Saturday, October 3, 2015
1) Turner, Tom. David Brower: The Making of the Environmental Movement. 2015. University of California Press. Hardbound: 308 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: In this first comprehensive authorized biography of David Brower, a dynamic leader in the environmental movement over the last half of the twentieth century, Tom Turner explores Brower's impact on the movement from its beginnings until his death in 2000.
Frequently compared to John Muir, David Brower was the first executive director of the Sierra Club, founded Friends of the Earth, and helped secure passage of the Wilderness Act, among other key achievements. Tapping his passion for wilderness and for the mountains he scaled in his youth, he was a central figure in the creation of the Point Reyes National Seashore and of the North Cascades and Redwood national parks. In addition, Brower worked tirelessly in successful efforts to keep dams from being built in Dinosaur National Monument and the Grand Canyon.
Tom Turner began working with David Brower in 1968 and remained close to him until Brower’s death. As an insider, Turner creates an intimate portrait of Brower the man and the decisive role he played in the development of the environmental movement. Culling material from Brower’s diaries, notebooks, articles, books, and published interviews, and conducting his own interviews with many of Brower’s admirers, opponents, and colleagues, Turner brings to life one of the movement's most controversial and complex figures.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in the history of the environmental movement in North America.
Thursday, October 1, 2015
1) Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Gerrit Vyn. The Living Bird: 100 Years of Listening to Nature. 2015. Mountaineers Books. Hardbound: 208 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: For 100 years, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has researched the lives of birds, educating the public and striving for protection of species and habitat. But the Lab does more than just study-it celebrates birds through song and image, and connects people to birds, opening thousands of eyes to the natural world around us.
An intimate yet stunning exploration of North American species, The Living Bird shares our joyful and complex relationship with birds. Through imagery and thoughtful essays, award-winning photographer Gerrit Vyn, along with leading naturalists and bird enthusiasts, takes readers on a visual and experiential journey, revealing the essence of the century-long work done by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Barbara Kingsolver remembers herself as a reluctant birder until, years later, she exalts in a special birding trip with her father. From this evocative beginning, Scott Weidensaul then delves into the secret lives of birds: How do flocks of birds manage to migrate thousands of miles? What determines who mates with whom? And what is the purpose of all those pretty feathers and glorious melodies? In her essay, Lyanda Lynn Haupt finds inspiration in our everyday birds as they connect us to the natural world, and she describes how citizen science-sharing daily observations via ebird, for example-has enriched her own understanding of everything around us. Director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology John W. Fitzpatrick considers the threats birds face today, and some of the failures-and successes-of the past. While too many species have been driven to extinction, others have made remarkable recoveries thanks to human action. Jared Diamond underscores that it is in our hands to preserve the living birds around us.
Throughout, Vyn's remarkable photographs of birds, both familiar and exotic, bring the exhilaration of migratory Whooping Cranes, the fragility of the endangered Spoon-Billed Sandpiper, and the wide-eyed beauty of Great Horned Owls alive on the page. From enjoying Black-capped Chickadees or Yellow Warblers in a backyard birdbath to spotting a Pileated Woodpecker in the woods to admiring the powerful soar of a Gyrfalcon, the appeal of watching and listening to birds leads us into a greater understanding of their environment-and of ours.
RECOMMENDATION: A nicely illustrated coffee table book.
Monday, September 28, 2015
1) Prothero, Donald R.. The Story of Life in 25 Fossils: Tales of Intrepid Fossil Hunters and the Wonders of Evolution. 2015. Columbia University Press. Hardbound: 389 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Every fossil tells a story. Best-selling paleontology author Donald R. Prothero describes twenty-five famous, beautifully preserved fossils in a gripping scientific history of life on Earth. Recounting the adventures behind the discovery of these objects and fully interpreting their significance within the larger fossil record, Prothero creates a riveting history of life on our planet.
