Staff Picks 2018

Welcome to our annual round-up of the books and equipment we have most enjoyed reading and using this year, all chosen by members of the NHBS team. Here are our choices for 2018!

 

A Pocket Guide to Wildflower Families 

I am a complete amateur when it comes to botanising. I have struggled in the past to make sense of botanical field guides, and they always left me feeling rather stupid and frustrated. This booklet came to my rescue on my walks this year, and helped me make sense of both the plants, and the features to recognise them by, and the field guides! The author, Faith Anstey wrote a great article for the NHBS blog, and with this blog and her Pocket Guide (and her other books), she has done an enormous service for those who need a friendly guiding hand.
Anneli – Senior Manager

 

Wilding

The process of returning the land to nature has a name that is rapidly entering the mainstream; ‘Rewilding’ or as Iasbella Tree’s book refers to ‘Wilding‘. The subject provokes great debate among conservationist and Isabella’s book certainly doesn’t sit on the fence when it comes to Knepp’s experiment. But her book is written with passion and knowledge and whatever your viewpoint, there is no doubt this book has put Rewilding onto the agenda and could be a game-changer when it comes the stewardship of our countryside in a post-Brexit Britain. Everyone who cares about wildlife and nature should read this book.
Nigel – Books and Publications

 

Seasearch Guide to Seaweeds of Britain and Ireland

As a Marine Biology Graduate I automatically drift to marine-based books, and the Seasearch Guide to Seaweeds of Britain and Ireland is no exception, climbing straight to the top of my field guide list. Finding an available, accessible, up-to-date guide to Britain and Ireland’s seaweeds is incredibly hard, especially one that covers all the Brown, Red and Green seaweeds! As an avid seaweed-presser I’m fascinated by seaweed diversity and this guide helps me find and identify the common, rare and invasive species that line our coasts, thanks to its detailed descriptions and distribution maps. I recommend all naturalists who have not yet attempted seaweed identification to seize this opportunity to branch out.
Kat- Editorial Assistant

 

Landfill

I have long considered gulls a paragon of the bird world, here’s a family whose numerous members excel in flight, at sea, and on land, even navigating the fast-changing urban landscape we have created, and not one of these facets kowtows to lessen another. In the wake of some popular gull identification guides in 2018, Tim Dee and the good folks at Little Toller bring us Landfill – a compact, thoughtful and beautifully crafted gem of a cultural companion to these adaptable birds. Landfill also highlights how our wasteful, short-sighted march has shaped their fortunes and our relationship with them.                                         Oli – Graphic Designer

 

BeePot Bee Hotel

The BeePot Bee Hotel is my favourite piece of equipment this year. It is stylish, sleek and is of course fantastic for bees! Solitary bees use this as a safe nesting space where they lay their eggs and where they can find refreshment from pollinator-friendly plants planted in the top. Ideal for gardeners or nature lovers! Check out the wider range of products which can be integrated into buildings here.             Bryony – Wildlife Equipment Specialist

 

The World in a Grain

The staff picks are becoming increasingly hard, as I have read even more books than last year. The World in a Grain is one of several books this year that made a large impression on me. Most people can name at least a few current or upcoming resource crises, but I doubt many people would rank sand amongst a natural resource that we could run out of any time soon. But, as Vince Beiser shows in this hard-hitting piece of investigative journalism, we are and the prospects are unsettling, to say the least. An excellent read that does not shy away from difficult questions and uncomfortable truths.
Leon – Catalogue Editor

 

Echo Meter Touch 2

Antonia – Wildlife Equipment Specialist 

 

The Orchid

I’ve always loved orchids, despite my inability to grow them. The Orchid is an unusual and delightful book containing  many fascinating stories about this beautiful and ubiquitous plant. Supplemented with notes and letters from the Kew archives and 40 botanical prints featuring illustrations by great orchid artists such as John Day and Sarah Drake, it will make a great present for any orchid-devotee.
Soma – Marketing Coordinator

 

Droll Yankees Lifetime Seed Feeder

After starting to feed the birds in our outside space at NHBS, I quickly realised that the Droll Yankees Lifetime Seed Feeder was needed to provide our local birds with food  over the winter months! The prominent perch extensions and robust design makes this bird feeder my staff pick of 2018.                                                                 Marie – Warehouse Coordinator

