In the field. On the trail. In the river. Up the mountain. Across the sea.
Whether you’re an amateur naturalist or conservation scientist, we all like to get outside. Preferably to multiple outsides across the world, where we can traipse through the forest searching for rare birds or search the trees by spotlight for rare marsupials.
As science reporters for Cool Green Science, we try to get into the field as much as possible. We want to bring you science as it’s happening, tips and tricks for field reporting, and epic fieldwork fails.
But we can’t be on the road — or trail — constantly. So when we’re not living out of a suitcase and subsisting on gas-station pop tarts, we read about travel instead. The best nature and travel writing is almost as good as being there yourself — almost. So read on for our literary list of essential reading for the restless nature-lover, and leave your own suggestions in the comments.
Throwim’ way leg — it’s a New Guinea pidgin phrase that means “to take the first step on a long journey.” In this fantastic read, legendary mammalogist, traveler, and science activist Tim Flannery recounts his years of fieldwork studying rare New Guinea mammals in the 1980s. I first read this book only days after I’d finished my own fieldwork journey through Papua New Guinea, and it’s been my absolute favorite travel read ever since.
From the betel-nut juice spray he mistakes for blood (buai impressionism) to the multiple near-death experiences in small aircraft, Flannery’s ability to capture the small, universal details of both Melanesia and tropical fieldwork is unrivaled. And he does it in such away that you’ll be crying with laughter the whole way through.
And if you just can’t get enough of Papua New Guinea after reading this book, try Kira Salak’s Four Corners. While it’s more of a personal narrative than conservation story, it’s a fantastic read.
I suspect I’m not the only naturalist who considers the ultimate dream to be seeing a live mammoth roaming the steppe. Of course, that’s a fantasy. Or is it? Beth Shapiro journeys to both the past and the future to look at what it would really take to clone a mammoth or other extinct creature.
I’ve read a lot of books on this topic, and hype abounds. Not here. This book is clear-headed, skeptical, grounded in science. Shapiro is an evolutionary biologist and a pioneer in the field of ancient DNA; she’s involved in the effort to clone the passenger pigeon. The travel narratives, set in Siberia, are excellent. Shapiro walks the reader through the steps involved, from collecting and extracting DNA to replicating an extinct species. She also explains the very real conservation and ethical dilemmas presented. Few books present complicated issues so well: science writing at its best.
CIA Agent. Award-winning writer. Buddhist priest. Inveterate traveler. Peter Matthiessen is a legend among both nature and fiction writers, and The Snow Leopard is one of his best-known works.
The book chronicles Matthiessen’s two-month trek into Himalayas with legendary field biologist George Schaller as they search for the elusive big cat and its…