Wednesday, March 01, 2006

For Love of Insects


If you want to see a first rate scientific mind in action a good read is Thomas Eisner's For the Love of Insects(2003) from Harvard university Press. Dr. Eisner is a chemical ecologist from Cornell University and I bought the book in part because I had the pleasure of taking one of his classes but also because I am an entomologist by training. This book though is totally unlike any other entomology books because it shows Eisner in action as a scientist, shows the types of connections he makes when he is observing the natural world. Indeed he notes something that my students (or educators) don't seem to believe:

"...There has to be a readiness to make such connections. Every tidbit of new information, no matter how trivial, has the potential of amounting to more than a speck of color. Properly assigned to the pointillist canvas that constitutes your inner view, the new speck adds dimension to the vision."

This is after he as shown us through following little mysteries about the natural world that he investigated in his long 45 year career at Cornell. These little mysteries that so often we fail as instructors to take advantage of in teaching our students, even our majors so that they come out of our classes perhaps technically competent, able to master course objectives but unable to make the sorts of interconnections so important for critical thinking in biology.

Eisner's book will go down as a classic one that you will dip into over and over again.

The image shows a monarch butterfly larva from my butterfly garden in 2005.

Other links:

Chemical Ecology: Archbold Biological Station: Biennial Report 1997-1998

Chemical Flower Deterrents
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