nice stuff I saw or to show to my friends. I have a LOT of photos that I’ve taken over the years of insects, spiders, worms, fungi and lichen. Quite a few of them ended up in The Observologist as drawings!

Beetles Frog Katydid Spider WeedsI keep a garden and it’s a bit wild and unkempt. I like it that way, because it means I can be surprised – by strange weeds, fungi or creatures that have moved in. There’s always something to look at.

Baby sparrow

Sparrow freeing illustrationSparrow illustration

One day while I was working on my book I needed some new ideas and went outside for inspiration. I lifted up a huge plastic plant pot, expecting to find slaters, cockroaches and flatworms. Instead I found a baby sparrow! It was very cold, but still alive. I knew it was much too young to be out of its nest.

I put it in a warm, quite box and it soon let me know it was hungry. Feeding it was a full time job!

I felt proud every time it developed a new skill – hopping, preening, wiping its beak, singing new notes, pecking at food and stripping seeds from grass, and of course flying!

When it was ready, I took it out to the garden and opened the door of its cage. It flew off into the sky and I watched it until it became a dot, and then vanished.

Collectionscollections 2bird headstiny shellsIllustrated figure walkingI collect things that I think are unusual or fascinating. I keep the smallest treasures in matchboxes, like these very very little seashells, or these things I found in the garden. Here is my collection of driftwood shaped like bird heads (only 2 so far).

My friends know that if we go for a walk together I will probably get a bit distracted…

The Observologist is available from all good bookstores and on our website.

Observologist cover