Thursday, June 18, 2009

New Book!
One of the long-time Hastings' researchers, Professor Jerry Powell just saw a book he wrote with Paul Opler published. Reflecting over 100 years of research on the moths of western North America, it includes color photos of 2,350 species. We may not ever see the likes of Jerry and Paul again as it took them 50 years each to understand the moths of western North America. Our universities are no longer likely to provide the kind of long-term support to let experts do the field work and museum work to compile the knowledge of such groups. Modern research is focused on single animals and single biochemical or genetic phenomena, and the lack of understanding the biodiversity around us is creeping around us like a fog. There may be 8,000 species of moths in the West. Maybe 3,000 of them have no name and have never been studied. The authors present technical descriptions, along with drawings and photographs that will allow future students to get started. Certainly, it requires some demanding reading and some background in biology, but they include a treasure trove of natural history- what the larvae need, associated plant species and habitats where the moths thrive. If you just want to dazzle your friends with a stunning show of biodiversity, this book is great. If you or some 10-year-old you know want to learn more about moths, those silvery ghosts of the night lights, this is a start. Powell, Jerry A. and Paul A. Opler 2009. Moths of Western North America. University of California Press, Berkeley. 369 pp.