Silent Summer: Editor Interview

Norman Maclean, editor of the best-selling Silent Summer Jacket ImageSilent Summer, talks to NHBS about his career, early home-grown experiments with nature conservation and the state of wildlife policy in Britain today.

What first inspired you to pursue your field of study, and how old were you?

I have been interested in wildlife since my earliest years (aged 6), being brought up amongst fields and farms on the outskirts of Edinburgh. I was equally interested in insects, birds, mammals and fish. My parents were very tolerant of my rearing caterpillars, beetles, field mice and newts at home, mostly in my bedroom.

What were the books that inspired you when you were young?

The books of Richard and Cherry Kearton on Nature Photography in St. Kilda and elsewhere.

“Direct From Nature: The Photographic Work of Richard and Cherry Kearton” by John Bevis.

Later, “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson.

What is your all time favourite natural history book?

Gilbert White’s “Natural History of Selborne”.

Who are your heroes in the field?

Gilbert White, Charles Darwin, Gregor Mendel, David Attenborough.

How do you split your time between the field and your writing projects?

You might call me a polymath. Academically, I am Professor in Molecular Genetics, but I have strong hobby interests in wildlife, trout fishing, playing tennis, gardening, antiquities and travel.

How has your core understanding of the subject changed since you began your research?

Enormously. As a geneticist I have lived through 50 years of amazing discovery and change. In terms of wildlife, ecology and conservation I have always been a keen field biologist and have taught on student field courses in Southern Spain for over 20 years. I have also been witness to the alarming decline in insects and some birds and mammals. I have studied wildlife in over 50 countries worldwide, seeing the destruction of so much natural habitat, yet savouring the riches of what is left.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

My main research topic is gene regulation, and I and my research group have made some signicant discoveries in this area. Maybe my proudest moment in youth was discovering the first breeding of the Golden Plusia moth in Scotland when I was twelve – confirmed by letter from the Edinburgh Museum of Natural History.

What do you consider to be the most interesting current developments in your field of study?

In genetics the sequencing of the genomes of many species including humans, and in conservation biology the return to the UK of breeding cranes, red kites, otters, pine martens and others.

Which current issues in conservation do you feel have the biggest impact on your field, and how would like to see these dealt with?

The realization that you cannot effectively conserve wildlife in the UK by making fences round reserves and letting nature take its course.  Ecologically speaking, almost all of Britain and Ireland has been moulded by human interference and activity so our future responsibility lies in the active management of wildlife, including judicious culling where necessary.

How would you like to see your field develop in the future?

With increased political prioritization of wildlife conservation and the preservation of what remains of the countryside. We must urgently control further human population increase and resist further demands on space, water supplies, energy supplies and contributions to global warming. We should all be prepared to reduce our own standards of living in order to improve those of the other species with which we share the planet.

Where will you be taking your next study trip?

Ethiopia.

What will your next book be?

I don’t know. Any ideas welcome!

If you could spend a month working in another field, which would you choose?

Ancient History.

How would you encourage young people who might be interested in pursuing a career in your field?

Get a degree in biology or genetics at a reputable university and learn your own fauna and flora.

Get your copy of Silent Summer today

Silent Summer: State of Wildlife

Over the past 20 years dramatic declines have taken place in UK insect populations. Eventually, such declines must have knock-on effects for other animals, especially high profile groups such as birds and mammals. This authoritative, yet accessible account details the current state of the wildlife in Britain and Ireland and offers an insight into the outlook for the future.

Written by a team of the country’s leading experts, it appraises the changes that have occurred in a wide range of wildlife species and their habitats and outlines urgent priorities for conservation. It includes chapters on each of the vertebrate and major invertebrate groups, with the insects covered in particular depth. Also considered are the factors that drive environmental change and the contribution at local and government level to national and international wildlife conservation. Essential reading for anyone who is interested in, and concerned about, UK wildlife.

With a foreword by Sir David Attenborough.

About Silent Summer: The State of Wildlife in Britain and Ireland

Over the past 20 years dramatic declines have taken place in UK insect populations. Eventually, such declines must have knock-on effects for other animals, especially high profile groups such as birds and mammals. This authoritative, yet accessible account details the current state of the wildlife in Britain and Ireland and offers an insight into the outlook for the future.

Written by a team of the country’s leading experts, it appraises the changes that have occurred in a wide range of wildlife species and their habitats and outlines urgent priorities for conservation. It includes chapters on each of the vertebrate and major invertebrate groups, with the insects covered in particular depth. Also considered are the factors that drive environmental change and the contribution at local and government level to national and international wildlife conservation. Essential reading for anyone who is interested in, and concerned about, UK wildlife.

