Citizen Scientist: Searching for Heroes and Hope in an Age of Extinction

Experiment. Sept. 2016. 432p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781615192434. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781615192441. SCI
"Nature is darn dense and layered," quips Hannibal (The Spine of the Continent) as she does her bit as citizen scientist, in this instance tallying plant life on San Francisco Bay area's Mount Tam. She might just as well have been describing her own authorial approach, for though her focus here is the history and future of "regular" people's contributions to science, her book is richly overlaid with memoir, discussion of current issues in conservation biology, numerous in-the-field reports of crowdsourced ecological projects, and a dash of Joseph Campbell's hero myth adapted to scientific endeavor. Hannibal reminds readers of citizen science's giants—Thomas Jefferson, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, Charles Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace, John Muir, Aldo Leopold—and also a few of its lesser-known luminaries, most notably botanist Alice Eastwood and marine biologist Ed Ricketts. Several contemporary movers and shakers, from both the academic and amateur sides, are also introduced. Hannibal's meditative, allusive style is slow going in spots.
VERDICT Readers of popular science, especially those with a literary bent, will enjoy this heartfelt argument for citizen science—that it might be our last, best hope for solving myriad environmental predicaments.

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