 

Reindeer: An Arctic Life

I always get excited about a new Reindeer book, especially if it’s about the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre (my favourite place to be in the UK!). Reindeer: An Arctic Life is a wonderful introduction to a fascinating species with great facts and anecdotes throughout. You’ll learn so much about Reindeer evolution and behaviour and learn more about how the Cairngorm herd came to be.
Natt – Customer Service & Dispatch Manager

 

Eco Hedgehog Hole Fence Plate 

I once read somewhere that a hedgehog requires something like 20 average-sized gardens to forage in every night! The trouble is that with our tendency to surround our gardens with fortress-like wooden fences, we do not always make access easy for them. The Eco Hedgehog Hole Fence Plate is a nice way to neaten off and protect an access point for your garden visitors and, at the same time, helping to conserve our hedgehogs. You can even buy a pack of two and give one to your neighbour so that they can make their side of the fence look good too! Or go halves! There you go – neighbourly love and hedgehog conservation for very few pennies!                                                                              Jon- Wildlife Equipment Specialist 

 

HarperCollins: Publisher of the Month

With a heritage stretching back 200 years, HarperCollins is one of the world’s leading publishers and has an extensive catalogue covering both fiction and non-fiction. We are pleased to announce that they are our Publisher of the Month for November and December. 

HarperCollins are pioneers in the world of natural history publishing and are renowned for their extremely popular New Naturalist series, iconic Collins Field Guides and a fantastic range of other natural history and popular science titles.

New Naturalist

The New Naturalist series, established in 1945, is arguably the most influential natural history series in the world, and first editions have long been collector’s items. The series has been revitalised in recent years with many more titles planned for the future.

November 2018 sees the arrival of Volume 138 The Burren and in 2019 we can look forward to Gulls and Garden Birds, with The Honey Bee also planned for the end of the year.

We will have a limited number of signed first editions of  The Burren available. Customers with standing orders and pre-orders will be automatically allocated signed stock, but additional copies are limited so place your order now if you would like to guarantee yourself a signed book.

We hope to offer a limited number of signed first editions of future New Naturalist volumes. Priority for these will be given to customers taking out a standing orders for the series:  a standing order ensures you receive all new releases in a series, although they are not a commitment to buy and can be cancelled anytime.  To find out more about setting up a standing order for the New Naturalist series, please contact Customer Services by email: customer.services@nhbs.com or phone 01803 865913.

Collins Field Guides

HarperCollins are famous for the distinctive black jackets on their Collins Field Guides. These are consistently popular with naturalists and ecologists throughout Britain. In fact, the Collins Bird Guide is our all-time bestselling book here at NHBS! Covering Europe and the UK’s flora and fauna, these field guides set the benchmark for quality descriptions, illustrations and distribution maps.

 The Field Guide series also encompasses guides for other locations around the world, the most recent addition to the collection being Birds of the Philippines. These field guides are written by well-known authors and showcase beautiful artwork from some of the world’s best natural history illustrators.

 

Nature Writing and Popular Science

 

 

 

 

HarperCollins also publish a wide range of narrative nature writing; from tales of the perilous lives of seabirds in The Seabirds Cry, a celebration of the geological past in Life: An Unauthorised Biography, poignant wildlife studies in The Great Soul of Siberia to the astonishing intelligence of cephalopods in Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life

Special offers on HarperCollins books

 

 

 

 

We have special offer prices on most of our HarperCollins books from now until the end of the year.  A perfect opportunity to pick up a gift or to treat yourself this winter.

The Ray Society: Publisher of the Month

The Ray Society is the NHBS Publisher of the Month for October.  To celebrate this, we have applied some special offers to a selection of their titles. View all Ray Society publications here.

The Ray Society was founded in 1844 by George Johnston with the aim of publishing the types of specialised, yet important, natural history books that were often overlooked or refused by other publishers based on the small profit that they would make.

The society was named in honour of John Ray (1628 – 1705), an eminent British natural historian. Ray was born in Essex and educated at Cambridge University. He published numerous works on botany, zoology and natural theology and his theories and writings are widely recognised as laying the foundations for the later works of both Linnaeus and Darwin.

