I remembered that Sharman Apt Russell was good; I didn’t remember just how good. Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World is a record of her entry into and exploration of citizen science. She follows the course of her study of tiger beetles interweaving the details with descriptions of the surrounding landscape, information about citizen science, and brief descriptions of other citizen science projects she has undertaken.
Sharman Apt Russell writes as a friend sharing her enthusiasm and taking her readers along on the exploratory walks looking for Tiger beetles or making notes on her Nature’s Notebook walks. She is an extremely well-informed friend, familiar with the land she walks and capable of giving information on any number of local animals and plants. She also corresponds with and interviews a number of experts on a range of subjects including Tiger beetles, archaeology, and citizen science itself.
One of the most appealing aspects of Apt Russell’s writing is her exuberant love for the world around her and its beauty, a love that she shares with her readers frequently and eloquently. Diary of a Citizen Scientist makes a strong case for caring about the world, both in the sense of taking steps to preserve and improve it and in the sense of loving it. “You can be angry, and you can be sad, but in the end you just have to love harder. Love the river. Love the desert,” Russell writes as she describes her experiences in loving and learning about the area around the Gila River and her concern the losses we have experienced and will experience as the world continues to alter and be altered.
As she makes abundantly clear throughout the book, love and learning are intertwined, one often leading to the other. “Now I understand,” she writes, “that almost everywhere I go, for the rest of my life, I will see tiger beetles. Everywhere I go, because of that, the world will be more beautiful.” And, through her writing, she introduces readers to the world, making it more known and more beautiful.
The book itself is a comfortable paperback, easy to hold open in one hand for reading while doing other things and with a sturdy spine that did not split when I did and a cover that looks like it will last without scarring. It is also available as an e-book for those who prefer to read in that format.
Diary of a Citizen Scientist is highly readable and is recommended for those who love nature writing, learning new things, or the sheer sensual beauty of language.
Pairs well with:
The Urban Bestiary: Encountering the Everyday Wild by Lyanda Lynn Haupt
Private Lives of Garden Birds by Calvin Simonds