Friday, April 27, 2007

Bioblitz & Books

I’d much rather be looking off my deck into the dogwood-blooming woods, but here are a few quick BioBlitz-related items. First, I’m happy to announce the first appearance of PinesAboveSnow in the Carnival of the Green, hosted this week at The Evangelical Ecologist. This week’s Carnival features a variety of what the host calls “eco-bloggy goodness” (e.g., wildlife smuggling, National Gardening Week, and ethical retailing ). The most blitz-friendly is a list of “ten not-so-inconsequential things” we can do to save the earth from The Wild Green Yonder, which urges green-wanna-bes to get to know their local ecosystem and native species. What better way than bioblitzing?

In the “ask and ye shall be given” department, no sooner had I finished whining about my lack of an ant guide for non-myrmecologists than a fine review of an excellent new insect guide appeared at
10,000 Birds
. Mike puts the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America to the test, checking if it could decipher the identity of a mystery moth. Despite 11,000 possibilities, the Kaufman guide succeeded in leading Mike to the correct id down to the species level. Though I haven’t seen the guide yet, I’m sold from 10,000 Birder’s assessment of it as “ ideal for casual or modestly skilled insect oglers like myself.” I hope it works for those of us even less than casually skilled.

The Insect Guide is one in a series of field guides by the astonishing naturalist Kenn Kaufman. Always innovative, Kaufman solves the paintings-versus-photos dilemma by illustrating each with digitally enhanced photographs. Yet my favorite Kaufman book has no photos at all--Kingbird Highway: The Story of a Natural Obsession that Got a Little Out of Hand. Kaufman’s memoir traces his drive to know birds back to early childhood, fueled by books, supported by parents, and enlivened by countless hours outdoors. At 16, Kaufman dropped out of high school to hitchhike across North America pursuing a dream to count more birds in a year than anyone else. The stories of his adventures not only reveal the origins of his expertise and commitment to birds and conservation but also the 1970s evolution of birding as a national sport and bird protection as a foundation of modern environmentalism.

For a nature book advocate like me, Kingbird Highway has special meaning. Kaufman recognizes the impacts of books from his earliest years, when he checked out library copies of Roger Tory Peterson’s guides over and over. In his teens, Peterson and Fisher’s tale of their North American birding adventure, Wild America became his bible. As Kaufman puts it, “That book became my daily passport to the wilderness.” While I agree that hand-on field experience, including activities such as BioBlitzing, lead many to commitments and even careers in nature protection, books are often equally vital forces. What better testimony to the value of books to shaping environmentalists than Kaufman’s own prolific publishing record? Who knows when a budding myrmecologist will pick up Kaufman’s insect guide and head off on a quest of his own?

1 comment:

Mike said...

Hey Julie,

I'm glad I could help! Hope you find the book as easy to use I as have.