An Introduction to Digital Approaches to Natural History and Environmental Humanities

Scroll this

Editor’s Note: This is the introductory post to the Digital Natural History series edited by Nick Koenig and Heather Rogers.

This series stemmed from the curiosity to explore how different technologies can allow us to explore environmental humanities research in interactive and dynamic ways. As Finn Arne Jørgensen attests, “the ways in which we experience, navigate, and ultimately know natural environments and landscapes today have become suffused with digital information structures.”1 Central to the formation of this series are the questions of how we can use digital tools help us examine the relationships with people and the natural world around them and what can we learn when applying digital humanities methodologies to examining natural history collections, written accounts of nature, or the lives of those involved with botanical collection and preservation.

Image of digitization station where botanical voucher is being photographed.
Image of McGill University Herbarium’s digitization station. Photo credit: Heather Rogers

“The ways in which we experience, navigate, and ultimately know natural environments and landscapes today have become suffused with digital information structures.”

This series was, in part, inspired by the work being done within the field of Digital Environmental Humanities (DEH). DEH scholarship unsettles the human/more-than-human binary and makes it possible to “conceive of the human being ecologically [and] as a part of a series of structures that cross nature and culture, organic and inorganic, flesh and machine.”2 ​​Furthermore, the products and outputs from DEH scholars and creators renders visual the explorative ways we can tend to, nurture, and create new relationships with more-than-human landscapes. As Charles Travis explains, “the humanities can be expanded by the DEH to operate on widely interactive and multiple modalities and dimensions of the human relation to the environment, incorporating textual, tactile, visual, and auditory mediations in the pursuit and creation of knowledge.”3 Digital approaches to environmental humanities and environmental history research allow for bringing together multiple ways of understanding human/more-than-human entanglements. Doing so can create nonlinear digital ecologies that link together multiple nodes of information and collectively help us to create a fuller, more detailed understanding of the “blasted landscapes” we configure daily.4 

Image of lichen specimen envelopes in a box.
Image of lichen collection at McGill University Herbarium. Photo credit: Heather Rogers

The posts in this series explore diverse ways of bringing together technology with environmental stories both past and present. We hope this series leads to new collaborations among DEH thinkers and practitioners, and we encourage people to reach out to contributors for ways we can envision just environmental futures together.

Feature image: Photo by Ravi Kumar on Unsplash


1 Jørgensen, Finn Arne. “The armchair traveler’s guide to digital environmental humanities.” Environmental Humanities 4, no. 1 (2014): 95-112.

2 Weidner, C. E., Rosi Braidotti, and Goda Klumbyte. “The Emergent Environmental Humanities: Engineering the Social Imaginary.” Connotations: A Journal for Critical Debate 28 (2019): 1-25.

3 Travis, Charles. “New Machines in the Garden: The Digital Environmental Humanities.” In Routledge Handbook of the Digital Environmental Humanities, pp. 96-108. Routledge, 2023.

4 Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt. “Blasted landscapes (and the gentle arts of mushroom picking).” In The multispecies salon, pp. 87-110. Duke University Press, 2014.

The following two tabs change content below.

Nick Koenig and Heather Rogers

Nick Koenig is a PhD student in Geography at the University of Idaho specializing in critical dendrochronology, tree rings as narratives, and oral histories. Heather Rogers is a graduate student in the Digital Humanities program at McGill University focusing on digital environmental humanities, critical plant studies, and botanical history.

Latest posts by Nick Koenig and Heather Rogers (see all)

NiCHE encourages comments and constructive discussion of our articles. We reserve the right to delete comments that fail to meet our guidelines including comments under aliases, or that contain spam, harassment, or attacks on an individual.