Thursday, May 30, 2013
1) Shapiro, Adam R.. Trying Biology: The Scopes Trial, Textbooks, and the Antievolution Movement in American Schools. 2013. The University of Chicago Press. Hardbound: 193 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: In Trying Biology, Adam R. Shapiro convincingly dispels many conventional assumptions about the 1925 Scopes “monkey” trial. Most view it as an event driven primarily by a conflict between science and religion. Countering this, Shapiro shows the importance of timing: the Scopes trial occurred at a crucial moment in the history of biology textbook publishing, education reform in Tennessee, and progressive school reform across the country. He places the trial in this broad context—alongside American Protestant antievolution sentiment—and in doing so sheds new light on the trial and the historical relationship of science and religion in America.
For the first time we see how religious objections to evolution became a prevailing concern to the American textbook industry even before the Scopes trial began. Shapiro explores both the development of biology textbooks leading up to the trial and the ways in which the textbook industry created new books and presented them as “responses” to the trial. Today, the controversy continues over textbook warning labels, making Shapiro’s study—particularly as it plays out in one of America’s most famous trials—an original contribution to a timely discussion.
RECOMMENDATION: If you have an interest in the anti-evolution movement in the USA you will want to read this book.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
1) Petersen, Jens H.. The Kingdom of Fungi. 2013. Princeton University Press. Hardbound: 265 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: The fungi realm has been called the "hidden kingdom," a mysterious world populated by microscopic spores, gigantic mushrooms and toadstools, and a host of other multicellular organisms ranging widely in color, size, and shape. The Kingdom of Fungi provides an intimate look at the world's astonishing variety of fungi species, from cup fungi and lichens to truffles and tooth fungi, clubs and corals, and jelly fungi and puffballs. This beautifully illustrated book features more than 800 stunning color photographs as well as a concise text that describes the biology and ecology of fungi, fungal morphology, where fungi grow, and human interactions with and uses of fungi.
The Kingdom of Fungi is a feast for the senses, and the ideal reference for naturalists, researchers, and anyone interested in fungi.
This book features:
*Reveals fungal life as never seen before
*Features more than 800 stunning color photos
*Describes fungal biology, morphology, distribution, and uses
*A must-have reference book for naturalists and researchers
RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated introduction to fungi.
Sunday, May 26, 2013
Friday, May 24, 2013
1) Dickinson, E.C., and J.V. Remsen Jr. (editors). The Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World, Fourth Edition. Volume 1 Non-passerines. 2013. Aves Press. Hardbound: 461 pages. Price: $95.00 U.S./ £60.
SUMMARY: The Fourth Edition of the Howard and Moore Checklist of the Birds of the World will be published in two volumes: Volume 1 - Non-passerines and Volume 2 - Passerines. This is a new edition of a major reference work and most respected scientific checklist of birds of the world. It has been updated to reflect the considerable change in our understanding of the evolution of birds derived from the study of their DNA over the past decade; thus the Cracraft sequence adopted in 2003 is completely revised here.The new edition also reflects revisions to species and subspecies. Evaluation, as before, is based on the Biological Species Concept, carefully and conservatively applied. Range statements have been revised, particularly for the Americas. Overall the number of footnotes and references cited about doubles. Volume 2 is expected to be published in August 2013.
IAN'S RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for those with an interest in avian taxonomy! This title is available in the Americas from Buteo Books here: http://www.buteobooks.com/product/HMC1&affiliate=birdbooker.html
and in the United Kingdom here: http://www.avespress.com/books/new-book/
Thursday, May 23, 2013
1) Montgomery, Sy. Snowball: The Dancing Cockatoo. 2013. Bauhan Publishing. Paperback: 64 pages. Price: $15.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: This is the true story of how an unwanted cockatoo achieved international fame as a YouTube sensation (more than 5 million hits!), television star, and scientific study subject, all by rocking out to the beat of his favorite tunes. Snowball tells the story with his own spirited psitticine spin. But everything he says is true, including how he inspired the World’s First Bird Dance-Off Contest, became the subject of a groundbreaking study about music and the brain, and has now gone into teaching children how to dance and doing charity work.
