Marine LiteraSea Adult Book Group

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Join us for our next book group, led by EOS Center’s Professor of Evolutionary Ecology and Genetics, Dr. Sarah Cohen:

Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body
By Neil Shubin From Publishers Weekly

Wednesday, September 11 | 2-3 p.m. 
Bay Conference Center - Hearth Lounge

Fish paleontologist Shubin illuminates the subject of evolution with humor and clarity in this compelling look at how the human body evolved into its present state. Parsing the millennia-old genetic history of the human form is a natural project for Shubin, who chairs the department of organismal biology and anatomy at the University of Chicago and was co-discoverer of Tiktaalik, a 375-million-year-old fossil fish whose flat skull and limbs, and finger, toe, ankle and wrist bones, provide a link between fish and the earliest land-dwelling creatures. Shubin moves smoothly through the anatomical spectrum, finding ancient precursors to human teeth in a 200-million-year-old fossil of the mouse-size part animal, part reptile tritheledont; he also notes cellular similarities between humans and sponges. Other fossils reveal the origins of our senses, from the eye to that wonderful Rube Goldberg contraption the ear.

Shubin excels at explaining the science, making each discovery an adventure, whether it's a Pennsylvania roadcut or a stony outcrop beset by polar bears and howling Arctic winds. I can imagine few things more beautiful or intellectually profound than finding the basis for our humanity... nestled inside some of the most humble creatures that ever lived, he writes, and curious readers are likely to agree.

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The next book group, will take place in November [date TBD] and will be led by Professor of Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography, Dr. Frances Wilkerson. It will be: Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone By Juli Berwald.

Jellyfish are an enigma. They have no centralized brain, but they see and feel and react to their environment in complex ways. They look simple, yet their propulsion systems are so advanced engineers are just learning how to mimic them. They produce some of the deadliest toxins on the planet and yet are undeniably alluring. Long ignored by science, they may be a key to ecosystem stability. Juli Berwald's journey into the world of jellyfish is a personal one. Over a decade ago she left the sea and her scientific career behind to raise a family in landlocked Austin, Texas. Increasingly dire headlines drew her back to jellies, as unprecedented jellyfish blooms toppled ecosystems and collapsed the world's most productive fisheries. What was unclear was whether these incidents were symptoms of a changing planet or part of a natural cycle.

Berwald's desire to understand jellyfish takes her on a scientific odyssey. She travels the globe to meet the scientists who devote their careers to jellies, hitches rides on Japanese fishing boats to see giant jellyfish in the wild, raises jellyfish in her dining room, and throughout it all marvels at the complexity of these alluring and ominous biological wonders. Gracefully blending personal memoir with crystal-clear distillations of science, Spineless reveals that jellyfish are a bellwether for the damage we're inflicting on the climate and the oceans and a call to realize our collective responsibility for the planet we share. We hope this helps you plan your summer reading!

See you all in September.