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Reflections on Citizen Science

by Akiko Busch

Pub Date: April 22nd, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-300-17879-1
Publisher: Yale Univ.

Essayist and former Metropolis contributing editor Busch (Patience: Taking Time in an Age of Acceleration, 2010, etc.) shows how ordinary people can play an important role in protecting the natural environment simply by “paying attention” to the creatures around us.

In a surprising footnote to history, the author tells of how a field notebook of birds in the Hudson Valley, which Franklin Roosevelt kept as a boy, was used by a climate researcher a century later, “correlating the earlier arrival of certain migratory birds with climate records.” Busch bases her book on her writings since 1987, when she returned with her husband to the region where she had grown up. The author records her joyful experiences reconnecting with nature, citing New York Times writer Daniel B. Smith’s use of a Freudian metaphor in a discussion of “deep-rooted ecological instincts,” which we suppress at our emotional peril. Busch writes with appreciation of citizen scientists, the volunteers who participate in keeping records of changes in the environment and participate in events such as the annual Christmas Bird Count in communities throughout the United States. Her survey of the local flora and fauna includes bats, which are no longer an endangered species but now appear to be subject to a new fungal disease. She also examines how insect-eating salamanders and wood frogs kill off insects that endanger human health, examines the pros and cons of so-called invasive species, which are sometimes destructive in their new environment but, in other instances, benefit local wildlife—e.g., the purple loosestrife plant—and discusses how northern coyotes interbreed with wolves and dogs and play important ecological roles as predators. An appendix lists citizen-scientist volunteer opportunities.

Sure to inform and delight nature lovers.