ONE
Naturalists

Don’t be an ornithologist if you can help it. But if you can’t
help it, go ahead. - Frank Chapman


1

It was that idyllic time between Little League and cars with girls. We lived on the far edge of town. In an afternoon you could set traps, marvel at the studied placement of possum tracks, and grind the iron-red Oklahoma clay into your very soul. Parents were people who drank whiskey and played cards. Their friends tried to test my manly inclinations by asking:

“What are you going to be when you grow up, Johnny?”

“A naturalist,” I’d reply. They’d smile. Even then I could sense their thoughts: There’s no such thing as a naturalist anymore.

Only my grandfather was sympathetic. He’d seen passenger pigeons, known the Old West, and watched Indian Territory become the forty-sixth state. His clothing and demeanor revealed a certain longing for those lost times. His house was filled with books of natural history. I remember sitting for hours staring at a color plate of men spearing a woolly mammoth. The smell of cigar smoke still takes me back to those days, those books.

“We were born a hundred years too late,” he’d say. I never thought then of the nearly sixty years that separated us. We seemed of the same generation, at least in our minds.

Since those times humans have placed a biological experiment

-1-

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On Becoming a Biologist
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • One - Naturalists 1
  • Two - The Practice of Biology 34
  • Three - Teaching and Learning 69
  • Four - Making a Living 93
  • Five - Responsibilities 118
  • Annotated Bibliography and Reading List 145
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