RECOMMENDATION: For ages: 8-13. Fans of Snowball should enjoy this book.You can buy this book directly from the publisher here: http://www.bauhanpublishing.com/snowball/
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
1) Burtt, Edward H., Jr. and William E. Davis, Jr.. Alexander Wilson: The Scot Who Founded American Ornithology. 2013. Belknap/Harvard. Hardbound: 444 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: Audubon was not the father of American ornithology. That honorific belongs to Alexander Wilson, whose encyclopedic American Ornithology established a distinctive approach that emphasized the observation of live birds. In the first full-length study to reproduce all of Wilson’s unpublished drawings for the nine-volume Ornithology, Edward Burtt and William Davis illustrate Wilson’s pioneering and, today, underappreciated achievement as the first ornithologist to describe the birds of the North American wilderness.
Abandoning early ambitions to become a poet in the mold of his countryman Robert Burns, Wilson emigrated from Scotland to settle near Philadelphia, where the botanist William Bartram encouraged his proclivity for art and natural history. Wilson traveled 12,000 miles on foot, on horseback, in a rowboat, and by stage and ship, establishing a network of observers along the way. He wrote hundreds of accounts of indigenous birds, discovered many new species, and sketched the behavior and ecology of each species he encountered.
Drawing on their expertise in both science and art, Burtt and Davis show how Wilson defied eighteenth-century conventions of biological illustration by striving for realistic depiction of birds in their native habitats. He drew them in poses meant to facilitate identification, making his work the model for modern field guides and an inspiration for Audubon, Spencer Fullerton Baird, and other naturalists who followed. On the bicentennial of his death, this beautifully illustrated volume is a fitting tribute to Alexander Wilson and his unique contributions to ornithology, ecology, and the study of animal behavior.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those with an interest in American ornithological history.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
1) Walter, Chip. Last Ape Standing: The Seven-Million-Year Story of How and Why We Survived. 2013. Walker Books. Hardbound: 220 pages. Price: $26.00 U.S./ £20.00.
SUMMARY: Over the past 180 years scientists have discovered evidence that at least twenty-seven species of humans evolved on planet Earth. What enabled us to survive when all the others were shown the evolutionary door?
Chip Walter tells the intriguing tale of how against all odds and despite nature’s capricious ways we stand here today, the planet’s most dominant species. Drawing on a wide variety of scientific disciplines, he reveals how a rare evolutionary phenomenon led to the uniquely long childhoods that make us so resourceful and emotionally complex. Walter explains how the evolution of our highly social nature has shaped our moral (and immoral) behavior. He also plumbs the roots of our creativity and investigates why we became self-aware in ways that no other animal is. Along the way, Last Ape Standing profiles the mysterious "others" who evolved with us—the Neanderthals of Europe, the "hobbits" of Indonesia, the Denisovans of Siberia, and the recently discovered Red Deer Cave people of China, who died off just as we stood on the brink of civilization eleven thousand years ago.
Last Ape Standing is evocative science writing at its best—a witty, engaging and accessible story that explores the evolutionary events that molded us into the remarkably unique creatures we are.
RECOMMENDATION: A readable introduction to paleoanthropology.
Monday, May 20, 2013
1) Doughton, Sandi. Full Rip 9.0: The Next Big Earthquake in the Pacific Northwest. 2013. Sasquatch Books. Hardbound: 256 pages. Price: $23.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: Scientists have identified Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver as the urban centers of what will be the biggest earthquake, also called a mega-quake, in the continental United States. A quake will happen--in fact it's actually overdue. The Cascadia subduction zone is 750 miles long, running along the Pacific coast from Northern California up to southern British Columbia. In this fascinating book, The Seattle Times science reporter Sandi Doughton introduces readers to the scientists who are dedicated to understanding the way the earth moves and describes what patterns can be identified and how prepared (or not) people are. With a 100% chance of a mega-quake hitting the Pacific Northwest, this fascinating book reports on the scientists who are trying to understand when, where, and just how big THE BIG ONE will be.
RECOMMENDATION: If you live in this region, you should read this book!
