2017 Nature Writing Contest

Objective: The Metropolitan Society of Natural Historians is hosting a 2017 Nature Writing Contest. The objective of this contest is to encourage participants to step aside from their busy lives and engage themselves with the natural world through observation. As we learned last month at the event, Songs of Trees with award winning author and ecologist Dr. David Haskell, most of the natural world around us goes unnoticed. We hope that by participating in this contest, contestants will be able to appreciate nature and realize that humans are still very much a part of a web of species interactions.

Content: Participants should use their senses (sight, hearing, smell, and touch) to engage themselves with the local natural world. Essays can either be focused broadly on several species interactions or honed it on one particular observation. As interesting as your recent vacation to the African savannah or the Amazonian jungle might have been, we ask participants to focus their essays on their local flora and fauna. For example, sit on a bench in your nearby park, take a hike on the closest trail, go to the shore, or look out your window. What do you see? What can you hear? Are there birds? What are they doing? Look on the tree trunks. Do you see moss? Lichen? What’s on the ground? Are there insects and if so what are they doing? What about your building? Are there fossils in the rock? Where could the rock have come from? Is the soil where you are standing dry or wet and why is it that way? While observing, also ask yourself, why are these species/ecological interactions important? How might my life be different if they weren’t there? Are the organisms around me native or were they introduced by people? Have other species gone extinct because of human settlement in the area where I am? We do not expect participants to answer all or limit themselves to these questions, but we hope that they will guide you when thinking and writing about the natural world.

References: As participants make these observations, some of you may need to do research to learn more about particular species or the ecological processes happening around you. If you use outside resources, you MUST include citations to avoid plagiarism. Citations should be found at the end of your essay, using the following citation format:

Last Name, First Initial. Year of Publication. Title. Journal, Book or Website. Link (if relevant). Example: Darwin, Ch. 1859. Origin of Species.

Format: Entries should be in essay format, approximately 1000 words (~2 pages), single-spaced, and 12- point Times New Roman font. Please also fill out the submission form below with your information when submitting your entry.

Restrictions & Submission: Only one entry will be accepted per contestant. Contestants must be a current resident of one of the following states to participate: New York, New Jersey or Connecticut. Essays and the entry form should be emailed as a pdf file to metropolitannaturalhistory@gmail.com with the subject ‘2017 Nature Writing Contest’. Pdf files must be labeled as such: ‘LastName_FirstName_NWC_2017.pdf’.

Deadline: All submissions must be received by Saturday, October, 21 at 11:59 PM.

Evaluation & Selection: All entries will be reviewed by each MSNH officer. Entries will be scored on clarity, content, originality and format. The entry with the highest score will receive a $200 cash prize. The entry with the second highest score will receive a small gift from the MSNH. The winner will be notified on November 15, 2017.

Publicity: An electronic pdf of all entries will be available on the website. The winner and runner-up will also be announced at the 6th Annual Symposium in February 2018.

If you are interested in participating, please see fill out the submission form in the attached pdf.