May 10, 2009

Adventures of a Zoologist

by Victor Scheffer

I finished reading this book yesterday. It's the first one off my list for the 2009 TBR Challenge. Adventures of a Zoologist is a memoir of Scheffer's work as a wildlife researcher, specializing in marine mammals. He graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle in the late 30's, and I was pretty excited at first to be reading a book set in the area I grew up in- his mention of the Pacific Northwest wildlife, climate, of Puget Sound islands, rocky beaches, hillsides of salal and wild blackberries- all felt familiar to me. Scheffer gives an overview of the various projects he was involved in during fifty years of his career, from being a ranger in Mount Rainier National Park, to counting seal populations on remote islands to teaching wildlife ecology in university classrooms. Most of his career was spent studying marine mammal populations, and it was very interesting to see how the attitude towards marine wildlife shifted during his time- when he began his work, fur seals were regarded as simply a resource, studied so they could know how many could be "harvested" for their skins without seriously decimating the population. Gradually people began to appreciate these animals for more than just commercial value, and by the time Scheffer was writing books and teaching in classrooms himself, marine mammals were first becoming protected. Sadly, I did not enjoy this book nearly as much as I wanted to. Much of it relates the author's work with other famous biologists, outlines different symposiums he attended, his involvement in treaties between nations regarding the use of marine wildlife resources, etc etc. Lots of names, dates and other data fill the pages which sound very important and significant, but are just not that interesting to the casual reader like myself. I found that I was skimming pages for the bits that talked about his direct work with animals. I do want to read more by this author- I think I would really enjoy his Year of the Whale or Year of the Seal. But by the end, this book was just really making me yawn.

Rating: 2/5 ........ 204 pages, 1980


  1. Aw, bummer! At the start of the review, I was thinking, hey, cool, another interesting animals book review! Sorry it was disappointing. I'll be interested to see what you think of his other books. Marine biology is one of those fields that I think is fascinating even though I could never ever ever do it myself.

  2. It's actually a good book- just kind of- dry. I have high hopes for the others. A very long time ago I read a book about a whale's life- starting when it was a small calf- my grandmother had liked so much she never returned it to the library! I think it just might be Scheffer's Year of the Whale (I've been trying to remember the book's title for ages)

  3. Sorry it was dry...I was hoping it was a terrific read.

  4. That's too bad. I was all excited at the beginning of your review, just like you were at the beginning of the book.

    If it weren't on Kindle (so I can't share it), I'd send you my copy of "The Art of Racing in the Rain." Do you have it? I was pleasantly surprised.

  5. I'm glad there are some other books by this author for you to look forward to! Sorry this one was dry. (A dry book by a marine biologist. Hmm.)

  6. Bybee- I was hopeful, too.

    Chartroose- I don't yet have Racing in the Rain, but it's on my TBR! I'm sure I'll find a copy somewhere (or just get it from the library).

    Janet- I had to laugh. I didn't even think of that contradiction until you said it.


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