With a foreword by Sir David Attenborough. Buy Silent Summer now from NHBS

What the reviewers say about Silent Summer

Silent Summer is “like a Domesday Book of British Wildlife”, according to its editor, Professor Norman Maclean. In a foreword, Sir David Attenborough warns that “it is invaluable now and in the future it will be irreplaceable”. Will any real action be taken? Of course not. Silent Spring, Rachel Carson’s masterpiece, alerted the world in 1962 to the effects of agricultural pollutants such as DDT and in many ways launched today’s environmental movement. Silent Summer raises more complex and local questions. Terence Blacker, The Independent

Now, in an echo of that breakthrough publication, Sir David Attenborough has written the foreword to a new book, Silent Summer. Since Silent Spring we thought we had learnt a lot. But, as Sir David and 40 ecologists make clear, that is not so. Our wildlife is in retreat thanks to modern farming and the encroachment of urban life on the countryside. The Times

Published in 1962, Silent Spring helped launch the global environmental movement and, in Britain, prompted an eventual ban on pesticides such as DDT. Maclean believes, however, that such triumphs have done little to slow the destruction. “The evidence is that we could be in the middle of the next great extinction of wildlife, both globally and in Britain,” he said.

Butterflies are among the hardest hit of insect groups. Five species are extinct and, of the 59 that regularly breed in Britain, most have seen sharp declines in population. Jeremy Thomas, professor of ecology at Oxford University, who wrote Silent Summer’s chapter on butterflies, said populations were falling faster than almost any other group. The reason, he suggests, is that the caterpillars of many species need particular plant species to feed on — but these are often targeted by farmers as weeds. “Nearly every butterfly decline can be attributed to habitat loss or the degradation and increased isolation of surviving patches of habitat,” he said. Jonathan Leake in The Times

Perhaps what I’m excitedly photographing and noting today is the cliched ‘pale shadow’ of twenty years ago. I may be incredibly lucky in that I’m seeing something that in terms of biodiversity is equivalent to fifty or even a hundred years ago, but there’s no way of knowing. 10000birds.com

A new major environmental book, entitled Silent Summer: The State of Wildlife in Britain and Ireland, offers up disturbing facts and figures about the human impact on nature in the British Isles. Celebrated naturalist, broadcaster and national treasure Sir David Attenborough has penned the forward to the book, a collaborative effort by 40 UK ecologists, which outlines the impacts of pesticides, population growth and intensive farming on British and Irish flora and fauna. Greenfudge.com

Prof Maclean argues that “the evidence is that we could be in the middle of the next great extinction of wildlife, both globally and in Britain.” Nick Collins, The Telegraph

Buy Silent Summer now from NHBS

Contents of Silent Summer

List of contributors; Foreword David Attenborough; Preface; Acknowledgements; List of abbreviations;
1. Introduction Norman Maclean; Part I. Factors Driving Changes in Wildlife: 2. Climate change T. H. Sparks, C. D. Preston and D. B. Roy; 3. Agriculture, woodland and semi-natural habitats Ken Norris; 4. Vertebrate animal introductions Christopher Lever; 5. Plant introductions Andrew Lack; 6. Urbanisation and development Kevin J. Gaston and Karl L. Evans; 7. The great game: the interaction of field sports and conservation in Britain from the 1950s to 2008 Robin Sharp; 8. Going fishing: recent trends in recreational angling Robin Sharp and Norman Maclean; 9. Impacts of hormone disrupting chemicals on wildlife C. R. Tyler and R. M. Goodhead; 10. Water pollution: other aspects Michael Hughes and Carl Sayer; 11. 25 key questions in ecology Norman Maclean; Part II. Conservation in Action: 12. Conservation in action in Britain and Ireland Andy Clements; 13. Wildlife in the UK Overseas Territories Mike Pienkowski; 14. UK involvement in conservation outside UK territory N. Leader-Williams and A. M. Rosser; Part III. The Case Histories: 15. Mammals in the 20th century D. W. Yalden; 16. Bats Karen A. Haysom, Gareth Jones, Dan Merrett and Paul A. Racey; 17. State of bird populations in Britain and Ireland Robert A. Robinson; 18. The conservation of the Grey Partridge N. W. Sotherton, N. J. Aebischer and J. A. Ewald; 19. Reptiles Chris P. Gleed-Owen; 20. Amphibians Tim Halliday; 21. Freshwater fishes: a declining resource Peter S. Maitland and John F. Craig; 22. Riverflies Cyril Bennett and Warren Gilchrist; 23. Bumblebees Dave Goulson; 24. Butterflies J. A. Thomas; 25. Moths Richard Fox, Kelvin F. Conrad, Mark S. Parsons, Martin S. Warren and Ian P. Woiwod; 26. Dragonflies (Odonata) in Britain and Ireland Peter Mill, Steve Brooks and Adrian Parr; 27. Flies, beetles and bees, wasps and ants (Diptera, Coleoptera, and Aculeate Hymenoptera) Alan Stubbs; 28. Hemiptera Alan J. A. Stewart and Peter Kirby; 29. Grasshoppers, crickets and allied insects Judith Marshall; 30. Aerial insect biomass: trends from long-term monitoring Richard Harrington, Chris R. Shortall and Ian P. Woiwod; 31. Invertebrates Richard Chadd and Brian Eversham; 32. Land and freshwater molluscs Ian J. Killeen; 33. The sea shore S. J. Hawkins, H. E. Sugden, P. S. Moschella, N. Mieszkowska, R. C. Thompson and M. T. Burrows; 34. The offshore waters John Baxter; 35. Plants Andrew Lack; 36. Conclusion: what is the likely future for the wildlife in Britain and Ireland? Norman Maclean; Glossary; Index.

