Tuesday, January 31, 2012
1) Meyers, Amy R.W. (editor). Knowing Nature: Art and Science in Philadelphia, 1740-1840. 2012. Yale University Press. Hardbound: 417 pages. Price: $65.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: Philadelphia developed the most active scientific community in early America, fostering an influential group of naturalist-artists, including William Bartram, Charles Willson Peale, Alexander Wilson, and John James Audubon, whose work has been addressed by many monographic studies. However, as the groundbreaking essays in Knowing Nature demonstrate, the examination of nature stimulated not only forms of artistic production traditionally associated with scientific practice of the day, but processes of making not ordinarily linked to science. The often surprisingly intimate connections between and among these creative activities and the objects they engendered are explored through the essays in this book, challenging the hierarchy that is generally assumed to have been at play in the study of nature, from the natural sciences through the fine and decorative arts, and, ultimately, popular and material culture. Indeed, the many ways in which the means of knowing nature were reversed—in which artistic and artisanal culture informed scientific interpretations of the natural world—forms a central theme of this pioneering publication.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in early American scientific history.
1) Crane, Jeff. Finding the River: An Environmental History of the Elwha. 2011. OSU Press. Paperback: 250 pages. Price: $24.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: In 1992 landmark federal legislation called for the removal of two dams from the Elwha River to restore salmon runs. Jeff Crane dives into the debate over development and ecological preservation in Finding the River, presenting a long-term environmental and human history of the river as well as a unique look at river reconstruction.
Finding the River examines the ways that different communities—from the Lower Elwha Klallam Indians to current-day residents—have used the river and its resources, giving close attention to the harnessing of the Elwha for hydroelectric production and the resulting decline of its fisheries. Crane describes efforts begun in the 1980s to remove the dams and restore the salmon. He explores the rise of a river restoration movement in the late twentieth century and the roles that free-flowing rivers could play in preserving salmon as climate change presents another set of threats to these endangered fish.
A significant and timely contribution to American Western and environmental history—removal of the two Elwha River dams began in September 2011—Finding the River will be of interest to historians, environmentalists, and fisheries biologists, as well as to general readers interested in the Puget Sound, the Olympic Peninsula, and environmental issues.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in river restoration projects and/or Olympic Peninsula history.
2) Kimmerer, Robin Wall. Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses. 2003. OSU Press. Paperback: 168 pages. Price: $18.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: Winner of the 2005 John Burroughs Medal Award for Natural History Writing
Living at the limits of our ordinary perception, mosses are a common but largely unnoticed element of the natural world. Gathering Moss is a beautifully written mix of science and personal reflection that invites readers to explore and learn from the elegantly simple lives of mosses.
In this series of linked personal essays, Robin Wall Kimmerer leads general readers and scientists alike to an understanding of how mosses live and how their lives are intertwined with the lives of countless other beings. Kimmerer explains the biology of mosses clearly and artfully, while at the same time reflecting on what these fascinating organisms have to teach us.
Drawing on her diverse experiences as a scientist, mother, teacher, and writer of Native American heritage, Kimmerer explains the stories of mosses in scientific terms as well as in the framework of indigenous ways of knowing. In her book, the natural history and cultural relationships of mosses become a powerful metaphor for ways of living in the world.
RECOMMENDATION: Most people only think of moss as something you get rid of. That should change after reading this book.
3) Li, Judith L. and Michael T. Barbour (editors). Wading for Bugs: Exploring Streams with the Experts. 2011. OSU Press. Paperback: 160 pages. Price: $19.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: In Wading for Bugs, nearly two dozen aquatic biologists share their memorable encounters with stream insects. The contributors, based primarily in North America, work in diverse environments – from arctic to desert, from mountain streams to river valleys. They represent a wide range of expertise as authors of standard field texts, leaders in biomonitoring and assessment programs, directors of major laboratories, and specialists in aquatic ecology and taxonomy.
