Unnatural Landscapes

“Ceiridwen Terrill’s journey to the weeds is wholly engaging–reminiscent of John Steinbeck’s Log from the Sea of Cortez and Kim Todd’s Tinkering with Eden, yet all original in content and style.  By personally paddling among several island ecosystems with a strong arm and a trained eye, she takes us deep into awareness of exotic species and their grim legacy, and out again into the grounded hope of restoration.  Floating along on her fluid language and odyssean storytelling, I was happy to be in that wave-tossed vessel with her–even during its most grueling    passages.”–Robert Michael Pyle

Excerpt from Unnatural Landscapes: Tracking Invasive Species:
Trailing behind a biplane, the red-lettered banner decries the killing of feral pigs on Santa Cruz Island, the largest of California’s northern Channel Islands.  On the street below, protesters from the Channel Islands Animal Protection Agency (CHIAPA) condemn the pig eradication scheme as merciless, a waste of taxpayer money, and based on bad science.  In front of a placard that reads, “Do these pigs look like a threat to the environment?” demonstrators occasionally exchange kisses with one of two Vietnamese potbellied pigs they’ve brought as mascots to the rally.
Meanwhile, the DJs of a popular radio station offer a prize to the caller with the best alternative to the $5 million eradication project.  The whole event turns into a kind of carnival when one caller suggests relocating the pigs by helicopter or ship to a farm somewhere, while still another listener alleges that the science behind the project is flawed.  The pigs, she says, don’t hurt the island’s native wildlife in any way and should be left alone.  Another caller suggests contraceptives to slow the rate of reproduction.  Someone else proposes that the National Park Service and The Nature Conservancy, the sponsors of the pig-eradication project, drop two or three of the feral pigs into the backyards of every person protesting the killing.  “Let’s see how nice a pet those 500-pound sows make,” he says.  The prize offered by the radio station for the best idea is an autographed IPOD containing every song ever written by the rock band U2. (To read more see links to purchase below.)
What reviewers are saying about Unnatural Landscapes:
“Any collection strong in biological science – particularly college-level holdings – will want UNNATURAL LANDSCAPES: it blends science writing and research with first-person stories of adventure to provide a lively introduction to invasion ecology and restoration management, and uses the author’s own kayak trips as a basis for considering invasive species in the Southwest and Mexico regions. Her journeys read like a blend of scientific investigation and travelogue and thus serve as a fitting introduction to habitat management issues.Midwest Book Review
“Unnatural Landscapes provides a tactile, enlightening introduction to the typically academic subject of invasive ecology. Terrill puts prickly cheatgrass in your sock, lets a crawfish clamp your finger. Complicated concepts come to life as she explores Pyramid Lake’s pelican preserve in Nevada, the Mojave’s thermal pools, Baja’s Midriff Islands and California’s fragile Santa Cruz Island. She finds that tipping the odds in favor of the natives often requires eradicating the nonnatives. Frequently, that means spilling blood — and provoking controversy…
“Like it or not, Terrill says, humans are now in the ecological management business. Public education — removing invasive ecology from the realm of “a few specialists” and government agencies — can awaken people to the scope of the problem, and perhaps make eradication’s uglier side more acceptable. “(Once) people understand the significant threats invasive species pose,” writes Terrill, “they will be eager to be part of the solution.” This book is a great step toward that goal.High Country News
“With compassionate clarity and amazingly unfailing optimism, Ceiridwen Terrill recounts her experiences with the native and invasive species of four selected island ecosystems in a book that itself is a delicate balance somewhere between an action adventure story, a poetic narrative, and a lively scientific field journal…
“There is a straight-forwardness about Terrill’s writing style, which disarms the reader. Perhaps it is because she does not wail and scream about unfairness; she simply tells us what she saw, what has happened to the native species, what is taking their place, and what is, or is not, being done about it. In revealing her experiences it is almost as though Terrill has created a documentary film, rather than written a book; the readers feel they might be standing beside her watching the scene in real time. Interspersed with the details of her journey (often by kayak) are conversations with scientists, naturalists, and other travelers…”Green Journal
Where to purchase Unnatural Landscapes:
Powell’s Books
Barnes & Noble



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