Field Naturalists Clubs


Women were encouraged to attend Tasmanian Field Naturalists Club meetings and day excursions from the Club's inception in 1904, but the first record of them joining overnight excursions, actually camping under canvas, was not until 1906, at this camp at Wineglass Bay (Tasmanian Field Naturalists Club)

The Tasmanian Field Naturalists Club was established in Hobart in 1904, part of a movement which saw many such clubs founded around the British Empire. Their aim was to encourage the study of all aspects of natural history, by holding excursions, exhibitions and regular lectures, and publishing appropriate works: the first issue of the Tasmanian Club's journal, The Tasmanian Naturalist, appeared in 1907 and is still published annually. Since then, the Club has also published a number of monographs, most recently Butterflies of Tasmania (1994) and Jewel Beetles of Tasmania (2001).

Open to both men and women, the Club soon grew, and became a major voice in promoting the conservation of the natural environment, encouraging flora and fauna protection, and the formation of national parks. Early prominent members included CE Lord, naturalist and Director of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery 192233, and Leonard Rodway, Director of the Botanical Gardens 192832, geologist RM Johnston, photographer JW Beattie, and T Thomson Flynn, the University of Tasmania's first professor of biology. More recently WD Jackson, Professor of Botany, and zoologist, Dr Eric Guiler from the University of Tasmania, were enthusiastic members.


Field Naturalists, under the direction of Professor TT Flynn of the University of Tasmania, carried out some of the first scientific dredging along Tasmania's coastline. The only man who can be identified is the photographer, JW Beattie, a member of the Club who took many photographs of their activities. (Private collection of Kathleen Wheetman)

The Launceston Field Naturalists Club, established in 1949, played such a key role in the collecting of specimens for their patron's publication, Lord Talbot's The Endemic flora of Tasmania, that it was rewarded with a copy of the complete set. In 1981 the Club published A Field Guide to Flowers and Plants of Tasmania; periodically revised, it is constantly in print. The John Skemp Field Centre at Myrtle Bank, opened in 1989 on a property bequeathed to the Club by Skemp, is a centre for environmental education.

The Burnie Field Naturalists Club dates from 1952, its founder members being mostly staff of the Associated Pulp and Paper Mills, and its emblem a leatherwood flower. The Club's aims were exploration, study and preservation of the environment, family participation in outings, camps, educational and research projects, working days on walking-tracks and degraded areas, and plant and animal identification. The Club was largely instrumental in the proclamation of Rocky Cape National Park, and the declaration of Winterbrook and West Wynyard Reserves.

The Federation of Field Naturalists Clubs in Tasmania was formed in 1952. In 2003 there were clubs in Launceston, Burnie, King Island, Central North Tasmania and Hobart.

Further reading: J Fenton, A Century Afield, A history of the Tasmanian Field Naturalists Club, Hobart, 2004; G Martin, 50 Year History of the Launceston Field Naturalists Club 19491999, Launceston, 1999; www.tasfieldnats.org.au.

Mary Kille