The twenty-five fossils portrayed in this book catch animals in their evolutionary splendor as they transition from one kind of organism to another. We witness extinct plants and animals of microscopic and immense size and thrilling diversity. We learn about fantastic land and sea creatures that have no match in nature today. Along the way, we encounter such fascinating fossils as the earliest trilobite, Olenellus; the giant shark Carcharocles; the "fishibian" Tiktaalik; the "Frogamander" and the "Turtle on the Half-Shell"; enormous marine reptiles and the biggest dinosaurs known; the first bird, Archaeopteryx; the walking whale Ambulocetus; the gigantic hornless rhinoceros Paraceratherium, the largest land mammal that ever lived; and the Australopithecus nicknamed "Lucy," the oldest human skeleton. We meet the scientists and adventurers who pioneered paleontology and learn about the larger intellectual and social contexts in which their discoveries were made. Finally, we find out where to see these splendid fossils in the world's great museums.
Ideal for all who love prehistoric landscapes and delight in the history of science, this book makes a treasured addition to any bookshelf, stoking curiosity in the evolution of life on Earth.
RECOMMENDATION: A readable introduction to paleontology focused on animals.
Friday, September 25, 2015
1) Berta, Annalisa (editor). Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises: A Natural History and Species Guide. 2015. The University of Chicago Press. Hardbound: 288 pages. Price: $45.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The eighty-nine cetacean species that swim our seas and rivers are as diverse as they are intelligent and elusive, from the hundred-foot-long, two-hundred-ton blue whale to the lesser-known tucuxi, ginkgo-toothed beaked whale, and diminutive, critically endangered vaquita. The huge distances these highly migratory creatures cover and the depths they dive mean we catch only the merest glimpses of their lives as they break the surface of the water. But thanks to the marriage of science and technology, we are now beginning to understand their anatomy, complex social structures, extraordinary communication abilities, and behavioral patterns. In this beautifully illustrated guide, renowned marine mammalogist Annalisa Berta draws on the contributions of a pod of fellow whale biologists to present the most comprehensive, authoritative overview ever published of these remarkable aquatic mammals.
Opening with an accessible rundown of cetacean biology—including the most recent science on feeding, mating, and communication—Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises then presents species-specific natural history on a range of topics, from anatomy and diet to distribution and conservation status. Each entry also includes original drawings of the species and its key identifiers, such as fin shape and color, tooth shape, and characteristic markings as they would appear both above and below water—a feature unique to this book.
Figures of myth and—as the debate over hunting rages on—figures of conflict since long before the days of Moby-Dick, whales, dolphins, and porpoises are also ecologically important and, in many cases, threatened. Written for general enthusiasts, emergent cetacean fans, and biologists alike, this stunning, urgently needed book will serve as the definitive guide for years to come.
RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated reference book (not a field guide) to the World's cetaceans.
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
1) Alexander, David E.. On the Wing: Insects, Pterosaurs, Birds, Bats and the Evolution of Animal Flight. 2015. Oxford University Press. Hardbound: 210 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Ask anybody what superpower they wished to possess and odds are the answer just might be "the ability to fly." What is it about soaring through the air held up by the power of one's own body that has captivated humans for so long? David Alexander examines the evolution of flight in the only four animals to have evolved this ability: insects, pterosaurs, birds, and bats. With an accessible writing style grounded in rigorous research, Alexander breaks new ground in a field that has previously been confined to specialists. While birds have received the majority of attention from flight researchers, Alexander pays equal attention to all four groups of flyers-something that no other book on the subject has done before now. In a streamlined and captivating way, David Alexander demonstrates the links between the tiny 2-mm thrip and the enormous albatross with the 12 feet wingspan used to cross oceans.
The book delves into the fossil record of flyers enough to satisfy the budding paleontologist, while also pleasing ornithologists and entomologists alike with its treatment of animal behavior, flapping mechanisms, and wing-origin theory. Alexander uses relatable examples to draw in readers even without a natural interest in birds, bees, and bats. He takes something that is so off-limits and unfamiliar to humans-the act of flying-and puts it in the context of experiences that many readers can relate to. Alexander guides readers through the anomalies of the flying world: hovering hummingbirds, unexpected gliders (squirrels, for instance), and the flyers that went extinct (pterosaurs). Alexander also delves into wing-origin theory and explores whether birds entered the skies from the trees down (as gliders) or from the ground up (as runners) and uses the latest fossil evidence to present readers with an answer.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a semi-technical interest in the topic.
