Environment

Celebrate #WorldMigratoryBirdDay with “The Art of the Bird”

October 12, 2019
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Celebrate #WorldMigratoryBirdDay with “The Art of the Bird”

Each year, the second Saturday in October marks the autumn celebration of World Migratory Bird Day, a biannual, international “awareness-raising campaign highlighting the need for the conservation of migratory birds and their habitats.” Stretched along Lake Michigan and sitting squarely on the Mississippi Flyway, the Chicago region is an incredibly important habitat for migratory birds—and a great place to go birdwatching. This October 12 and beyond, take a peek (or beak?) inside the recently published The Art of the Bird: The History of Ornithological Art through Forty Artists by expert ornithologist Roger J. Lederer. Lavishly illustrated with 200 color plates, this is a coffee table book that art lovers and birdwatchers alike will flock to. Below, we include some of the birds (or their cousins) to watch out for in Chicago this autumn. If you’ve hung hummingbird feeders in your garden, you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a migrating ruby-throated hummingbird. These (not ruby-throated) hummingbirds, painted by American artist Arthur B. Singer (1917–90), were featured on the cover of Alexander Skutch’s The Life of the Hummingbird in 1973. As Lederer writes, Singer’s “reputation was made in 1961 with Oliver Austin’s Birds of the World book, which . . .

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6 Questions with Mark Hineline, author of “Ground Truth: A Guide to Tracking Climate Change at Home”

September 9, 2019
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We know that the Earth’s climate is changing and that the magnitude of this change is colossal. At the same time, the world outside is still a natural world and one we can experience on a granular level every day. Ground Truth is a practical guide to living in this condition of changing nature, to paying attention instead of turning away. Ground Truth features detailed guidance for keeping records of the plants, animals, and seasonal changes that occur in our neighborhood. This practice is known as phenology—the study and timing of natural events—and these records can be put to practical use by scientists. We talked with author Mark L. Hineline about how he came to practice phenology, and why it’s more important now than ever. The media and scientists highlight increasing temperature when they talk about climate change, but you discount temperature and instead highlight phenology. What is phenology, and why do you think it is more important than temperature? Temperature, global temperature, is very important. But as people going about our daily business, we’re not equipped to make distinctions at the scale of a degree or two, or even five degrees. Humidity makes a difference in how we experience . . .

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Read an Excerpt from “An Alfred Russel Wallace Companion”

August 13, 2019
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Although Alfred Russel Wallace (1823–1913) was one of the most famous scientists in the world at the time of his death at the age of ninety, today he is known to many as a kind of “almost-Darwin,” a secondary figure relegated to the footnotes of Darwin’s prodigious insights. But this diminution could hardly be less justified. Research into the life of this brilliant naturalist and social critic continues to produce new insights into his significance to history and his role in helping to shape modern thought. Wallace declared his eight years of exploration in Southeast Asia to be “the central and controlling incident” of his life. As 2019 marks one hundred and fifty years since the publication of The Malay Archipelago, Wallace’s canonical work chronicling his epic voyage, read on for an excerpt from the editors’ introduction to An Alfred Russel Wallace Companion—a collaborative, interdisciplinary new book that celebrates Wallace’s remarkable life and diverse scholarly accomplishments. Although Wallace’s four years in the Amazon Valley had convinced him he was on the right track as regards a causal relationship between geography and evolution, his thoughts on the mechanism of transmutation had actually not advanced much, nor did he now have collections . . .

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It’s Independence Day! Read an Excerpt from “Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose”

July 4, 2019
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In the years after the Revolutionary War, the fledgling republic of America was viewed by many Europeans as a degenerate backwater, populated by subspecies weak and feeble. Chief among these naysayers was the French Count and world-renowned naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon, who wrote that the flora and fauna of America (humans included) were inferior to European specimens. Thomas Jefferson spent years countering the French conception of American degeneracy. The American moose, which Jefferson claimed was so enormous a European reindeer could walk under it, became the cornerstone of his defense. Convinced that the sight of such a magnificent beast would cause Buffon to revise his claims, Jefferson had the remains of a seven-foot ungulate shipped first class from New Hampshire to Paris. Unfortunately, Buffon died before he could make any revisions to his Histoire Naturelle, but the legend of the moose makes for a fascinating tale about Jefferson’s passion to prove that American nature deserved prestige. In Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose, first published in 2009 and reissued in paperback this year, Lee Alan Dugatkin vividly recreates the origin and evolution of the debates about natural history in America and, in so doing, returns the prize moose to its rightful place in . . .

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Earth Day: Read the Entry for Today from “A Year with Nature”

April 22, 2019
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Herpetologist and natural history writer Marty Crump is a collector of wild tales; and in this bedside book for nature lovers, her treasure chest of stories opens wide. Gathering science and lore, wit and wisdom into a day-by-day, charmingly illustrated wander through the year, A Year with Nature is a quotidian companion that doesn’t eschew conservation issues even as it encourages contemplation, awe, and fun. On April 17, we read a dispatch from the annual Black Bear Festival in Louisiana; on August 12, we learn about World Elephant Day; and on November 13, the day that Coleridge published his famous Rime of the Ancient Mariner, we fly with the albatross (of course). From pythons to oceans, from the moon to the Hope Diamond, the world that this joyful book celebrates is one that is still wild and wonderful—and worth protecting. This Earth Day, read on for A Year with Nature’s inspiring April 22 entry celebrating photographer and preservationist Ansel Adams, who died thirty-five years ago today. APRIL 22 Photography and Wilderness Preservation You don’t take a photograph, you make it. —ANSEL ADAMS, photographer Naturalists, conservationists, environmentalists, and others who dedicate their lives to preserving landscapes strive to accomplish their goals in different ways . . .

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