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Biologist's Bookshelf 

See what we've been reading...

This is a place to find short reviews of books read and recommended by members of the UWEC Biology faculty.

World Without BeesA World Without Bees describes in detail the alarming disappearance of honeybees around the world and addresses the consequences to agriculture. No simple explanation has been found for ‘colony collapse disorder’.  Everything from viruses, fungi, mites, and pesticides have been implicated in this phenomenon.  The data-rich history of the disappearing honeybee is truly fascinating.
-Lloyd Turtinen
Henrietta LacksThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks tells two stories, that of Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman who lost her life to cancer in the early 1950’s, and of her cells, which have been immortalized as a stem cell line. These were the first stem cells successfully grown in culture.  Rebecca Skloot writes about the lives of Henrietta and her children and how they were affected by the decision to propagate her cells.  In the process, Skloot gives insight into how the medical community has sometimes neglected individuals and families in the pursuit of medical research.  The book brings up issues of informed consent, appropriate compensation, health care inequities, and the viewing patients as people.
-Jamie Lyman-Gingerich
Bringing Nature HomeLiving On Wind
If you are a bird, life is hard, but if you are a migrating bird your calling is seemingly impossible!  Read Living on the Wind.. The author, a lifelong birder, traveled the Western Hemisphere to learn details of bird migration. If you are a bird lover, and a gardener, naturally you will want to attract birds to your garden.  Bringing Nature Home is a compelling, quick read and excellent reference.  Gardens become more than colors and forms, instead become a vital haven for our wildlife.  The book is based on the research of the author, an entomologist.
-Lynn Young Janik
JaguarA highly readable account of the author's study of wild jaguars in Belize during the 1980's. More adventure story than science book, Rabinowoitz does a wonderful job conveying the rigors, rewards and disappointments of fieldwork. He also writes sympathetically about the Mayan people with whom he lives and tries to understand. Although a bit grandiose at times, Rabinowitz has written a real page-turner that shows how research can be used as a tool for social change as well as personal development.
-Todd Wellnitz

Steinbeck's Log of the Sea of Cortez is a great, non-fiction read for anyone interested in marine zoology. In 1941, Steinbeck and his friend Ed Ricketts chartered a 75-foot purse seiner to sail from Monterey, CA to the Gulf of California to collect intertidal organisms for Ricketts' biological supply business. Steinbeck's account describes their journey and adventures on shore, and the remarkable animals they encounter. This is a good book for anyone interested in invertebrate zoology or marine biology in general. It will also be of interest to readers of Steinbeck's Cannery Row or Tortilla Flat because Ricketts was the real-life model for "Doc" in these novels.
-Todd Wellnitz

These two books by Michael Pollan provide an eye-opening look at the origins of our foods and our industrial food system.  Like Rachel Carson's Silent Spring was a wake-up call regarding the use of DDT and other pesticides, Pollan’s books provide a wake-up call about our food.  Many readers may be surprised at how systematically our food system shifted in the past several decades and may begin to make links with increasing obesity and diabetes epidemics of today.  Pollan encourages us to be conscious about the food we eat – to pay attention and think. Pollan's simple advice could radically change the way we eat.
-Kelly Murray