Of all the mammals in Great Britain, few – if indeed any – are as deeply linked with the British countryside and its culture as Vulpes vulpes, the Fox. Also called the Red Fox by many throughout the non-British portions of its Northern Hemisphere spanning range, this largest of the Vulpes genus also happens to be the most wide-ranging carnivore in the world.
However in nowhere else throughout its range has the Fox become such an enduring iconic figure as in Great Britain. Stretching back to the verses of Chaucer and running up through works of Beatrix Potter and Roald Dahl, the Fox has both endured and changed, shifting its habits and adapting to alterations in its surroundings, be they cultural or temporal, as well – as we shall presently see – as physical. And it is this very endurance and adaptability (both biologically as well as ecologically) as well as its cultural significance that Lucy Jones so superbly takes up as her subjects in Foxes Unearthed: A Story of Love and Loathing in Modern Britain. Keep reading…
Recent Book Reviews
As one who has travelled widely around the world, I have in the course of my journeys discovered many places that I found beautiful, fascinating, relaxing, or pure and simply enjoyable; however of all the corners of the globe into which my adventures have taken me, none has lodged itself in my heart the way that the Canadian province of British Columbia has. Having visited both its countryside as well as its cities and towns more times than I can recall, each and every trip there merely makes me that much more eager to return the next time. Keep reading…
Names are powerful things. In many human cultures, the selection of a name for a new baby is a matter of the utmost seriousness, reflective of a family’s, society’s, or religious group’s past as well as perhaps portentous of that child’s own future. So it is also that what particular groups of people, entire races even, are called is a topic that can and has provoked contention up to and including physical violence, even warfare. Yet when it comes to the naming of creatures outside the human family, the situation has been – and continues to be – a bit more plastic. Keep reading…
Newly Noted Books
“Science is about the Age of Rocks, religion tells us about the Rock of Ages” – or so the late Dr. Stephen J. Gould is frequently quoted as having written. It’s a clever quip – one I’ve heard often repeated, both humorously and seriously; however…
To those of us who are natural history museum enthusiasts, curators are the veritable high priestesses and priests of the temple. The opportunity to meet and chat with one during a visit, even if for only a few minutes, makes the day a red letter one indeed.
Dr. Erica McAlister knows quite a lot about flies – something that she no doubt finds handy as Collections Manager for Diptera, Siphonaptera, Archnida and Myriapoda at the Natural History Museum. So as you might expect, news of her forthcoming book “The Secret Life of Flies” has been greeted with great excitement by naturalists around the world.
What with all the recent bad news for and involving wolves in the press these past few weeks, I was particularly gladdened to receive a copy of a new book that recounts the life and adventures of one of my home state’s best known members of the species, Beckie Elgin’s “Journey: The Amazing Story of OR-7, the Oregon Wolf that Made History.”
When the freshly printed copy of the new “Good Birders Still Don’t Wear White” arrived, I made a quick scan of the authors whose writings are collected in it. As it turns out, I know each one, which will make it a somewhat challenging book to review.
The first time I saw a firefly I was stopped dead in my tracks by it. The sudden appearance of this small glowing ember hovering before me as I walked along a forest path made me momentarily suspect that there might indeed be faeries in the world (not saying that there still might not be…).
As luck would have it, the grade school I attended had just that year reduced its size from a kindergarten through sixth grade school to a kindergarten through fourth grade school as the result of a then new “middle school” being opened as part of a nineteen-seventies progressive restructuring that took in the fifth and sixth grade students from our grade school as well as two other grade schools in the area. As a result of this, my school ended up with a number of no longer needed classrooms – one of which was a biology lab.
I’ll save the story of what we discovered one day in the storage closet in that lab for another time; however for the purpose of this essay, what we discovered on the tables during a teacher-sent errand into this now-abandoned lab were microscopes – old-fashioned but perfectly serviceable microscopes, both compound and dissecting styles. None of the remaining teachers at the school had any use for them, so for the better part of that year they simply sat collecting dust in the usually locked lab.
The Well-equipped Naturalist
For as long as I’ve ventured afield in search of whatever nature might wish to show me, I’ve gone fully vested. That is to say, I’ve worn a field vest. Not that I have anything against day packs or shoulder bags, mind you; I just find that vests (or as my British friends call them, waistcoats) allow me to carry what I need in a way that allows me easy access to all of it while still letting me move about with a feeling of being unencumbered.
“But I am aiming for a bigger audience than students of life sciences. Reading the Origin can teach anyone at any level important lessons about the structure of science and the meaning of the word theory. […] Reading the Origin can also highlight the role that that evolutionary theory played in shaping the future development of science.”
The CBC’s 24 December episode of Quirks & Quarks with Bob McDonald is entirely dedicated to interviews with authors of recent science-themed books. While not exactly natural history proper, the conversations are indeed interesting. The authors appearing are David Grinspoon, author of Earth in Human Hands; Shaping Our Planet’s Future, Melba Kurman, who along with […]