Fire and Fauna

Tales of a Life Untamed

978-1-62349-831-3 Cloth
6 x 9. 264 pp. 37 b&w photos. Index.
Pub Date: 11/11/2019
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Wildlife biologist and gopher tortoise expert Joan E. Berish has spent her life studying and appreciating animals. Fire and Fauna is a unique, educational, and often humorous memoir reflecting the life of a woman in the field of wildlife conservation and her associated escapades early in life and today. Berish recounts her eventful and sometimes absurd journey to become a wildlife researcher. Outrunning treetop flames, spending a night in jail with a threatened species, and surviving a stalled airplane engine while searching for a missing tortoise, Berish introduces readers to the adventures, triumphs, and heartbreaks of working with animals, both domestic and wild.

From an early age, Berish knew she wanted to study and work with animals. Yet the world of wildlife research was an almost exclusively male field. With the matter-of-fact style of a scientist, she describes the sexism and sexual harassment that were—and to a degree still are—commonplace for women scholars in the field. Despite these challenges, Berish found her dream job as a wildlife biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Through vivid tales of working with fellow scientists and local experts in the Florida backcountry, Berish enlightens readers on wildlife behavior, ecology, research ethics, and conservation.

Fire and Fauna includes many fine examples of science writing and nature narrative. The author’s work with the gopher tortoise, in particular, rings with the assurance that only a lifetime of study can bring. Throughout this engaging and entertaining memoir, Berish’s narrative is infused with her commitment to and passion for the natural world—and the fascinating people and animals who inhabit it.

Integrative Natural History Series, sponsored by Texas Research Institute for Environmental Studies, Sam Houston State University

Published by Texas A&M University Press