Early membership of the Ray Society included HRH Prince Albert, William Yarrell, Richard Owens and Charles Darwin. More recently, Geoff Boxshall, Maurice Burton, Roger Lincoln, David McClintock, Brian Morton, Elizabeth Platts (our first female president), William Stearn, Alwynne Wheeler and many others have been active members. A detailed account of the history of the Society by Elizabeth Platts can be read on the Ray Society’s webpage.

To date, the Ray Society has published 179 books with special, but not exclusive, reference to the flora and fauna of the British Isles. One of their most recent publications, Dudley Clayton’s Charles Parrish, was co-published with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and includes all of Parish’s stunning paintings of Burmese Orchids. Other notable books published by the Ray Society include Gilbert White’s The Natural history and Antiquities of Selbourne, John Ray’s Methodus Plantarum Nova and An Introduction to Copepod Diversity by Geoffrey Boxshall and Sheila Halsey.

We are delighted to announce that NHBS has recently taken over the distribution of Ray Society publications. The timing is particularly exciting with the upcoming publication of George Else and Mike Edwards’ authoritative and comprehensive Handbook of the Bees of the British Isles. A culmination of over forty years of study, the production of this book has been supported throughout by the Ray Society and much of the original artwork was commissioned and funded by them.

The Handbook of Western Palearctic Birds arrives at NHBS

After 18 years in preparation, the highly anticipated two-volume Handbook of Western Palearctic Birds is now in stock and available from NHBS. Continue reading for a behind-the-scenes look at the logistics behind the arrival of such an exciting title.

Handbook of Western Palearctic Birds

Due to the incredible popularity of this book, four members of our staff dedicated three entire days to unpacking eight pallets of books, carefully repacking them and dispatching them to our eagerly awaiting customers.

The Handbook of Western Palearctic Birds, just arrived at the NHBS warehouse.

Watch the video below for a behind-the-scenes look at how this all happened.

We still have plenty of copies of the Handbook in stock, so order now and take advantage of our special price.

 

Save 25% on all Princeton University Press books

During February and March 2018, we are offering 25% or more off all Princeton University Press and WILDGuide books.

Universities are hallowed seats of learning and University Presses their beacons. Princeton University Press embrace the highest standards of publishing as embodied in the work of their authors from Albert Einstein in their earliest years to the present.

Princeton University Press pride themselves on bringing scholarly ideas to the world; they publish an acclaimed list by eminent authors in subjects that are core interests for NHBS customers. So, during February and March 2018, it is our great pleasure to offer 25% off all Princeton University Press books, available on our website and distributed in the UK.

Our current top-ten Princeton University Press titles:

Far From Land
Hardback | Due February 2018
£18.95 £24.95

 

 

Bovids of the World: Antelopes, Gazelles, Cattle, Goats, Sheep, and Relatives
Paperback | March 2016
£20.95 £27.95

 

 

The New Neotropical Companion
Paperback | February 2017
£20.95 £27.95

 

 

The Arctic Guide: Wildlife of the Far North
Paperback | August 2016
£17.21 £22.95

 

 

Primates of the World: An Illustrated Guide
Hardback | September 2016
£16.95 £24.95

 

 

The Princeton Guide to Ecology
Hardback | February 2017
£29.95 £49.95

 

 

Field Guide to the Fishes of the Amazon, Orinoco & Guianas
Paperback | January 2018
£28.46 £37.95

 

 

Trees of Panama and Costa Rica
Paperback | November 2013
£22.95 £37.95

 

 

Eco-Evolutionary Dynamics
Paperback | May 2016
£41.95 £54.95

 

 

A Mathematical Nature Walk
Paperback | October 2015
£10.95 £17.95

 

 

Browse all Princeton University Press titles

 

WILDGuides produce a series of definitive yet simple-to-use photographic guides to Britain’s wildlife. They also publish field and visitor guides to a wide range of wildlife hot-spots around the world. More recently they have embarked upon a series of photographic guides to the bird families of the world.

To complement the Princeton University Press promotion, NHBS are offering 25% or more off all WILDGuide titles until the end of March 2018.

