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A Field Guide to Insects of the Pacific Northwest
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A Field Guide to Insects of the Pacific Northwest

Published: April 7 Author: Dr. Robert Cannings Published by: Harbour Publishing Price: $ 7.95 USD


This review was written by Nature Canada's writing intern, Gabriel Planas. Accounting for 80 percent of the 1.5 million named species on earth; insects form the backbone of the biodiversity on our planet. I still did not know what a Snakefly was before picking up A Field Guide to Insects of the Pacific Northwest. I was also unaware that the terrifying bug is considered typical in the Pacific Northwest. To combat this lack of knowledge, DR. Robert Cannings created A Field Guide to Insects of the Pacific Northwest in the hopes that it would generate more interest and discussion about insects. [caption id="attachment_36344" align="alignright" width="154"] A Field Guide to Insects of the Pacific Northwest by Dr. Robert Cannings.[/caption] The 8-fold pamphlet features 70 high-quality photos with profiles on over 50 different insects.  Though the guide is priced at a steep 7.95, it still provides a good way to introduce yourself to the abundant variety of insects you will encounter in the Pacific Northwest. Being a waterproof pamphlet also makes this guide is also perfect for the hiking trails, grasslands or beaches where you may find these tiny wonders. From the introduction, I was learning more than I had ever known about insects. It hooks the reader with a plea to understand the necessity and beauty of insects. The author takes his time to clarify terms like Moulting, metamorphosis, and pupa in stark simplicity to allow the reader to engage with the material in a very casual and personal basis. The insect profiles are broken up into 19 major groups of insects, providing a brief look into their behavioral patterns, physical characteristics, and eating habits. Many times, the information provided about the insects was enough to pique my curiosity, while enough facts were left out to present further research not only as appealing but also necessary. At times, this was compelling, such as the profile of the Predaceous Diving Beetle that informed me of the air bubble that forms under the wings that allows them to breath underwater. Other times though I was disappointed with the simplicity of the profiles. Rarely did they reinforce the integral role insects play in the environment, as mentioned in the intro. It also seems like the author missed an opportunity to disclose where and how to find these insects, as they can often be tiny and hard to find. Additionally, with minimal color variation throughout the pamphlet, the 19 groups can often be difficult to differentiate and find. This confusion makes a quick scan for an insect one may see in the wild very difficult, if not impossible. While it could have pushed itself further regarding its content and layout, this guide did an adequate job to increase my knowledge and awareness of insects. Given that this was the goal of the guide, I cannot help but concede that it fulfills its purpose. If you are planning to spend time in the Pacific Northwest, this guide can be a fun addition to any other maps and travel guides you may bring with you.
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Book Review: The Killer Whale Who Changed the World
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Book Review: The Killer Whale Who Changed the World

[caption id="attachment_28395" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Sofia Osborne Sofia Osborne, Guest Blogger[/caption]

This guest blog book review was written by Sofia Osborne. 

The skull of Moby Doll, the subject of Mark Leiren-Young’s new book “The Killer Whale Who Changed the World,” was housed in the museum where I worked this summer. I also saw Moby’s relatives practically every day. J-Pod, a group of Southern Resident Orcas, would come by my post on Saturna Island’s East Point close enough to touch. Moby Doll was harpooned off the coast of Saturna Island, but surprisingly he lived. He was then dragged to a Vancouver dry dock where he spent the rest of his short life under the watchful eye of the Vancouver Aquarium director. Scientists learned a lot about Killer Whales by studying Moby, and Vancouverites learned a lot about their temperament by watching Moby swimming peacefully around his makeshift tank. [caption id="attachment_32818" align="alignright" width="201"]Image of The Killer Whale Who Changed the World cover The Killer Whale Who Changed the World by Mark Leiren-Young[/caption] Back in the days of Moby Doll, that is before and into the 1960s, “close enough to touch” meant “close enough to fear for your life.” Much of Leiren-Young’s account centres on the attitude surrounding Killer Whales at the time, namely that they were man-eating monsters. That’s the thing about humans, we project. Humans are really the scariest species out there. We kill systematically, we destroy everything in our wake, and we’re sending the Earth hurtling towards climate disaster. Yet these black-and-white “devils” sent us into a panic. Because of this we lost many Orcas, a species that is now beloved. Fishermen were shooting them at any opportunity and there was even a machine gun set up to eradicate them, although it was never fired. Moby is largely responsible for the change in how people view Orcas, earning him the title of “The Killer Whale That Changed the World.” It turns out that southern residents, who eat only salmon, are more harmless and compassionate than we could have ever imagined. What can we learn from Leiren-Young’s, and really Moby’s, story? Instead of seeing other species as guilty until proven innocent, maybe we should just let them do what’s natural. So Bigg’s Killer Whales hunt in packs and can look scary taking down a Humpback, that doesn’t mean we should shoot them. When I think about nature I think of standing on a rock as a pod of thirty Orca Whales swim by. I think about the salmon that they’re following, the kelp that they’re swimming through. It disturbs me that because of the tall tales around Killer Whales I almost didn’t get the chance to see them. Leiren-Young’s book reminds us that we often underestimate nature. It’s a precautionary tale of our own ignorance, but it’s also the story of how we came to understand and appreciate Orcas. We now love Orcas so much that we watch them perform in tanks, we’ll go out on whale watching boats for hours just to catch a glimpse, and we’ll come back to the same point every day in the hopes that they swim by. I would label myself an "orcaholic", I’m sure many others would too. They are, to me, the epitome of nature. And yes, sometimes nature is scary, complex, and misunderstood. “The Killer Whale Who Changed the World” is not just the story of Moby, but of our relationship with the mysterious, awe-inspiring natural world.
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Pacific Seaweeds – A Guide to Common Seaweeds of the West Coast
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Pacific Seaweeds – A Guide to Common Seaweeds of the West Coast

