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Smithsonian, Aug 17, 2001 - Biography & Autobiography - 212 pages
A modern-day naturalist and evolutionary geneticist, John C. Avise helped launch one of the major scientific revolutions of the late twentieth century. In this lively memoir, he describes how he merged his youthful passion for natural history with the reasoned study of genetic science. His pioneering work, using molecular genetic techniques to examine ecological and evolutionary questions, stimulated an integration of these seemingly disparate realms.

Like earlier naturalists such as William Bartram and Charles Darwin, Avise is an ardent observer and interpreter of nature. However, the tools of his trade are not only binoculars and field diaries, but also the sophisticated instruments and investigative methods of molecular biology. Whether digging for gophers in a Georgia field, seining blind fish from pitch-black caves in Mexico, or deciphering the intriguing inheritance patterns of mitochondrial DNA in a modern genetics laboratory, Avise and his students have consistently revealed a captivating diversity to life that is not always evident to the naked eye. They have provided fresh insights into, for example, the evolutionary mysteries of the nine-banded armadillo, a species in which each litter is composed of genetically identical quadruplets; the green turtles of Ascension Island, who travel 2,800 miles to lay their eggs; and the horseshoe crab, a "living fossil" that looks just like its ancestors of 150 million years ago. Suffused throughout this work is also a deep, heartfelt concern about nature's increasingly imperiled status.

Writing in the tradition of E. O. Wilson and Margaret D. Lowman, Avise recounts his scientific adventures with many animals in the wild and reflectsmore widely on the artistry of scientific discovery and the allure of the natural world. His story conveys as much about the making of a scientist as it does about the inner workings of science and nature.

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Captivating life: a naturalist in the age of genetics

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Most newspapers and magazines regularly run articles about the use of new genetic tools for the improvement of healthcare, so it is refreshing to find a book that covers other applications. Avise ... Read full review


Part One Becoming a Scientist
A Biologists Life and Times
Ice Lake

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About the author (2001)

John C. Avise is a Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Irvine.

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