Our current top-five WILDGuides:

Britain’s Spiders: A Field Guide
Paperback | May 2017
£17.95 £24.95

 

 

Britain’s Mammals: A Field Guide to the Mammals of Britain and Ireland
Paperback | April 2017
£14.95 £17.95

 

Wildlife of Madagascar
Paperback | October 2016
£18.95 £24.95

 

 

Britain’s Plant Galls: A Photographic Guide
Paperback | September 2011
£9.95 £16.95

 

 

Birds of Kenya’s Rift Valley
Hardback | April 2014
£11.95 £18.95

 

 

Browse all our WILDGuides titles.

Please note that all prices in this blogpost are correct as of 6th February 2018. The 25% offer will end at midnight on Saturday 31st March.

 

NHBS Staff Picks 2017

Welcome to our annual round-up of the books and equipment we have most enjoyed reading and using this year, all chosen by members of the NHBS team. Here are our choices for 2017!

Winter Birds

Winter Birds

In Winter Birds, we find Lars Jonsson’s loving portraits of some of the birds that he observed in southern Gotland in the winter months; both the watercolours and the accompanying essays are wonderfully intimate and personal. A fascinating book to dip into on cold and windy evenings, even if (like me) you don’t know your finches from your jays. First published in Swedish two years ago, this is now available in a UK edition, with range maps for both Sweden and the British Isles alongside each species. Expertly translated by David Christie, this is one of my favourite books this year.
Anneli – Senior Manager

Orison for a Curlew: In Search of a Bird on the Brink of Extinction

The Slender Billed Curlew, Numenius tenuirostris, is emblematic of species decline and ultimately extinction. With the last fully-fledged sighting in Morocco in 1995, naturalist and traveller Horatio Clare took up the challenge of sighting this ethereal creature. With precision and clarity and in only 115 beautifully written pages, this book takes the reader on an immersing journey into history, politics, hunting and conservation.
Nigel – Books and Publications

Field Guide to Moths

Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland

As a newbie to the world of moths, this book is a definitive and indispensable guide to UK species (excluding micro-moths). With in-depth descriptions and distribution maps for each species and beautifully clear and concise illustrations, this newly updated guide is a valuable resource and must-have mothing companion, perfect for beginners and pros alike.
Oli – Graphic Designer

Why We Sleep

Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams

Picking my favourite book of the year wasn’t easy this time, having stepped up my reading efforts this year. But since there has to be one: Why We Sleep is an exceedingly well-written book about the biology of human sleep, and especially the deleterious effects of chronic sleep deprivation that most of us subject ourselves to. Matthew Walker is a gifted writer with a knack for explaining neurobiological principles in clear language and using imaginative metaphors. It actually made me undertake some very serious attempts to change my sleeping habits.
Leon – Catalogue Editor

The Lost Words

For anyone even vaguely interested in nature writing Macfarlane needs no introduction.
His series on landscape, place and imagination has enthralled me since I first picked up The Old Ways several years ago.
Created in response to the nature-related words culled from the Oxford Junior Dictionary, words which are considered no longer relevant to a modern childhood, Macfarlane along with artist and author Jackie Morris have created a beautiful ‘spell book‘ for younger readers. A joyful celebration of both nature and language.
Johnny – Customer Services

Dinosaur MonopolyDinosaur Monopoly

Everyone at the NHBS board game club loved Dinosaur Monopoly. A new take on an old favourite, though we all agreed the T-Rex should not be the Mayfair of this board! Have fun excavating sites, bartering for ownership and making (or losing!) the big bucks!
Natt – Customer Service & Dispatch Manager

 

Petzl Tikka Headtorch

The Petzl Tikka is a brilliant head torch – with a light output of 200 lumens, you really get a lot of light for your money! Having five different light settings, it’s great for close up work, and with a range of 60m is ideal for night running/orienteering (with the added bonus of being weather resistant). From personal use, I would highly recommend this to anyone who is after a high quality head torch for a very reasonable price.
Sam – Customer Services

Mushrooms and Toadstools

Mushrooms and Toadstools of Britain & Europe: Volume 1

Mushrooms and Toadstools of Britain & Europe is the long-awaited field guide by Geoffrey Kibby, the highly respected field mycologist. This title stands out from other fungi guides with its detailed and comprehensive identification and field notes, but for me the real highlights are the gorgeous illustrations and diagrams running through the whole text. One doesn’t have to be a serious mycologist to appreciate the beauty of fungi as presented in this book!
Rachel – Customer Services