2) Duellman, William E.. Marsupial Frogs: Gastrotheca and Allied Genera. 2015. Johns Hopkins University Press. Hardbound: 407 pages. Price: $120.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: This scientific masterpiece reveals many aspects of the lives of marsupial frogs and closely allied genera. Native to Central and South America, these amphibians differ from other frogs in that they protect their eggs after oviposition by either adhering them to the female’s back or placing them in a specialized dorsal pouch (thus the common name, marsupial frog). During mating, the male typically collects the eggs from the female with his feet—often one at a time and always out of water—fertilizes them, and then tucks them into the female’s pouch or attaches them to her back. In some species these eggs hatch as tadpoles, but most emerge as miniatures of the adults. Even among the tadpoles there is remarkable divergence, with some behaving in the typical manner (feeding and metamorphosing), whereas others forego all feeding until they metamorphose.
In Marsupial Frogs, William E. Duellman’s synthesis of all that is known about the unique family Hemiphractidae is largely based on decades of his own careful laboratory and field study. He reveals the diversity of exotic color patterns and the frogs' geographic distributions by providing more than 200 photographs, illustrations, and maps. This exceptional tome should find its way into the libraries of serious herpetologists, tropical biologists, and developmental biologists.
Included in this book are:
• A molecular phylogeny of the family Hemiphractidae• A thorough osteological analysis• A review of external morphological features• An overview of the evolution of reproductive modes• A biogeographic synthesis• Keys to genera and species• Diagnosis and thorough description of each species of marsupial frog• Colored physiographic maps depicting species distributions.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a technical interest in these species.
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
1) van Perlo, Ber. Birds of South America: Passerines. 2015. Princeton University Press. Paperback: 464 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: This comprehensive field guide to the birds of South America covers all 1,952 passerine species to be found south of Panama, including offshore islands such as Trinidad, the Galapagos, and the Falklands, and the islands of the Scotia Arc leading to the Antarctic mainland. It features 197 stunning color plates and detailed species accounts that describe key identification features, habitat, songs, and calls. All plumages for each species are illustrated, including males, females, and juveniles. This easy-to-use guide is the essential travel companion for experienced birdwatchers and novice birders alike. [Range maps are also included.]
RECOMMENDATION: This book is a supplement to: Birds of South America: Non-passerines: Rheas to Woodpeckers.
Saturday, September 19, 2015
1) Tucker, David. Geology Underfoot in Western Washington. 2015. Mountain Press Publishing Company. Paperback: 374 pages. Price: $24.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Ancient volcanoes preserved as deeply eroded scraps. Seafloors forced high into the sky. Fossils of a long-extinct, 385-pound flightless bird that roamed subtropical floodplains. From the crest of the Cascades to the Pacific, and from the Columbia River north to the Canadian border, the ghosts of deep time are widely exposed in western Washington. But geology never really dies. It is very much active and alive in the region: volcanoes periodically erupt, showering their surroundings with ash; earthquakes shake Earth’s surface and the constructions of humans, sending tsunamis ashore to wreak havoc; and melting alpine glaciers send forth great floods of water.
Geology Underfoot in Western Washington, the most recent addition to the Geology Underfoot series, author and geoscientist Dave Tucker narrates western Washington’s geologic tales, covering sites from it’s low-lying shorelines to its rugged mountaintops. The book’s 22 chapters, or vignettes, lead you to easily accessible stops along Washington’s highways—and some trails, too. A healthy dose of full-color illustrations and photos compliments the author’s illuminating prose, further demystifying Washington’s geologic wonders. With Geology Underfoot in Western Washington in hand, you’ll soon feel like an Evergreen State geology expert.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for anyone with an interest in the geology of the region.