book review

'Return of the Sea Otter:' A Book Review by Joe Gaydos

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SeaDoc Society Science Director Joe Gaydos reviews Return of the Sea Otter: the story of the animal that evaded extinction on the Pacific coast, by Todd McLeish.

Whether you are in the camp that defines sea otters as the epitome of cute or in the other camp with abalone, sea cucumber or urchin fisherman who see them as their nemesis, there is no debating that the sea otter plays a key role in shaping healthy nearshore ocean ecosystems. From Alaska to California, these fascinating and complex animals have survived centuries of harvest and persecution. In at least one location, they’ve even been targeted as prey by killer whales.

In his book Return of the Sea Otter, Todd McLeish tells this story. But he also tells the other side of the story; the one of multiple translocation efforts, research and rehabilitation - the story of people committed to making the world a better place, once species at a time.

Beautifully written, entertaining and engaging, McLeish’s tale of the sea otter will make you love this incredible animal and the ocean even more, and will leave you with hope that our intensive efforts to better understand and heal our stressed ocean can and will make a difference.

On An Acre Shy of Eternity: Micro Landscapes at the Edge (Book Review)

By  Robert Dash  (2017). ISBN: 978-0-578-18871-3

By Robert Dash (2017). ISBN: 978-0-578-18871-3

Review by Joe Gaydos Science Director, SeaDoc Society

When Bob Dash asked if we'd review his book, On An Acre Shy of Eternity: Micro Landscapes at the Edge, I admit questioning how a book about one acre of land could be relevant to the Salish Sea and the world's oceans.

I wasn't even through the Preface when I realized that Dash's fascination with edges, or what he calls the places "where alien worlds collide," was akin to my preoccupation with how little separation there really is between the land and sea.

To convey the concept, I often tell stories of salmon, bears, American dippers, and marbled murrelets - animals that defy the land and sea segregation. Dash, the artist with a camera and poet with a pen, does it ever more subtly and more convincingly. By the time you've admired and re-admired his photographs and read and re-read his poems, you see how interconnected this one acre is and you're left wondering how you could have ever doubted that the land and sea are inseparable.

At first glance, you will be inspired and wonder where in the Salish Sea you can find Dash's magical little acre of land and how you can arrange a visit to take it in first hand. After enjoying beautiful photographs of birds and scanning electron microscope images of their feathers or thinking about "this land as an essay" while reading free verse poetry juxtaposed to striking photography, you will realize that a visit to Dash's acre is not really what you need.

Instead what you need to do is open your eyes and see that we are all living on our own "acre shy of eternity," we just didn't know it. Dash opens our eyes so subtly and so convincingly that you, like me, may walk away from reading his book thinking you already knew what you really just learned. On An Acre Shy of Eternity will intensify not only your view of the world, but your love for it as well.

Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean (Book Review)

Book Review by Joe Gaydos:

By Jonathan White
Trinity University Press, San Antonio
2017

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Jonathan White's book Tides: the science and spirit of the ocean is a must-read for anybody who loves the ocean. Tides govern the ocean yet wait for no one. So why do so few people really understand how they work? Because they're complicated. Tides have both fascinated and confused the likes of Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, and Sir Isaac Newton, just to name a few of the great minds discussed in this easy-to-read, science-come-action adventure book. Despite the complex nature of the subject, White takes the reader on epic journeys around the world exploring big tides and big wave surfing, diving and sailing, shore bird migrations, and even a tidal bore in China that rears to 25 feet "terrorizing everything in its path." The writing is so accomplished and the content so fascinating, it is not surprising that by the time you have followed White's adventures trailing Greg Long surfing Mavericks, dropping below the frozen surface of Ungava Bay to harvest mussels with Inuit Lukasi Nappaaluk, or discussing climate change and sea level rise with Kuna Indians in Panama's San Blas Islands, you're begging for just one more tidally-based adventure with him. What was surprising upon finishing Tides, was realizing that White had done for me what oceanographic textbook after marine biology textbook could not, he taught me to understand the physical workings of tides and helped me to appreciate the legacy that gravity, the moon's elliptical orbit around the earth, and the earth's geology provide for the world's oceans - White taught me the beauty of tides.

Coming next: Gaydos reviews Dr. Drew Harvell's new book, A Sea of Glass: Searching for the Blaschkas' fragile legacy in an ocean at risk