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Blackhearts

Ecology in Outback Australia

Richard Symanski

View Inside Price: $65.00


July 11, 2000
228 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
27 b/w illus. + 1 map
ISBN: 9780300078190
Cloth

Also Available in:
e-book

This fascinating book is a firsthand account of the adventures of an ornithological field team studying long-tailed finches in outback Australia. In 1991, Nancy Burley, a noted behavioral ecologist, and her husband, Richard Symanski, went to Australia with their one-year-old son and four American students hired as field assistants and babysitter. The social relationships and problems that developed among these individuals in confined and exotic settings and the scientific discoveries that did—and did not—take place form the heart of the book.

Symanski begins by telling how he and his wife set up this elaborate field expedition—including the hiring of what seemed to be qualified, compatible, and knowledgeable field assistants. He then describes the harsh realities of their circumstances in Australia: primitive living conditions on an outback cattle station; field sites and subjects for study that were not as expected; and students who were not prepared for the rigors of field life and who became unenthusiastic about the work for which they had been hired. And he tells how he and his wife strove to overcome all the different challenges with which they were confronted. The book provides insight into the demands of professor-student-based fieldwork, particularly when generational conflicts, differing expectations, and culture shock complicate the “business” of doing science.

Richard Symanski is professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Irvine.

“A truly engaging read about the work that field ornithologists do.”—Patricia Adair Gowaty, University of Georgia




“From the personalities and actions of the students—this has to be the best—to the descriptive imagery of Australia’s terrain, Symanski paints a vivid picture of the ups and downs of an ornithological field endeavor. I rate this book two wings up.” —Paulette Biedenbender, Birder’s World


“The book blends fascinating ornithological discoveries with the frequent difficulties of reality in the field.”—Choice

“This is an eye-opening book for those who think trekking through the woods to study songbirds is an idyllic experience. Anyone who has been in the field will recognize some (or even all) of the hardships. . . . Recommended for public libraries with travel or natural history collections; highly recommended for academic libraries.”—Library Journal