Like nearly every area of scholarly inquiry today, the biological sciences are broken into increasingly narrow fields and subfields, its practitioners divided into ecologists, evolutionary biologists, taxonomists, paleontologists, and much more. But all these splintered pieces have their origins in the larger field of natural history—and in this era where climate change and relentless population growth are irrevocably altering the world around us, perhaps it’s time to step back and take a new, fresh look at the larger picture.
The Essential Naturalist offers exactly that: a wide-ranging, eclectic collection of writings from more than eight centuries of observations of the natural world, from Leeuwenhoek to E. O. Wilson, from von Humboldt to Rachel Carson. Featuring commentaries by practicing scientists that offer personal accounts of the importance of the long tradition of natural history writing to their current research, the volume serves simultaneously as an overview of the field’s long history and as an inspirational starting point for new explorations, for trained scientists and amateur enthusiasts alike.
Michael H. Graham is associate professor at the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories at San Jose State University. Joan Parker is the head librarian at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. Paul K. Dayton is professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego.