Wednesday, August 4, 2021

The Accidental Reef and Other Ecological Odysseys in the Great Lakes


The Accidental Reef and Other Ecological Odysseys in the Great Lakes is a science based monograph on the man-made changes in the Great Lakes presented by Dr. Lynne Heasley. Released 1st Aug 2021 by Michigan State University Press, it's 264 pages and is available in paperback and ebook formats. 

This is a fascinating look at how man-made changes in an area which encompasses one olympic-sized swimming pool near the banks of the St. Clair River has changed a whole ecosystem with outward rippling effects of astonishing magnitude. Coal clinkers dumped many decades ago created a reef which provided a habitat which favored zebra mussels (a non-native species), and sturgeon which in turn changed the entire ecosystem. The author's voice is clear and understandable. Her parenthetical authorial asides are wryly self-deprecating and spot on: "Skull fractures have been observed, note two fish biologists. (Are there times when scientific detachment seems forced?)." There are several other ecological niches discussed by the author in addition to the aforementioned, and she weaves them together skillfully.

By hyper focusing on the measurable areas, the author renders the big picture more accessible and comprehensible. She meticulously builds up the net of interconnecting threads and shows their interdependence at the same time inviting the reader to begin to extrapolate to the bigger picture of our impact on entire biomes. The text throughout is layman accessible and engaging. The author has provided annotations throughout and the chapter notes and bibliography will provide readers in search of more information a good basis for further reading, without getting bogged down in overly dry academic language. 

Heasley also does a wonderful job of bringing the dichotomy between the different interests, for example divers and fishers, to life. Often seen as mutually exclusive (and antagonistic), there are outstanding personalities in every camp and she introduces the reader to these people through their words and actions. I really enjoyed reading the chapters about Greg from Gregory A.D.

I also enjoyed the line drawn sketches by artist Glenn Wolff throughout. They enhanced the work and allowed me a moment of reflection over what I'd been reading. The style is simple and rustic, but full of small details that invite the viewer to pause and look. 

Five stars. This is a fascinating and illuminating read. It would make a superlative acquisition for libraries, fans of natural history, ecology, and popular science writing. It's easy to imagine the author is a gifted lecturer and teacher. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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