Here is a brilliant introduction to insect and plant ecology focusing on one of nature’s most adaptive creatures, the bumblebee. Survival for the bumblebee depends on its ability to regulate body temperature through a complex energy exchange, and it is this management of energy resources around which Bernd Heinrich enters his discussion of physiology, behavior, and ecological interaction. Along the way, he makes some amusing parallels with the theories of Adam Smith—which, Heinrich observes, work rather well for the bees, however inadequate they may be for human needs.
Bumblebee Economics uniquely offers both the professional and amateur scientist a coherent biological model that goes beyond any particular species or level of biological organization. Rich in specific detail and including an extensive appendix on the rearing of bumblebees, as well as a full-color guide to field identification, this book organizes practical knowledge according to a new criterion.
In a new preface, Heinrich ranges from Maine to Alaska and north to the Arctic as he summarizes findings from continuing investigations over the past twenty-five years—by himself and others—into the wondrous “energy economy” of bumblebees.
Egg & Nest
Rosamond Purcell, Linnea S. Hall, and René Corado Harvard University Press, 2008 Library of Congress QL675.P87 2008 | Dewey Decimal 598.14680222
The beauty of the robin’s egg is not lost on the child who discovers the nest, nor on the collector of nature’s marvels. Such instances of wonder find fitting expression in the photographs of Rosamond Purcell, whose work captures the intricacy of nests and the aesthetic perfection of bird eggs. Mining the ornithological treasures of the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology, Purcell produces pictures as lovely and various as the artifacts she photographs. The dusky blue egg of an emu becomes a planet. A woodpecker’s nest bears an uncanny resemblance to a wooden shoe. A resourceful rock dove weaves together scrap metal and spent fireworks. A dreamscape of dancing monkeys emerges from the calligraphic markings of a murre egg.
Alongside Purcell’s photographs, Linnea Hall and René Corado offer an engaging history of egg collecting, the provenance of the specimens in the photographs, and the biology, conservation, and ecology of the birds that produced them. They highlight the scientific value that eggs and nest hold for understanding and conserving birds in the wild, as well as the aesthetic charge they carry for us.
How has evolution shaped the egg or directed the design of the nest? How do the photographs convey such infinitesimal and yet momentous happenstance? The objects in Egg & Nest are specimens of natural history, and in Purcell’s renderings, they are also the most natural art.
Once in a great while, as the New York Times noted recently, a naturalist writes a book that changes the way people look at the living world. John James Audubon’s Birds of America, published in 1838, was one. Roger Tory Peterson’s 1934 Field Guide to the Birds was another. How does such insight into nature develop?
Pioneering a new niche in the study of plants and animals in their native habitat, Field Notes on Science and Nature allows readers to peer over the shoulders and into the notebooks of a dozen eminent field workers, to study firsthand their observational methods, materials, and fleeting impressions.
What did George Schaller note when studying the lions of the Serengeti? What lists did Kenn Kaufman keep during his 1973 “big year”? How does Piotr Naskrecki use relational databases and electronic field notes? In what way is Bernd Heinrich’s approach “truly Thoreauvian,” in E. O. Wilson’s view? Recording observations in the field is an indispensable scientific skill, but researchers are not generally willing to share their personal records with others. Here, for the first time, are reproductions of actual pages from notebooks. And in essays abounding with fascinating anecdotes, the authors reflect on the contexts in which the notes were taken.
Covering disciplines as diverse as ornithology, entomology, ecology, paleontology, anthropology, botany, and animal behavior, Field Notes offers specific examples that professional naturalists can emulate to fine-tune their own field methods, along with practical advice that amateur naturalists and students can use to document their adventures.
Why would a grown man chase hornets with a thermometer, paint whirligig beetles bright red, or track elephants through the night to fill trash bags with their prodigious droppings? Some might say—to advance science. Bernd Heinrich says—because it’s fun.
Heinrich, author of the much acclaimed Bumblebee Economics, has been playing in the wilds of one continent or another all his life. In the process, he has become one of the world’s foremost physiological ecologists. With In a Patch of Fireweed, he will undoubtedly become one of our foremost writers of popular science.
Part autobiography, part case study in the ways of field biology, In a Patch of Fireweed is an endlessly fascinating account of a scientist’s life and work. For the author, it is an opportunity to report not just his results but the curiosity, humor, error, passion, and competitiveness that feed into the process of discovery. For the reader, it is simply a delight, a rare chance to share the perceptions of an unusual mind fully in tune with the inner workings of nature. Before his years of research in the woodlands and deserts of North America, the New Guinea highlands, and the plains of East Africa, Heinrich had a sense of the wild that few people in this century can know. He tells the whole story, from his refugee childhood hidden in a German forest, eating mice fried in boar fat, to his ongoing research in the woods surrounding his cabin in Maine.
How long should a leaf live? When should blueberries ripen? And what should a clever moose eat? Questions like these may seem simple or downright strange—yet they form the backbone of natural history, a discipline that fostered some of our most important scientific theories, from natural selection to glaciation. Through careful, patient observations of the organisms that live in an area, their distributions, and how they interact with other species, we gain a more complete picture of the world around us, and our place in it.
In What Should a Clever Moose Eat?, John Pastor explores the natural history of the North Woods, an immense and complex forest that stretches from the western shore of Lake Superior to the far coast of Newfoundland. The North Woods is one of the most ecologically and geologically interesting places on the planet, with a host of natural history questions arising from each spruce or sugar maple. From the geological history of the region to the shapes of leaves and the relationship between aspens, caterpillars, and predators, Pastor delves into a captivating range of topics as diverse as the North Woods themselves. Through his meticulous observations of the natural world, scientists and nonscientists alike learn to ask natural history questions and form their own theories, gaining a greater understanding of and love for the North Woods—and other natural places precious to them.
In the tradition of Charles Darwin and Henry David Thoreau, John Pastor is a joyful observer of nature who makes sharp connections and moves deftly from observation to theory. Take a walk in John Pastor's North Woods—you'll come away with a new appreciation for details, for the game trails, beaver ponds, and patterns of growth around you, and won't look at the natural world in the same way again.
As we follow the path of a giant water bug or peer over the wing of a gypsy moth, we glimpse our world anew, at once shrunk and magnified. Owing to their size alone, insects’ experience of the world is radically different from ours. Air to them is as viscous as water to us. The predicament of size, along with the dizzying diversity of insects and their status as arguably the most successful organisms on earth, have inspired passion and eloquence in some of the world’s most innovative scientists. A World of Insects showcases classic works on insect behavior, physiology, and ecology published over half a century by Harvard University Press.
James Costa, Vincent Dethier, Thomas Eisner, Lee Goff, Bernd Heinrich, Bert Hölldobler, Kenneth Roeder, Andrew Ross, Thomas Seeley, Karl von Frisch, Gilbert Waldbauer, E. O. Wilson, and Mark Winston—each writer, in his unique voice, paints a close-up portrait of the ways insects explore their environment, outmaneuver their enemies, mate, and care for kin.
Selected by two world-class entomologists, these essays offer compelling descriptions of insect cooperation and warfare, the search for ancient insect DNA in amber, and the energy economics of hot-blooded insects. They also discuss the impact—for good and ill—of insects on our food supply, their role in crime scene investigation, and the popular fascination with pheromones, killer bees, and fire ants. Each entry begins with commentary on the authors, their topics, and the latest research in the field.