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
SUMMARY: New species of animal and plant are being discovered all the time. When this happens, the new species has to be given a scientific, Latin name in addition to any common, vernacular name. In either case the species may be named after a person, often the discoverer but sometimes an individual they wished to honour or perhaps were staying with at the time the discovery was made. Species names related to a person are ‘eponyms’. Many scientific names are allusive, esoteric and even humorous, so an eponym dictionary is a valuable resource for anyone, amateur or professional, who wants to decipher the meaning and glimpse the history of a species name.
Sometimes a name refers not to a person but to a fictional character or mythological figure. The Forest Stubfoot Toad Atelopus farci is named after the FARC, a Colombian guerrilla army who found refuge in the toad’s habitat and thereby, it is claimed, protected it. Hoipollo's Bubble-nest Frog Pseudophilautus hoipolloi was named after the Greek for ‘the many’, but someone assumed the reference was to a Dr Hoipollo. Meanwhile, the man who has everything will never refuse an eponym: Sting's Treefrog Dendropsophus stingi is named after the rock musician, in honour of his ‘commitment and efforts to save the rainforest’.
Following the success of their Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles, the authors have joined forces to give amphibians a similar treatment. They have tracked down 1,609 honoured individuals and composed for each a brief, pithy biography. In some cases these are a reminder of the courage of scientists whose dedicated research in remote locations exposed them to disease and even violent death. The eponym ensures that their memory will survive, aided by reference works such as this highly readable dictionary. Altogether 2,668 amphibians are listed.
RECOMMENDATION: Herpetologists will find this book to be a useful reference.
2) Nedosekov, Boris. Birds of Uzbekistan: Photoalbum. 2012. Hertfordshire Press. Hardbound: 100 pages. Price: £25.00 (about $38.00 U.S.).
SUMMARY: This is a superb collection of full-colour photographs provided by the members of Uzbekistan Society for the Protection of Birds, with text in both English and in Russian.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and Uzbekistan’s declaration of independence in 1991, unlike in other Central Asian states there have been no such illustrated books published about the birds of this country’s rich and diverse wildlife.
There are more than 500 species of birds in Uzbekistan, with 32 included in the International Red Data Book. After independence, Uzbekistan began to attract the attention of foreign tourist companies, and particularly those specialising in ornithological tourism and birdwatching. Birds of Uzbekistan is therefore a much-needed and timely portrait of this element of the country’s remarkable wildlife.
RECOMMENDATION: Basically this book is a photographic introduction to the birds of the region, not a field guide.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
SUMMARY: More than 10,000 years ago spectacularly large mammals roamed the pampas and jungles of South America. This book tells the story of these great beasts during and just after the Pleistocene, the geological epoch marked by the great ice ages. Megafauna describes the history and way of life of these animals, their comings and goings, and what befell them at the beginning of the modern era and the arrival of humans. It places these giants within the context of the other mammals then alive, describing their paleobiology—how they walked; how much they weighed; their diets, behavior, biomechanics; and the interactions among them and with their environment. It also tells the stories of the scientists who contributed to our discovery and knowledge of these transcendent creatures and the environment they inhabited. The episode known as the Great American Biotic Interchange, perhaps the most important of all natural history "experiments," is also an important theme of the book, tracing the biotic events of both North and South America that led to the fauna and the ecosystems discussed in this book.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a technical interest in Pleistocene mammals.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
SUMMARY: Penguins, among the most delightful creatures in the world, are also among the most vulnerable. The fragile status of most penguin populations today mirrors the troubled condition of the southern oceans, as well as larger marine conservation problems: climate change, pollution, and fisheries mismanagement. This timely book presents the most current knowledge on each of the eighteen penguin species-from the majestic emperor penguins of the Antarctic to the tiny blue penguins of New Zealand and Australia, from the northern rockhopper penguins of the South Atlantic and Indian oceans to the Galapagos penguins of the equator - written by the leading experts in the field.
The discussion of each species includes the life history, distribution, population sizes and trends, and International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) status, as well as threats to survival and legal protections, if any. The book also provides information on current conservation efforts, outlines the most important actions to be taken to increase each population's resilience, and recommends further research needed to protect penguins and the other living creatures that share their environment.