The writings in Wading for Bugs allow readers to experience – through the eyes of the scientists – what it’s like to study stream insects and to make discoveries that could help develop biological indicators for stream health. General summaries introduce each insect order. Elegant insect drawings accompany each story, along with morphological, life history, and habitat information for each species or family.
Wading for Bugs will appeal to general readers as well as students, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts curious about streams and the insects that live in them.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in aquatic entomology.
Monday, January 30, 2012
1) Milner, Richard. Charles R. Knight: The Artist Who Saw Through Time. 2012. Abrams. Hardbound: 180 pages. Price: $40.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: American wildlife artist Charles R. Knight (1874–1953) spent a lifetime creating some of the first paintings and sculptures of dinosaurs, mammoths, and cavemen that were both spectacularly beautiful and scientifically accurate. For generations, his work has inspired scientists, artists, and filmmakers all over the world. This richly illustrated celebration of Knight’s artwork gathers together famous and never-before-seen paintings, sculptures, sketches, and murals. In addition to a new biographical essay, it also features excerpts from Knight’s extensive writings about extinct and modern animals. Above all, it provides a refreshing new look at Knight’s lifelong quest to depict the range of animal species, his struggles with failing eyesight, his desire for artistic independence, and his deep sense of kinship with Ice Age cave artists.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those with an interest in paleoart!
Sunday, January 29, 2012
Friday, January 27, 2012
Just learned about this forthcoming title: The Unfeathered Bird by Katrina van Grouw (formerly Katrina Cook). It's due out Fall/Autumn 2012 (Princeton University Press).
From the author's website: A collection of over 300 fine anatomical drawings reflecting the diversity of bird forms. The skull of a Shoebill, skeleton of a Hoatzin, and the remarkable coiled windpipe of Birds of Paradise are just a few of the exotic gems to be found amongst more familiar birds; but birds as you’ve never seen them before. The majority of these drawings represent birds in living postures: flying, sleeping, feeding and displaying. As well as a representative selection from the 10,000 or so wild species, the book also covers domestic variations achieved by selective breeding, including many of the pigeon varieties kept by Charles Darwin which were so important to his theory of Natural Selection.
The book is arranged according to an 18th Century taxonomy based around simple anatomical features, and has something of the classical flavour of the illustrated natural history works of the past. Its impact is primarily visual, and the concise, accompanying texts are aimed at the layman and free from scientific jargon.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
1) Hume, Julian P. and Michael Walters. Extinct Birds. 2011. T & A D Poyser. Hardbound: 544 pages. Price: 50.00 GBP (about $78.46 U.S.).
SUMMARY: This is the first comprehensive review of the hundreds of bird species and subspecies that have become extinct over the last 1,000 years of habitat degradation, over-hunting and rat introduction. Covering both familiar icons of extinction as well as more obscure birds, some known from just one specimen or from traveller's tales, the book also looks at hundreds of species from the subfossil record – birds that disappeared without ever being recorded. Julian Hume and Michael Walters recreate these lost birds in stunning detail, bringing together an up to date review of the literature for every species. From Great Auks, Carolina Parakeets and Dodos to the amazing yet completely vanished bird radiations of Hawaii and New Zealand, via rafts of extinctions in the Pacific and elsewhere, this book is both a sumptuous reference and an amazing testament to humanity's impact on birds.
A direct replacement for Greenway's seminal 1958 title Extinct and Vanishing Birds, this book will be the standard reference on the subject for generations to come.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for anyone with an interest in bird conservation, especially for those with an interest in what we have already lost! For my U.S.A. readers, Hume's Lost Land of the Dodo has been remaindered and is available at http://www.hamiltonbook.com/ for $9.95 (plus shipping)!
Buteo Books Link
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
1) Tyler, Michael J. and Frank Knight. Field Guide to the Frogs of Australia (revised edition). 2011. CSIRO Publishing. Flexibound: 188 pages. Price: $55.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: Throughout much of the world, frog populations are declining and some species are disappearing totally. In Australia, several species have become extinct in the past 25 years.
