A science writer, mourning the recent loss of her father, finds solace in citizen science, with its promise to slow and reverse another kind of loss she's been deeply grappling with: the unprecedented mass extinction of species
Here is a wide-ranging adventure in becoming a citizen scientist by an award-winning writer and environmental thought leader. As Mary Ellen Hannibal wades into tide pools, follows hawks, and scours mountains to collect data on threatened species, she discovers the power of a heroic cast of volunteers and the makings of what may be our last, best hope in slowing an unprecedented mass extinction.
Digging deeply, Hannibal traces today's tech-enabled citizen science movement to its roots: the centuries-long tradition of amateur observation by writers and naturalists. Prompted by her novelist father's sudden death, she also examines her own past and discovers a family legacy of looking closely at the world. With unbending zeal for protecting the planet, she then turns her gaze to the wealth of species left to fight for.
Combining original reporting, meticulous research, and memoir in impassioned prose, Citizen Scientist is a literary event, a blueprint for action, and the story of how one woman rescued herself from an odyssey of loss with a new kind of science
"The idea that science is something for a caste of high priests to attend to is simply wrong: Science is all around us, and we each can revel in its pleasures and processes. This is a stirring, empowering narrative."
– Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth
"Species are going extinct a thousand times faster than they should, our science tells us. But how do we know which, and where, any why, and, above all, what we can do about this crisis? No expensive technological machine counts biodiversity. Our knowledge comes globally, across decades, and from every land and sea, from the citizen scientist. That's you and me, our kids, grandkids, and friends armed with a notebook or perhaps a smartphone but with those priceless and essential attributes of passion and curiosity. This book tells their story brilliantly."
– Stuart Pimm, Doris Duke Chair of Conservation Ecology, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University
"Deeply informed and highly readable, this is as much a soul-search as a book about science. Fortunately for us, Mary Ellen Hannibal locates some luminous souls who, by the light of their knowledge and determination, can lead us out of these dark times for life on Earth."
– Carl Safina, author of Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
"What an extraordinary book! Mary Ellen Hannibal weaves together natural history, cutting-edge technology, and her own adventures into a story that is certain to inspire."
– Amy Stewart, author of The Drunken Botanist
"An informative, emotional, and fascinating account of a personal journey to ecological citizen science."
– Muki Haklay, co-director of Extreme Citizen Science, University College London
"One of Hannibal's themes in this ambitious new book is the double narrative, or the contradiction between what we tell ourselves we are doing every day and what is really going on. She explains that empires have been built on a biotic cleansing of species, the loss of which now threatens the very foundation of our lives. Hannibal poses citizen science, or the contribution of amateurs to research, as a platform not only for change, but also as a new way of seeing without the old blinders. Invoking literary, historic, and scientific touchstones, and telling a personal story as well, she provides what citizen scientists John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts called the toto picture. We can't afford to see the Earth any other way."
– Paul R. Ehrlich, Bing Professor of Population Studies and the president of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University