[caption id="attachment_28395" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Sofia Osborne Sofia Osborne, Guest Blogger[/caption] This guest blog book review was written by Sofia Osborne.  As a kid growing up in Vancouver seaweed was the monster trying to grab my feet as I swam, the tangled octopus of slime I circumnavigated suspiciously on the beach. Little did I realize its importance. The first section of Pacific Seaweeds by Louis D. Druehl and Bridgette E. Clarkston outlines the morphology, life history and diversity of seaweeds, and if you ever thought seaweed was just a sushi holder you’ll quickly realize how wrong you are (though there is a section on cooking with seaweed). As explained by Druehl and Clarkston there are about 15,000 identified seaweed species with thousands more waiting to be discovered. The three types of seaweed, red, green and brown, are surprisingly unrelated. Red and green seaweeds haven’t shared a common ancestor for 1.5 billion years, and brown seaweed isn’t related to them at all. This made me realize that seaweeds are more complex than I’d ever imagined and definitely deserving of a guidebook. As a kid, I would group seaweeds into two categories: long, scary seaweed and the kind you can pop like bubble wrap, not very scientific. [caption id="attachment_31062" align="alignright" width="200"]Image of Pacific Seaweeds Book Pacific Seaweeds - A guide to common seaweeds of the west coast. By Louis D. Druehl and Bridgette E. Clarkston[/caption] The beginning of the book is loaded down with talk of multinucleate cells and haploid plant bodies. While that information is interesting for biology enthusiasts and probably intimidating for others, there are some hidden gems of insight that are worth slogging through descriptions of seaweed reproduction for. Apparently brown algae sex pheromones can smell like gin, who knew? Aided by the amazing, bright pictures that highlight the diversity of seaweeds, the identification part of this guidebook is easy to use. Spotted a spongy seaweed? The thumbnail identification guide will point you to the right section. Look it up and you’ll learn its classification, how many species there are, its distribution and a description. After helping us identify seaweeds, Pacific Seaweeds takes an in depth look at its ecology. As Druehl and Clarkston discuss the distribution of seaweeds they make an important point: in British Columbia we are lucky to have such diverse seaweed species and we shouldn’t take them for granted. Seaweed’s production of organic compounds from carbon doesn’t just support marine animals but also sequesters the carbon we humans keep pumping into the atmosphere. Despite these important ecological roles, we’re putting seaweed at risk with our activities. In our excitement to explore tidal pools we forget that the green stuff we’re walking all over is alive and important. In our rush to get oil to market we spill pollution into marine habitats. And with our unending release of greenhouse gases we change the climate seaweeds rely on. Seaweeds are underrated.  They’re seen as more slimy than beautiful, just a kind of water plant. In reality, seaweeds are diverse and crucial to the ecosystems that we love. Luckily, Pacific Seaweed turns the spotlight on them. Flip through its thick, colourful pages and you’ll want to head to the beach, ready to give seaweeds the attention they deserve.

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