This revised and updated guide provides concise accounts of all the known frogs of Australia. There are 230 species within the five native frog families: Hylidae, Limnodynastidae, Microhylidae, Myobatrachidae and Ranidae. Also included are the introduced Cane Toad and nine ‘stowaway’ species that have arrived in Australia.
The text for each species includes details of size, status, distribution, habitat, behaviour and advertisement call. Each species is accompanied by a map of Australia showing its known distribution, and a full-colour painted illustration. Closely related frogs are shown in identical poses so that comparisons can be made readily. The introductory section of the book covers frog biology and habitats and includes notes on families and genera.
RECOMMENDATION: Frank Knight's artwork highlights this book! This title is a must have for those with an interest in the frogs of Australia.
Monday, January 23, 2012
1 and 2) McPherson, Stewart et al.. Sarraceniaceae of North America and South America (2 volumes). 2011. Redfern Natural History Productions. Hardbound: 810 and 566 pages respectively. Price: 34.99 GBP per volume (about $54.45 U.S. plus shipping).
SUMMARY: Complete with up-to-date conservation assessments, distribution maps and accounts of the diversity, wild ecology and habitats of all species, these monographs are a major and definitive taxonomic revision of all three genera of true pitcher plants of the New World.
Visually beautiful and comprehensive, these books will appeal to both general readers and specialists who are interested in the natural history, diversity, ecology and relationships of Darlingtonia, Heliamphora and Sarracenia.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those with an interest in New World pitcher plants! The books can be ordered through NHBS , Redfern or Amazon.com (see links below).
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Friday, January 20, 2012
David Sibley has been working on a revised edition of his bird guide. It's due out in 2013. Here's are sample plates:
To see the artwork in progress, click here
To see the artwork in progress, click here
The set went for $7,922,500 (the record is $11.5 million set in 2010). See more details here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2012/01/20/national/a085430S42.DTL
Thursday, January 19, 2012
1) Grimmett, Richard, Carol Inskipp and Tim Inskipp. Birds of the Indian Subcontinent. 2012. Helm Field Guides. Paperback: 528 pages. Price: $39.50 U.S.
SUMMARY: This new field guide is based on the authors' groundbreaking Birds of the Indian Subcontinent (1998) and covers all the bird species found in India, Pakistian, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and the Maldives. The plates face the descriptions and maps for quick at-a-glance reference. Many of the plates have been repainted for this edition and a number of new species added. This guide also provides tables, summarising identification features of particularly difficult groups such as nightjars, warblers and rosefinches.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for birders interested in the region, even if you own the first edition! The page count has increased from 384 to 528 pages with 73 NEW color plates! This title is being co-published by Princeton University Press as: Birds of India: Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives (Second Edition).
Buteo Books Link
2) Kirwan, Guy M. and Graeme Green. Cotingas and Manakins. 2012. Princeton University Press. Hardbound: 624 pages. Price: $55.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: The New World tropics are home to the richest avifauna on the planet, with more than 4,000 species, many of them endemic. Two groups found exclusively in this region are the cotingas and the manakins. Few other families of birds have such widespread appeal. They are much sought after by birders for their colorful displays, unusual plumages, and, in some cases, great rarity. Their natural history and behavior offer fascinating case studies for evolutionary biologists, while the intriguingly elusive relationships of these birds are of profound interest to taxonomists.
Cotingas and Manakins is the definitive work on these jewels of the Neotropics, covering more than 130 species. These range from some of the rarest and most enigmatic birds in the world to some of the best studied of all tropical species. Many are breathtakingly colorful and ornate while some are plain and difficult to see. This stunning volume features 34 color plates by Eustace Barnes, who has observed many of these species in the field, as well as distribution maps and approximately 400 color photographs that cover all but a tiny handful of species. Complete with detailed species accounts describing key identification features, Cotingas and Manakins is the authoritative illustrated guide to these magnificent Neotropical birds.
