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1 Beaverton Nature Studies- Evolution

This title in other editions

The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions


The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions Cover

ISBN13: 9780684827124
ISBN10: 0684827123
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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Discussion Points

  1. Discuss the ways in which Quammen's The Song of the Dodo is part adventure story, part scientific study, part travelogue, part murder mystery, part history book, and part biography.

  2. Comment on Quammen's writing style and his ability to impart difficult scientific material in both an interesting and understandable way.

  3. Why do you think Quammen chose to use as his title figure the dodo bird, a large-headed, big-butted, lumbering, flightless bird? What does the dodo bird represent in the book? Why in particular did he choose to mention the song of the dodo? What resonance does this have?

  4. Why do you think Quammen invests so much time dispelling the fictional stories of science, stories based more on convenience and tidiness than on the truth — such as Darwin being portrayed as the sole mind behind the theory of evolution, when in fact there was another man named Wallace who came upon it on his own?

  5. The Tasmanian Aborigines were driven to the brink of extinction by the colonial settlers in the late 19th century. Compare their fate to the extinction of the dodo bird in the 1600s. Why is it so resonant? How is it haunting? What implications does it have for the human race?

  6. Why is Quammen's book so powerful? In what ways did it change your view of the natural world? Did it in any way alter your perspective on your own life and on life itself? If so, how?

  7. Near the end of The Song of the Dodo Quammen writes, "Yes, Simberloff predicts, the current cataclysm of extinctions is indeed likely to stand among the worst half-dozen such events in the history of life on Earth. This time around, we're the Death Star. But with a difference. Our own devastating impact on the biosphere will probably be a singular event, not part of a recurrent pattern. Why? Because we probably won't survive long enough, as a species, to find out." Do you believe the extinction of our species is, and always was, inevitable, or do you believe we have the ability to turn the tide and should, in fact, intercede on our planet's behalf?

  8. What is conservation biology and how important does Quammen lead us to believe it is in the prevention of animal and plant extinction? Discuss the conservation biology work that is being done, and its rate of success. For example, review Carl Jones's work with the kestrel in Mauritius, and Lovejoy's experimental work in the Amazon.

  9. At the end of The Song of the Dodo, Quammen returns to Aru to find the bird of paradise which Wallace had described so poignantly a century ago. "Even before we have reached the lekking tree on the second ridge" Quammen writes, "my question about Aru has been answered. The sad, dire things that have happened elsewhere in so many parts of the world ... haven't yet happened here. Probably they soon will. Meanwhile, though, there's still time. If time is hope, there's still hope." What, in the content of this paragraph, alters the ominous foreboding of The Song of the Dodo? Do you believe there is still hope? What do you think needs to be done in the time we have left?

  10. Did reading this book make you want to help in some way to preserve our world? If so, what way or ways did you consider? Would it alter the way in which you live your life?

  11. Did The Song of the Dodo spur you to travel, to find yourself on a boat chugging up some distant river to catch a glimpse of the indri or to hear the song of the cenderawasih? Where did it tempt you to go and what did you imagine you'd like to see?
Recommended Readings

Anthropologist on Mars, Oliver Sacks

Arctic Dreams, Barry Lopez

Broadsides from the Orders: A Book of Buys, Sue Hubbell

The Control of Nature, John McPhee

Dwellings: Reflections on the Natural World, Linda Hogan

Field Notes: The Grace Note of the Canyon Wren, Barry Lopez

The Last of the Tasmanians, David Davies

The Malay Archipeligo, Alfred Wallace

My Life: A Record of Events and Opinions: Vols. I and II, Alfred Wallace

The Ninemile Wolves, Rick Bass

The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin

The Voyage of the Beagle: Charles Darwin's Journal of Researches, Charles Darwin

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

michaelzuzel, August 9, 2012 (view all comments by michaelzuzel)
David Quammen is America's greatest nature writer, and "Song of the Dodo" is his masterpiece. More than simply reporting on the cutting-edge discoveries by ecologists around the world, Quammen synthesizes their findings into a sweeping -- and chilling -- conclusion: We are quickly carving our planet's natural life-support system into tiny islands, too small and so lacking in biological diversity that they are destined to fail -- and with them, us. A brilliant and essential book.
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Jo Marshall - Twig Stories, June 5, 2012 (view all comments by Jo Marshall - Twig Stories)
After reading 'The Flight of the Iguana' by David Quammen, I had no qualms about undertaking another amazing journey, 'The Song of the Dodo' even though I had no clue at the time what island biogeography was, and only an elementary concept of extinction. This book could actually have had many titles that would have been equally mysterious to an environmental layman like me: 'The History of Biogeography and What That Actually Is' or 'Great Men With Controversial Theories of Biodiversity, and Other Such Stuff' or 'The Inevitable Spiral Toward Species Extinction - And That Includes All Species' or even 'How We Came to Value Modern Conservation Science or Something Like That.' But I began reading Quammen's story anyway because I knew from his earlier book that he was incredibly informative in a casual, "favorite professor" sort of way. Meaning that just when your comprehension starts to fail, he speaks directly to you from his narrative, and snaps you back onto a level playing field of enlightenment. I read it because I knew Quammen would teach me something important that I would remember, and that his topics always matter. I call this a story, because it reads like one. It begins simply, and ends the same way. In between, all the historical facts, scientific theories, and personality studies come to actually mean something in today's world, and will to anyone who reads this book. And I guarantee that you will cry because you've never heard the song of the dodo, and cry, too, because Quammen helped you hear those of the indri and the cenderawasih.

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Product Details

Quammen, David
Scribner Book Company
Quammen, David
Environmental Science
Endangered species
Life Sciences - Biology - General
General Nature
Nature Studies-General
island biogeography; biogeography; David Quammen; Song of the Dodo; extinction; naturalist; ecology; origin of the species; global warming; climate change; darwin; helen bernstein award; spillover; robert kangel; natural selection; science writing; rainfo
island biogeography; biogeography; David Quammen; Song of the Dodo; extinction; naturalist; ecology; origin of the species; global warming; climate change; darwin; helen bernstein award; spillover; robert kangel; natural selection; science writing; rainfo
Edition Description:
Publication Date:
April 1997
Grade Level:
9.25 x 6.12 in 25.83 oz

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Geography » General
Science and Mathematics » Biology » General
Science and Mathematics » Environmental Studies » Environment
Science and Mathematics » Environmental Studies » General
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » Evolution
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » General

The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$10.98 In Stock
Product details 704 pages Scribner Book Company - English 9780684827124 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , David Quammen's book, The Song of the Dodo, is a

brilliant, stirring work, breathtaking in its scope,

far-reaching in its message — a crucial book in

precarious times, which radically alters the way in

which we understand the natural world and our place

in that world. It's also a book full of entertainment

and wonders.

In The Song of the Dodo, we follow Quammen's keen

intellect through the ideas, theories, and experiments

of prominent naturalists of the last two centuries.

We trail after him as he travels the world,

tracking the subject of island biogeography, which

encompasses nothing less than the study of the origin

and extinction of all species. Why is this island

idea so important? Because islands are where

species most commonly go extinct — and because, as

Quammen points out, we live in an age when all of

Earth's landscapes are being chopped into island-like

fragments by human activity.

Through his eyes, we glimpse the nature of evolution

and extinction, and in so doing come to understand

the monumental diversity of our planet, and

the importance of preserving its wild landscapes,

animals, and plants. We also meet some fascinating

human characters. By the book's end we are wiser,

and more deeply concerned, but Quammen

leaves us with a message of excitement and hope.

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