Saturday, September 06, 2008
Mean and Lowly Things by Kate Jackson: My Thoughts
I do love a good story of field biology. When I saw this book, I knew I had to read it, and I read this one for the Nonfiction Five. It is the story of Dr. Kate Jackson, a herpetologist who was looking for a field study in which to "make her name in the field". She decided to go to the Congo to study the snakes and frogs in a relatively unexplored area. She made two expeditions to two different areas and this book is the story behind these trips. She certainly had more than enough misadventure and excitement to fill a book. It wasn't all fun and games. The main challenges did not appear to be venomous snakes, scorpions, bugs, etc., but people. The people she had to work with to get permits and the local people who helped her were very interesting. This was a good adventure story and was definitely a good read if you like such books. The only thing missing from my perspective was information about the biology of the reptiles and amphibian species she was collecting for the Smithsonian. As a biologist who relied on the Smithsonian to no small degree for my Ph.D. work, I understand the need for museum specimens such as those she collected. But I really would've liked to learn more about natural history of the beasts she encountered and collected. But this was a very enjoyable book and it really made me wish I could've been there in the Congo too.