Bio of Norman Maclean

Norman Maclean is Emeritus Professor of Genetics at Southampton University and has a strong interest in wildlife, conservation and river management. He has helped to run student field courses for more than 20 years and has authored and edited more than a dozen textbooks and reference books in Genetics and Cell Biology. He is an Elected Fellow of the Linnaean Society and the Institute of Biology.

Buy Silent Summer now from NHBS

New Edition – The Ultimate Guide to Scarcer British Birds

181550

New Edition – Fully Revised and Updated
In 1996 The Ultimate Site Guide to Scarcer British Birds became an instant classic – for the first time in one publication, birders discovered how and where to see over 100 rarer and difficult-to-find species. These are the birds that make birding such an exciting and rewarding activity: there’s nothing like the thrill of tracking and observing elusive species such as Hawfinch, Spotted Crake and Great Grey Shrike.

For this new expanded edition, the species accounts have been further enhanced with more than 60 new vignettes from illustrator Ray Scally. For each of the 142 species covered this book tells you all you need to know, including where and when to look – up to six pages per species, detailing up to 50 sites, often including maps and grid references. Get your copy of the new edition today!

Other new birding titles this month include Birding from the Hip and History of Ornithology – for more, browse New Birding Titles at NHBS – September 2009

Our pre-publication special offer for Handbook of the Birds of the World, Volume 14: Bush-shrikes to Old World Sparrows must end 30 September 2009; order your copy today and save £35!

Wildlife in a Changing World – Now Available at NHBS

180305Wildlife in a Changing World: An Analysis of the 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has just been published and is available at NHBS. This new volume brings updated information across all threatened species and in particular new data on freshwater and marine species.

Wildlife in a Changing World provides the most up-to-date information on the patterns of species facing extinction in some of the most important ecosystems in the world and the reasons behind their declining status. For managers this information will assist in designing and delivering targeted action to mitigate these threats. From a policy perspective, the IUCN Red List offers a progressively more valuable tool. Increasingly it provides the fundamental information needed to deliver indicators for tracking. Order your copy today

Other recent wildlife and species conservation titles include Species Richness, The Game of Conservation, Restoring Wildlife and Rewilding the West.

Browse New Wildlife and Species Conservation titles

Ecology & Conservation – New Titles at NHBS

Spatial Conservation PrioritizationNow available at NHBS – Spatial Conservation Prioritization brings together a team of leading scientists to introduce the conceptual and methodological aspects of how to undertake spatial conservation planning in a quantitative manner. We have a special offer on this title – order your copy today and save £5!

Also browse other recent titles of interest in conservation ecology, including Nested Ecology and Population Genetics for Animal Conservation.

Browse other recent Ecology & Conservation titles

Browse Conservation and Biodiversity

Browse Biology and Ecology

New Titles in the Important Bird Areas Series

NHBS is distributing two new major new titles in the Important Bird Areas series, profiling the Important Bird Areas of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Both of these key conservation titles are now in stock at NHBS. 175898

Important Bird Areas in Kazakhstan: Priority Sites for Conservation provides the results of the IBA inventory and its relations to nature conservation in Kazakhstan, and details the accounts for 121 IBAs identified in Kazakhstan which form part of the Central Asia IBA programme. A Russian edition of this book is also available for purchase.

 

 

 

 

 

175898

Important Bird Areas in Uzbekistan: Priority Sites for Conservation provides the results of the IBA inventory and its relations to nature conservation in Uzbekistan, and details the accounts for 48 IBAs identified in Uzbekistan which form part of the Central Asia IBA programme. A Russian edition of this book is also available for purchase.

 

 

 

 

Browse Conservation, Care and Monitoring

Browse our full range of birding titles in Ornithology

Browse our full range of Wildlife Equipment for ringing pliers, binoculars, waterproof notebooks and all the other field essentials.

