A Guide to Wildlife and protected areas of the Top End

cover - A Guide to Wildlife and protected areas of the Top End A Guide to Wildlife and protected areas of the Top End

Lindley McKay

Environment Centre NT, 2017

This handsomely produced book is the result of an ambitious project undertaken by the Environment Centre of the Northern Territory. It will be a valuable resource for years to come, not only for Territorians but for anyone living in, or visiting, North Queensland and Northern WA.

Continue reading “A Guide to Wildlife and protected areas of the Top End”

Bergstrom’s Orange, Daintree ulcers and rainforest

Bergstrom’s Orange

Carolyn Little, 2015

A book described on its back cover as a “contemporary thriller [which] explores the growing interest in biodiscovery and the modern crime of biopiracy, against the back-drop of the beauty and challenges of the Daintree World Heritage site … and [the] popular resort world of Port Douglas” recently leapt from the shelf of my local library into my hand. It lived up to its promise, too, being both entertaining and informative.

The (perfectly valid) scientific background to the story is a search in the Daintree rainforest for a botanical cure for the affliction known locally as the Daintree ulcer or Mossman ulcer. It is a nasty flesh-eating ulcer with no known prevention or cure, caused by a bug (Mycobacterium ulcerans) related to those which cause leprosy and tuberculosis. Continue reading “Bergstrom’s Orange, Daintree ulcers and rainforest”

Adventures of a Young Attenborough

Adventures of a Young Naturalist – the Zoo Quest Expeditions

David Attenborough

Two Roads, 2017

This substantial volume is a re-issue of Attenborough’s first three Zoo Quest books, recounting his expeditions to Guyana, Indonesia and Paraguay in the late 1950s, “slightly abbreviated and updated from the originals,” as he says in the Introduction.

The Zoo Quests were joint projects of the London Zoo and the BBC in which minuscule expeditions set out to collect wildlife for the Zoo with a TV cameraman recording the process. Collecting expeditions were regular operations of all zoos at the time, and I for one grew up loving Gerald Durrell’s very funny books about similar expeditions, but making one into a TV show was a novel idea Continue reading “Adventures of a Young Attenborough”

Charlie Veron: A Life Underwater

veron life underwater coverCharlie Veron: A Life Underwater

Penguin Viking, 2017

As has happened with other books, particularly where I have some personal connection to their authors, I have come across a published review which says what I would have said (and says it at least as well as I could have said it) and decided that it was better for me to quote excerpts than to write my own review. The quotations below are drawn from the extended review by Tim Elliott for the SMH (you can read it in full here).

… Equal parts memoir, coral reef primer and requiem to a planet, [A Life Underwater] charts a career that could scarcely be imagined today, a love affair with science birthed from childhood wonderment, free-range academia and happy accidents.

… Veron’s achievements are, quite literally, unprecedented. He was the first to compile a global taxonomy of corals – a monumental task that effectively became the cornerstone for all later learning. He was the first to show that, contrary to received wisdom, the Indo-Philippines archipelago has the world’s greatest diversity of coral, not the Great Barrier Reef.

A Life Underwater is a very approachable introduction to reef science since it allows us to learn the science sequentially through Veron’s own journey of discovery. Continue reading “Charlie Veron: A Life Underwater”

Selected dystopias

As I’ve said before, SF is valuable for its freedom to conduct thought-experiments, which often illuminate our present by showing us futures which may arise from it. Utopias beckon us along a particular path, while dystopias hold up warning signs saying, “Wrong way – go back.”

In recent weeks I have read three new SF novels which offer such warnings. Continue reading “Selected dystopias”