Kite Caiman Binoculars

Kite Caiman Binoculars

My pick is the 8 x 42 Kite Caiman Binoculars, which are our newest edition to the Kite binocular range. They have an amazing close focus and far reaching power, they’re affordable, bright, and are great quality. The Caimans make the ultimate pair of binoculars in the field for anyone on a budget.
Bryony – Wildlife Equipment Specialist

Squid Empire

Squid Empire: The Rise and Fall of the Cephalopods

Covering hundreds of millions of years, Squid Empire tells the fascinating story of how the squishy squids we have in our ocean today became what they are. Written with humanity and wit this book is extremely approachable, even by a layperson such as myself.
Luke – Web Developer

The Plant Messiah

In his time working at Kew Gardens, Carlos Magdalena has managed to track down and propogate some of the world’s most threatened plant species. Many of these success stories are shared in The Plant Messiah and all are recounted in Carlos’s enthusiastic and charismatic style. Part memoir, part “botany-101” and part plant elegy, I found this book difficult to put down, and whizzed through it in just a day or two. It is inspiring, thrilling and educational – what more could you ask for?
Luanne – Senior Editor

20% Off University of Chicago Press Titles

University of Chicago Press

During November 2017, we are offering 20% off University of Chicago Press titles

 

If universities are hallowed seats of learning, then University Presses surely are their beacons – beaming out knowledge and understanding, keeping the barbarians at bay! And of the world’s University presses, Chicago University Press is in the vanguard, with a long (since 1892) and illustrious list in subjects that are core interests for NHBS customers: ecology, evolutionary biology, palaeontology, earth history, conservation, history of natural history, forests, marine ecosystems, and zoology.

So, during November 2017, it is our great pleasure to offer 20% off all Chicago UP titles published before November 2017 and distributed in the UK. You can browse the full list of titles at nhbs.com. If you don’t find what you are looking for – but know it is published by Chicago UP – then send an email to customer.services@nhbs.com and we will be glad to source it for you, at 20% off, during November 2017.

Our top-ten Chicago University Press titles:

Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation

Wolves: Behaviour, Ecology, and Conservation
Paperback, January 2007
£18.00 £22.50

 

 

CuratorsCurators: Behind the Scenes of Natural History Museums
Hardback, March 2017
£21.20 £26.50

 

 

Why Birds Matter: Avian Ecological Function and Ecosystem Services
Paperback, September 2016
£27.20 £33.99

 

Messages from Islands: A Global Biodiversity Tour
Paperback, February 2017
£19.60 £24.50

 

 

Plant Evolution: An Introduction to the History of Life
Paperback, September 2016
£27.20 £33.99

 

 

Zebra Stripes
Hardback, February 2017
£27.20 £33.99

 

 

The Biology of Reefs and Reef Organisms
Paperback, November 2013
£35.60 £44.50

 

 

Great Transformations in Vertebrate Evolution
Paperback, November 2013
£27.20 £33.99

 

 

Why Ecology Matters
Paperback, May 2016
£15.20 £18.99

 

 

Planet of the Bugs: Evolution and the Rise of Insects
Paperback, October 2015
£10.40 £12.99

 

 

Fantastic books, by great authors

The Chicago UP author list is a gallery of some of the world’s most distinguished scientists: George B Schaller on gorillas; Charles Elton and Charles Krebs on ecology; Niles Eldredge, Ilkka HanskiMichael Ruse and Karl Niklas on evolutionary biology; Andrew Balmford,  Richard Ellis and Stuart Pimm on conservation and biodiversity.

Then there is Robin Chazdon, Susanna Hecht, and Michael Williams on forests;  Tim CaroLouise EmmonsThomas Kunz (bats), and David Mech (wolves) looking at mammals and Martin Rudwick on palaeontology and earth history. The list is long and impressive from some of the most original and influential scientists working in their field.

We invite you to take this opportunity to immerse yourself in the learned oeuvre of University of Chicago Press.