This book features:
*Covers more than 130 species of cotingas and manakins
*Features 34 color plates and about 400 color photos
*Includes detailed species accounts and distribution maps
*The must-have illustrated guide to these colorful and exotic birds
RECOMMENDATION: I made the Helm (U.K.) version my Best Bird Book of 2011! It's a must have for those with an interest in Neotropical birds or collectors of family monographs!
3) Linzey, Donald W.. Vertebrate Biology (2nd edition). 2012. Johns Hopkins University Press. Hardbound: 583 pages. Price: $110.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: Long recognized as the most readable textbook on vertebrate biology, this comprehensive volume covers subjects ranging from the biology of the smallest shrew to the migration of the largest whales. Thoroughly updated with the latest research, this new edition discusses taxa and topics such as:
• systematics and evolution
• zoogeography, ecology, morphology, and reproduction
• early chordates
• fish, amphibians, reptiles (inclusive of birds), and mammals
• population dynamics
• movement and migration
• study methods
• extinction processes
• conservation and management
Complete with appendixes and glossary, Vertebrate Biology is the ideal text for courses in zoology, vertebrate biology, vertebrate natural history, and general biology. Donald W. Linzey carefully builds theme upon theme, concept upon concept, as he walks students through a plethora of topics on the vertebrate life form. Arranged logically to follow the typical course format, Vertebrate Biology leaves students with a full understanding of the unique structure, function, and living patterns of the subphylum that includes our own species.
RECOMMENDATION: A nice but expensive college text book.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
1) Howell, Steve N.G.. Petrels, Albatrosses & Storm-Petrels of North America: A Photographic Guide. 2012. Princeton University Press. Hardbound: 483 pages. Price: $45.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: Petrels, albatrosses, and storm-petrels are among the most beautiful yet least known of all the world's birds, living their lives at sea far from the sight of most people. Largely colored in shades of gray, black, and white, these enigmatic and fast-flying seabirds can be hard to differentiate, particularly from a moving boat. Useful worldwide, not just in North America, this photographic guide is based on unrivaled field experience and combines insightful text and hundreds of full-color images to help you identify these remarkable birds.
The first book of its kind, this guide features an introduction that explains ocean habitats and the latest developments in taxonomy. Detailed species accounts describe key identification features such as flight manner, plumage variation related to age and molt, seasonal occurrence patterns, and migration routes. Species accounts are arranged into groups helpful for field identification, and an overview of unique identification challenges is provided for each group. The guide also includes distribution maps for regularly occurring species as well as a bibliography, glossary, and appendixes.
This book features:
*The first state-of-the-art photographic guide to these enigmatic seabirds
*Includes hundreds of full-color photos throughout
*Features detailed species accounts that describe flight, plumage, distribution, and more
*Provides overviews of ocean habitats, taxonomy, and conservation
*Offers tips on how to observe and identify birds at sea
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for pelagic birders! This title is an early contender for "Best Bird Book for 2012"!
Buteo Books Link
1) Dhondt, Andre A.. Interspecific Competition in Birds. 2012. Oxford University Press. Paperback: 282 pages. Price: $59.99 U.S.
SUMMARY: In nature there exist three main types of biotic interactions between individuals of different species: competition, predation, and mutualism. All three exert powerful selection pressures, and all three shape communities. However, the question of how important interspecific competition in nature really is remains controversial and unresolved. This book provides a critical and exhaustive review of the topic. Although the examples are limited mostly to birds (interspecific competition and community structure have been exhaustively studied in this animal group, and a lot of experimental data are available), the conclusions reached have a far broader relevance to population ecologists in general. The book reasons that the coexistence of species is the result of both past and presently on-going interspecific competition.
Furthermore, understanding the importance of interspecific competition in natural systems will be increasingly important when modelling the effects of climate change on populations.
This book features:
*Provides a current, critical review of the importance of interspecific competition in birds
*Considers the evolutionary effects of interspecific competition, its importance in structuring communities, and its influence on the traits of individual species
*A comprehensive synthesis based on a series of extensive, long-term experimental studies
*Ideal graduate course material
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a technical interest in avian biology.
Buteo Books Link