Back to the Future in the Caves of Kaua'i: A Scientist's Adventures in the Dark

Back to the Future in the Caves of Kaua'i: A Scientist's Adventures in the Dark

by David A. Burney


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Back to the Future in the Caves of Kaua'i: A Scientist's Adventures in the Dark by David A. Burney

For two decades, paleoecologist David Burney and his wife, Lida Pigott Burney, have led an excavation of Makauwahi Cave on the island of Kaua‘i, uncovering the fascinating variety of plants and animals that have inhabited Hawaii throughout its history. From the unique perspective of paleoecology—the study of ancient environments—Burney has focused his investigations on the dramatic ecological changes that began after the arrival of humans one thousand years ago, detailing not only the environmental degradation they introduced but also asking how and why this destruction occurred and, most significantly, what might happen in the future.

Using Kaua‘i as an ecological prototype and drawing on the author’s adventures in Madagascar, Mauritius, and other exciting locales, Burney examines highly pertinent theories about current threats to endangered species, restoration of ecosystems, and how people can work together to repair environmental damage elsewhere on the planet. Intriguing illustrations, including a reconstruction of the ancient ecological landscape of Kaua‘i by the artist Julian Hume, offer an engaging window into the ecological marvels of another time. A fascinating adventure story of one man’s life in paleoecology, Back to the Future in the Caves of Kauai reveals the excitement—and occasional frustrations—of a career spent exploring what the past can tell us about the future.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300172096
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 04/26/2011
Pages: 216
Sales rank: 1,253,665
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

David A. Burney is the director of conservation at the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Kalaheo, Hawaii. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2006 to write this book on his work at Makauwahi Cave on Kaua'i. He currently lives in Kalaheo, Hawaii.

Table of Contents

Preface xi

Acknowledgments xiii

1 Time's Most Important Moment 1

2 Proverbial Tracks 10

3 Constructing a "Poor Man's Time Machine" 18

4 Owl Omens 29

5 Opening Ancient Doors 36

6 Characters and a Stage, but No Script 47

7 Fishponds 57

8 A Snails' Tale 64

9 Mauka Marshes 68

10 So What Happened, Anyway? 75

11 Greetings from Old Kaua'i 86

12 Irrigating the Future 104

13 The Tour 118

14 Right Here, Right Now 130

15 Finding a Future in the Past 153

Glossary 173

Notes 175

Bibliography 181

Index 189

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