Book Review – Turtles as Hopeful Monsters

Turtles as Hopeful MonstersTurtles as Hopeful Monsters: Origins and Evolution

Written by Olivier Rieppel

Published in hardback by Indiana University Press in March 2017 in the Life of the Past series

Turtles have long vexed evolutionary biologists. In Turtles as Hopeful Monsters, Olivier Rieppel interweaves vignettes of his personal career with an overview of turtle shell evolution, and, foremost, an intellectual history of the discipline of evolutionary biology.

An initial, light chapter serves to both introduce the reader to important experts on reptile evolution during the last few centuries, as well as give an account of how the author got to study turtles himself. After this, the reading gets serious though, and I admit that I got a bit bogged down in the second chapter, which discusses the different historical schools of thought on where turtles are to be placed on the evolutionary tree. An important character here is skull morphology and a lot of terminology is used. Although it is introduced and explained, it makes for dense reading.

I think the book shines in the subsequent chapters that give a tour of the evolution of, well, evolutionary thinking.

When Darwin formulated his theories, he argued that evolution is a slow and step-wise process, with natural selection acting on random variation to bring about gradual change. This is the transformationist paradigm. Turtles as Hopeful Monsters, page 53The fossil record has yielded some remarkable examples where a slow transformation has occurred over time, such as the development of hooves in horses. But equally, there are many examples where no such continuous chain exists in the fossil record. Turtles are one such example, as they just suddenly appear in the fossil record, shell and all. Darwin himself attributed this to ‘the extreme imperfection of the fossil record‘. This lack of transitional fossils has of course been eagerly exploited by the creationist / intelligent design movement for their own ends.

But ever since Darwin, biologists have argued, and still do, that there exist mechanisms that allow for rapid innovation and saltatory evolution (i.e. evolution by leaps and bounds). This is the emergentist paradigm. Rieppel gives an overview of the different theories that have been put forward over the last two centuries, which is both illuminating and amusing. This covers such luminaries as Richard Goldschmidt (who coined the phrase “hopeful monsters”), Stephen Jay Gould (who revived it), and Günter Wagner (who provides the best current explanation according to Rieppel).

Just a little bit more about this phrase “hopeful monsters”, as this is such a prominent part of the book’s title. According to Goldschmidt, major new lineages would come about through mutations during early development of the embryo. This, of course, has the risk of producing monsters when the organism matures, likely resulting in premature death. So, Goldschmidt proposed a theory of hopeful monsters, where such drastic changes would successfully result in new evolutionary lineages with new body plans. His explanations, which required evolution to be goal-directed and cyclical (so-called orthogenetic evolution) have become obsolete, but he wasn’t entirely off the mark either. The best current explanations, according to Rieppel, comes from Wagner (author of Homology, Genes, and Evolution) and others who suggest radical changes to body plans do originate at the embryonic stage, and that the cause is the rewiring of the underlying genetic mechanisms.

Turtles as Hopeful Monsters, page 181The final two chapters of the book show how the debate over turtle shell evolution has gone back and forth between these two paradigms over time. Here again, Rieppel goes quite deep into morphology, this time of the shell, with accompanying terminology. Although the consensus seems to be leaning towards changes in embryonic development being responsible for the sudden appearance of the turtle shell in the fossil record, the final chapter deals with recent fossil finds from southwestern China that have revealed a potential missing link: a turtle with a fully developed belly shield.

Overall then, this book is a highly enjoyable romp through the intellectual history of evolutionary biology, using turtle evolution as its red thread. I could have used a bit more hand-holding here and there, and I feel the book would have benefited from an (illustrated) glossary or some extra illustrations. The reading gets quite technical when Rieppel goes into expositions on skull and shell morphology. That said, this book is an excellent addition to the popular science works in the Life of the Past series.

Turtles as Hopeful Monsters is available to order from NHBS.

Book Review – How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog)

How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog)How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog): Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution

Written by Lee Alan Dugatkin & Lyudmila Trut

Published in March 2017 by Chicago University Press

How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog) tells a remarkable story about a remarkable long-term experiment you will most likely never have heard of. I hadn’t, despite my background in evolutionary biology. When the announcement for it crossed my desk a month or so ago, its subtitle immediately grabbed my attention.

For more than 60 years, Russian scientists have been cross-breeding captive foxes in Siberia, selecting for tameness, in a bid to learn more about the evolutionary history of animal domestication. Written by evolutionary biologist and science historian Lee Alan Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut, who has been part of this experiment for close to six decades, it tells the story from its inception.