Beautifully illustrated with full-color photographs of each species in their natural habitat and detailed charts and graphs, Penguins will be an invaluable tool for researchers, conservation groups, and policy makers. It will also enchant anyone interested in the lives or the plight of these fascinating animals.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a semi-technical or technical interest in penguins.
2) Grande, Lance. The Lost World of Fossil Lake: Snapshots from Deep Time. 2013. The University of Chicago Press. Hardbound: 425 pages. Price: $45.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: The landscape of southwestern Wyoming around the ghost town of Fossil is beautiful but harsh; a dry, high mountain desert with cool nights and long, cold winters inhabited by a sparse mountain desert community. But during the early Eocene, more than fifty million years ago, it was a subtropical lake, surrounded by volcanoes and forests and teeming with life. Buried within the sun-baked limestone is spectacular evidence of the lush vegetation and plentiful fauna of the ancient past, a transitional ecosystem giving us clues to how North America recovered from a great extinction event that wiped out dinosaurs and the majority of all species on the planet.
Paleontologists have been conducting excavations at Fossil Butte for more than 150 years, and with The Lost World of Fossil Lake, one of the world’s leading experts on the fossils from this spectacular locality takes readers on a fascinating journey through the history of the discovery and exploration of the site. Deftly mixing incredible color photographs of the remarkable fossils uncovered at the site with an explanation of their evolutionary significance, Grande presents an unprecedented, comprehensive portrait of the site, its treasures, and what we’ve learned from them. Grande presents a broad range of fossilized organisms from Fossil Lake—from single-celled algae to palm trees to crocodiles—and together they make this long-extinct community come to life in all its diversity and splendor. A field guide and atlas round out the book, enabling readers to identify and classify the majority of the known fossils from the site.
Lavishly produced in full color, The Lost World of Fossil Lake is a stunning reminder of the intellectual and physical beauty of scientific investigation—and a breathtaking window onto our planet’s long-lost past.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those with an interest in Wyoming paleontology.
3) Leaf, Sue. A Love Affair with Birds: The Life of Thomas Sadler Roberts. 2013. University of Minnesota Press. Hardbound: 271 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: Imagine a Minneapolis so small that, on calm days, the roar of St. Anthony Falls could be heard in town, a time when passenger pigeons roosted in neighborhood oak trees. Now picture a dapper professor conducting his ornithology class (the university’s first) by streetcar to Lake Harriet for a morning of bird-watching. The students were mostly young women—in sunhats, sailor tops, and long skirts, with binoculars strung around their necks. The professor was Thomas Sadler Roberts (1858–1946), a doctor for three decades, a bird lover virtually from birth, the father of Minnesota ornithology, and the man who, perhaps more than any other, promoted the study of the state’s natural history. A Love Affair with Birds is the first full biography of this key figure in Minnesota’s past.
Roberts came to Minnesota as a boy and began keeping detailed accounts of Minneapolis’s birds. These journals, which became the basis for his landmark work The Birds of Minnesota, also inform this book, affording a view of the state’s rich avian life in its early days—and of a young man whose passion for birds and practice of medicine among Minneapolis’s elite eventually dovetailed in his launching of the beloved Bell Museum of Natural History.
Bird enthusiast, doctor, author, curator, educator, conservationist: every chapter in Roberts’s life is also a chapter in the state’s history, and in his story acclaimed author Sue Leaf—an avid bird enthusiast and nature lover herself—captures a true Minnesota character and his time.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in Minnesota ornithological history.
4) Prothero, Donald R.. Rhinoceros Giants: The Paleobiology of Indricotheres. 2013. Indiana University Press. Hardbound: 141 pages. Price: $42.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: Written for everyone fascinated by the huge beasts that once roamed the earth, this book introduces the giant hornless rhinoceros, Indricotherium. These massive animals inhabited Eurasia for more than 14 million years, about 37 to 23 million years ago. They had skulls 6 feet long, stood 22 feet high at the shoulder, and were twice as heavy as the largest elephant ever recorded, tipping the scales at 44,100 pounds. Fortunately, the big brutes were vegetarians. Donald R. Prothero tells their story, from their discovery just a century ago to the latest research on how they lived and died.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a semi-technical or technical interest in these mammals.