Field Notes from the Northern Forest

Overview

With the same humor and personable ease that characterizes the popular weekly nature program that he coproduces on North Country Public Radio, Curt Stager draws on the latest scientific literature and on his own observations to share his curiosity about the natural world. These twenty natural science essays take us down to ground level to explore the lives of animals, plants, and fungi commonly encountered in the conifer, hardwood, and mixed wood forests of northeastern North ...
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Overview

With the same humor and personable ease that characterizes the popular weekly nature program that he coproduces on North Country Public Radio, Curt Stager draws on the latest scientific literature and on his own observations to share his curiosity about the natural world. These twenty natural science essays take us down to ground level to explore the lives of animals, plants, and fungi commonly encountered in the conifer, hardwood, and mixed wood forests of northeastern North America.
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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Based on episodes from a weekly public radio program co-produced by Stager (biology, Paul Smith's College of Arts and Sciences, the Northern Adirondacks), these 20 natural science essays take a seasonal, small worlds' approach to observations of the flora and fauna of the forests of the northeastern US. Artist Anne E. Lacy deserves credit for her delicate illustrations. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Kirkus Reviews
Short, personable essays enthusiastically explore the natural history of one of North America's largest (and possibly most overlooked) ecosystems. The Great Northern Forest sprawls from the Western Adirondacks to the coast of Maine and the Canadian Maritimes. Stager, who teaches biology at Paul Smith's College in the northern Adirondacks and hosts the public radio program "Natural Selections," argues that it's as complex as the tropical rain forest├żand just as threatened by overdevelopment and pollution. Debunking woodcraft myths (like the belief that moss grows exclusively on the north side of trees), demystifying the northern lights, or weighing the pros and cons of backyard bird feeders, Stager balances his love of a good story with rigorous consideration of the latest scientific research. He explains with the passion and patience of a teacher, and his lay translations enlighten without bogging down in complexity and jargon. What's surprising is how little scientists know about much of the natural world: Research often turns up no definitive answers, especially regarding the tiniest plants and insects, such as lichens and bee-flies. When he runs up against such gaps, Stager reacts like a good scientist and tries to fill them himself. He stretches out in the grass to observe ants and trout lilies, halts a campus construction project to rescue ground-burrowing bees, and challenges his students to unravel the conundrum of why snowfleas swarm in winter. Only the most devoted nature-lovers will be transfixed by every essay (especially since Stager spends more time on bugs than bears), but he succeeds in painting the big picture by focusing on the small scale. Stager's upbeatshort takes are like a day afield with an avuncular guide, paying tribute to his neck of the woods while inspiring the rest of us that getting in touch with nature can be as simple as looking around our own backyards. (illustrations, not seen)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780815605720
  • Publisher: Syracuse University Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/1999
  • Edition description: 1st Paperback Edition
  • Pages: 257
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Ground Bees 3
Small Worlds 15
Woodpeckers 25
Underground Connections 34
Why Do Bugs Bite? 45
Natives 59
Snakes 68
Plant Defenses 78
Fireflies 91
Beavers 99
Mosses and Lichens 113
Bogs 121
What Should You Do When You See a Bear? 132
Conifers 142
Princess Pines 154
Winter Woods 165
Northern Lights 174
Bird Feeder Biology 184
Snowfleas 194
Maple Sap 204
Postscript 214
Glossary 219
References 231
Index 245
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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2000

    Thoughtful, revelatory, entertaining

    I usually borrow books from the library instead of actually paying for a book, so it was with some hesitation that I plunked down $19.95 for a paperback copy of _Field Notes From the Northern Forest_, by Curt Stager, biologist, educator, and cohost of the radio program ¿Natural Selections.¿ As it turns out, it was money well spent. As a writer of popular science--biology, in particular--Stager¿s task is not simple. He must explain, in Darwinian fashion, why and how all the curious adaptations that make creatures so strange and wondrous, confer to them special advantages that make them better able to become ancestors, and this he must do clearly and simply. Stager succeeds resoundingly, with the added touch of playfulness and humor. And, owing to Stager¿s training in rigorous science (judging by the journals in which he has published), the book is well grounded in Science, mercifully lacking in New-Age nonsense and gut-wrenching appeals to our emotions. _Field Notes_ is not a show & tell identification guide, nor is it a malediction, written solely to remind us of our reckless and wanton ravaging of the environment. Instead, it is a series of essays covering several years of Stager¿s careful observations of nature, bolstered by relevant information in the scientific literature. His research, importantly, is gleaned largely from primary sources of information, not from secondary, often cherry-picked and tendentious interpretations of scientific data we so often see in agenda-driven publications. With the flood of books, journal articles, and newspaper stories relating to the natural world that has swept into our everyday lives since the environmental movement emerged three decades ago--most of which is sullied by political correctness and environmental extremism--Stager¿s _Field Notes_ is a refreshing departure from the ¿the sky is falling!¿ message which so often suffuses the Nature genre. Stager does, however, caution us of environmental degradation relevant in the Northern Forest caused by humans, such as the problems of acid rain, unchecked development, and insatiable resource consumption. But on the whole, the book remains delightfully non-alarmist and upbeat. One thing that keeps the content of _Field Notes_ close to earth is Stager¿s ability to appreciate and mediate both sides of a contentious issue. The vast Adirondack Park, where Stager makes his home, contains more than its share of dichotomies--political, social, cultural, and economic--where land-use controls dictate how the area is to be developed, and where a constant battle is waged between many of the natives, who feel the controls are intrusive, and the preservationists, who want minimal human impact on the land. Stager, obviously keenly aware of the struggles that go on in the lives of the creatures around him, is also mindful of the cultural tug-of-wars that surround him, and his sensitivity to both sides resonates in _Field Notes_. For example, Stager risks incurring the wrath of the animal rights activists when he daringly proposes a radical method of controlling the burgeoning beaver population: by--perish the thought!--harvesting them! Stager¿s essays probe and lay open to question many of our idealistic, romantic, and often intuitively-held notions of nature. He challenges us to rethink our tendency to regard all things natural as healthful and benign. Quite to the contrary, as he mordantly points out in his revelatory essay on plant defenses. In his chapter on native species, Stager reveals the dynamic and transitory nature of the natural world, one that is in a state of constant flux, thereby pulling apart our idea of stasis in nature, and invalidating such a thing as a ¿native¿ species. The well-intentioned foot soldiers waging war on invasive exotics might pause to consider this before brandishing their Round-up-filled spray guns. My only disappointment with _Field Notes_ is (to me) a palpable

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