Back in 1952, geneticist Dmitri Belyaev had many questions regarding domestication. Though the breeding techniques were well understood, how did domestication start? The wild ancestors of today’s domestic animals would have likely run away or attacked humans, so what changed to make domestication possible? Being the lead scientist at a state laboratory that helped fur breeders produce more beautiful and luxurious fox pelts, he had both the knowledge and the means to tackle these questions. His plan? Experimentally mimic the evolution of the wolf into the dog using its close genetic cousin the fox. It was bold, both in its timescale, likely needing years – even decades – to yield results, but also in its timing. You see, Russia was still under the communist rule of Stalin, and one of his protegees, the poorly educated agronomist Trofim Lysenko, was waging a war on the “western” science of genetics. Scientists were expelled, imprisoned, and even murdered over their career choice. But Belyaev, having lost a brother this way, refused to back down. Far from Lysenko’s prying eyes in Moscow, in the frozen wilderness of Siberia, he started his breeding experiments, purporting to improve breeding rates in case anyone did come asking. Lyudmila joined him in 1958, and this book is their story.

It’s a story of science, and the authors do a good job distilling the findings into a reader-friendly format. The results are fascinating as the foxes rapidly evolve from wild animals to tamer and tamer companions that crave human interaction, undergoing a raft of subtle morphological changes in the process. But it’s also very much a human story. Of the women, often local peasants, who came to work at the fox farm, not necessarily understanding the science, but showing immense dedication to the cause. Of the researchers, who developed a deep love for, and connection with the generations of foxes, who rapidly became more dog-like in their behaviour and appearances.

It’s a story of persistence against all odds; the experiments are running to this day and have survived Stalin’s brutal regime, the Cold War, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, with all the economic turmoil that that caused. And it’s a story of an opportunity most scientists can only dream of: being able to follow up on previous findings and answering questions raised by previous experiments. Uniquely, this played out during (or perhaps was able to keep going because of) a period in which our knowledge of genetics, and the technologies available, kept on developing. The measuring of neurochemicals, epigenetics, PCR, genome mapping, next-generation sequencing… as new questions were being generated, so new techniques became available to probe deeper into the mysteries of the domestication.

The book makes for fascinating reading and is hard to put down once you start it. Highly recommended.

How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog) is available to order from NHBS.

NHBS Staff Picks 2016

Welcome to our annual tour of recommended reads and equipment highlights brought to you by members of the NHBS team. Here are our staff picks 2016!

The Sauropod Dinosaurs: Life in the Age of Giants

I admit that I’m a bit of a closet palaeontologist. Having decided to forego a career in this field in favour of biology, I have nevertheless retained a fascination for dinosaurs, so I enjoy a good dino-book like no other, and Indiana’s Life of the Past series… oh, wait. Probably the most surprising thing about The Sauropod Dinosaurs is that it was not published by Indiana University Press as part of their Life of the Past series, but instead by Johns Hopkins University Press. For anyone familiar with the aforementioned series, this book would fit right in, and displays similarly high production values, gorgeous illustrations, and accessible popular science. I have yet to go beyond merely flicking through it and admiring it, but I could not resist and got myself a copy as soon as this came out.
Leon – Catalogue Editor

The Arctic Guide: Wildlife of the Far North

The Arctic Guide is a fantastic reminder of the precious diversity of wildlife that occupies the Northern regions of the planet – including mammals, birds, fishes, lizards and frogs, flies, bees, butterflies and flora. There is even a fascinating entry on domesticated sled dogs. It is beautifully produced, as we have come to expect from Princeton University Press natural history lists. Well-designed colour plates are accompanied by unusually descriptive detail by author Sharon Chester, making this an enjoyable general read for naturalists as well as an essential companion for Arctic researchers or travellers.
Katherine – Marketing

Britain’s Treasure Islands: A Journey to the UK Overseas Territories

To research Britain’s Treasure Islands, and the TV series of the same name that was broadcast in 2016, Stewart McPherson travelled to each of the 16 remote islands and peninsulas across the globe that are under UK sovereignty.