Virunga: The Story of Africa’s First National Park

Just published in English, Virunga tells the fascinating story of the development and survival of Africa’s first national park.

Under the leadership of Marc Languy and Emmanuel de Merode, 36 conservationists describe the past and present efforts to protect Virunga, Africa’s first National Park. With over 240 color photographs, 60 maps and 45 graphs, the authors also give a detailed overview of the park, its habitats and wildlife and propose practical measures for the protection of this unique conservation area that has been at the heart of some of the bloodiest conflicts in half a century. Combining historic data with the most recent technology, such as high-resolution satellite imagery, this book provides a wealth of information on the dynamics and the current status of the park, home to gorillas, okapis, tropical glaciers and the world’s largest active volcanoes.

Order a copy of Virunga today

Browse our full range of books on Africa

Browse Conservation and Biodiversity

Top Titles of 2008

Here are the most popular books of 2008 at NHBS: the Top 10 overall and the Top 10 in each of our major subject areas. You’ll find an eclectic mix of geographic and taxonomic interest, with books from publishers all over the world. We’ve also included bestselling wildlife equipment from our new range of field kit.

Enjoy browsing, and please feel free to add your own recommendations for this year’s Top Titles at the bottom of this post.

Top 10
1. Dragonflies
2. Climatic Atlas of European Breeding Birds
3. Sedges of the British Isles
4. Mammals of the British Isles
5. Life in Cold Blood – DVD
6. Mabberley’s Plant-Book
7. Which Bat Is It?
8. RES Handbook Volume 4 Part 2: The Carabidae
9. Wild China – DVD
10. Guia de Campo: Birds of Amazonian Brazil

Top Birding
1. Grouse
2. Climatic Atlas of European Breeding Birds
3. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 13: Penduline Tits to Shrikes
4. All the Birds of Brazil
5. Ornithologist’s Dictionary
6. Owls of the World
7. Collins Bird Guide
8. Frontiers in Birding
9. The Migration Ecology of Birds
10. Guia de Campo: Birds of Amazonian Brazil

Top Zoology
1. Dragonflies
2. Mammals of the British Isles
3. Which Bat Is It?
4. RES Handbook Volume 4 Part 2: The Carabidae
5. Tiger: Spy in the Jungle – DVD
6. Guide to the Mammals of China
7. Primates of the World
8. Wolf
9. Field Guide to the Mammals of South East Asia
10. Guide to British Bats

Top Equipment
1. Opticron Hand lens, 18mm, 20x magnification
2. WeatherWriter A4 Portrait
3. Vista Organiser
4. Schwegler 1B Nest Box
5. Schwegler 2F Bat Box
6. Batbox Baton Bat Detector
7. Garmin GPS Map60Cx
8. 125W MV Robinson Moth Trap
9. Professional Hand Net (Standard 250mm Wide Frame)
10. Pooter

Top Ecology and Conservation
1. Primer of Ecological Statistics
2. Behavioural Ecology
3. Introduction to Molecular Ecology
4. Analysis of Ecological Communities
5. Management Planning for Nature Conservation
6. Sustaining Life
7. Handbook of Biodiversity Methods
8. Atlas of Endangered Species
9. Conservation and Sustainable Use
10. Scaling Biodiversity

Top Botany
1. Sedges of the British Isles
2. Mabberley’s Plant-Book
3. The Wild Flower Key
4. New Cactus Lexicon, Volumes I and II
5. Wild Flowers of the Mediterranean
6. Secret Lives of Garden Wildlife
7. Lichens: An Illustrated Guide to the British and Irish Species
8. Flowering Plant Families of the World
9. British Orchids
10. BRYOATT: Attributes of British and Irish Mosses, Liverworts and Hornworts

Top Natural History
1. Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Portfolio Eighteen
2. Attenborough in Paradise and Other Personal Voyages – DVD
3. Birds and Light: The Art of Lars Jonsson
4. Lars Jonsson’s Birds
5. Seventy Great Mysteries of the Natural World
6. Lost Worlds of the Guiana Highlands
7. Guide to Garden Wildlife
8. Earth: The Power of the Planet – DVD
9. Vietnam: A Natural History
10. The Deep

Top Data Analysis and Modelling
1. Describing Species
2. OU Project Guide
3. Statistics for Terrified Biologists
4. Ecological Census Techniques
5. The R Book
6. Experimental Design and Data Analysis for Biologists
7. Spatial Analysis
8. Choosing and Using Statistics
9. Modelling for Field Biologists
10. Quantitative Methods for Conservation Biology

Don’t see your favourite title of 2008 here? Add your own recommendations for Top Titles at the bottom of this post.

To find a particular title, browse our full range of over 100,000 wildlife, science and conservation titles.