The contrasts between the different territories are fascinating, some can be travelled to with relative ease (e.g. Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands), but others are nearly inaccessible and as a result have most wonderful wildlife – one of my favourite chapters describes the British Indian Ocean Territory, home of undisturbed coral reefs, and giant Coconut crabs.

This hefty book is full of adventure and natural history, with fold-out maps and countless photos, and just perfect for dipping into when it’s cold and windy outside.
Anneli – Senior Manager

Bushnell NatureView Binoculars

We all love the Bushnell NatureView Binoculars because they are bright, well balanced and really solid, without being heavy. They have a fantastic field of view for scanning the horizon and an excellent close focus distance so they are brilliant for insect work too. They are very well designed binoculars at a really affordable price.
Simone – Wildlife Equipment Specialist

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Sapiens is a very ambitious book, covering the entirety of human history while exploring what the future holds for our species. You will learn to admire, sympathise with and hate our species as Harari examines the key factors which lead to our success over other animals. Through Hariri’s use of creative metaphors, he successfully manages to answer some of the big questions which would otherwise be incomprehensible. I can’t wait to read his latest book Homo Deus, which further explores the future of our species; where we’re are headed and what challenges we will face.
Tim – Customer Services

Bushnell Trophy Cam Essential E2

Whilst carrying out research for my PhD studying chemical communication in the Eurasian beaver I recorded many hours of beaver responses to the scents of intruding neighbours using trail cameras. I also enjoyed taking them home to record animals in my garden and surrounding countryside. The Essential E2 is an affordable yet good quality trail camera that will give you an insight into the animals visiting your garden. It is surprising how many different animals and birds visit gardens without people knowing, although some leave a nice surprise of a dug-up lawn! A friend recently used a trail camera to investigate who was digging up their lawn – badgers looking for tasty leatherjackets!
Hannah – Wildlife Equipment Specialist

Solitary Beehive

Cavity nesting bees make up around 30% of the solitary bees in the UK. These non-aggressive insects require dry, hollow tubes to make their nests and use natural materials, rather than wax, to construct the cells in which the larvae grow.

I bought this small wooden solitary beehive for my garden in an attempt to provide nesting space for these vital pollinators. It has been a great addition to the garden and within a month of installing it, several of the holes had been packed with leaves. This was really exciting to see and suggests that it was being used by local leafcutter bees.

The box is well made and has withstood the local Dartmoor weather (i.e. windy and wet much of the time) really well. The wood has weathered attractively over the year and the box still feels robust and sound. As a fruit and vegetable grower it is great to know that we are attracting pollinators to the garden.
Luanne – Senior Wildlife Equipment Specialist

Heavy-duty Badger Gate

One of our latest developments is a redesign of an existing product sold by us. Our new heavy-duty badger gates are made on site, welded by our own fully qualified TIG welder, ensuring quality workmanship and a finish we hope the customer is amazed by.
Currently, our competitors only use galvanised mild steel. This results in a cumbersome, awkward to use product. Ours, however, is lightweight but still gives the same strength and reusability, making it far easier to transport to the required area and reduce the strain required to set up a gated badger enclosure. Competitively price, this item should fulfil all your requirements and more, a must have for anyone working towards badger conservation.
Thomas – Wildlife Equipment Engineer

Pond Net

Our new pond net frame has been designed and developed to make a more sustainably sourced, budget frame for everyone from young children up. Manufactured in house, it means that we are no longer reliant on external suppliers to fulfil orders, and therefore able to lower the cost to you, the customer. Also, not being shipped from the other side of the world makes it a greener, more sustainable product, reducing airmiles and making it more environmentally friendly. Lightweight, coming in at only 300g, it has two tactile foam handles, fitting very nicely into the hand.
Kynan – Fabricator

Arboreal: A Collection of New Woodland Writing

In memory of Oliver Rackham, Little Toller’s Arboreal sets out to curate a journey through the managed and wilder woods of Britain, with some very insightful companions. The book is a perfect blend of collected nostalgia, fancies, facts and little fictions that each in turn highlights something of the wild wood within us. Authors, journalists, artists, poets and woodland custodians impart wisdom, wonder and hope; and each leaves their own mark on the mind with their input. This book is an immersive, beautiful, lyrical and poignant treat, let it take you into the woods, or better still, take it with you and head for the trees!
Oli – Graphic Designer