Spineless – Juli Berwald
Spineless – The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone.
Jellyfish are an enigma. They have no centralized brain, but they see and feel and react to their environment in complex ways. They look simple, yet their propulsion systems are so advanced engineers are just learning how to mimic them. They produce some of the deadliest toxins on the planet and yet are undeniably alluring. Long ignored by science, they may be a key to ecosystem stability.
Juli Berwald’s journey into the world of jellyfish is a personal one. Over a decade ago she left the sea and her scientific career behind to raise a family in landlocked Austin, Texas. Increasingly dire headlines drew her back to jellies, as unprecedented jellyfish blooms toppled ecosystems and collapsed the world’s most productive fisheries. What was unclear was whether these incidents were symptoms of a changing planet or part of a natural cycle.
Berwald’s desire to understand jellyfish takes her on a scientific odyssey. She travels the globe to meet the scientists who devote their careers to jellies, hitches rides on Japanese fishing boats to see giant jellyfish in the wild, raises jellyfish in her dining room, and throughout it all marvels at the complexity of these alluring and ominous biological wonders. Gracefully blending personal memoir with crystal-clear distillations of science, Spineless reveals that jellyfish are a bellwether for the damage we’re inflicting on the climate and the oceans and a call to realize our collective responsibility for the planet we share.
“Spineless is as mesmerizing, surprising, and beautiful as the jellyfish itself. Every page contains some astonishing treasure. If you cherish the sea, if you care about the environment, if you relish life on this sweet, blue planet, you will love this book.” —Sy Montgomery, New York Times–bestselling author of The Soul of an Octopus
“[Spineless is] fascinating… This combination of insider and outsider perspective is uniquely suited to a book on creatures whose internal organs are visible through transparent outer layers.” —Wall Street Journal
“[Berwald’s] sense of wonder is infectious and the book is a heartfelt plea for humans to fulfill their responsibilities toward nature.” —New Yorker
“In this memoir/science-reporting mash-up, [Berwald] profiles one of the ocean’s most intriguing creatures—the unique contractions it uses to propel through water, its acidifying habitat and its booming populations.” —Scientific American
“An astonishingly gorgeous book… Science enthusiasts, curious animal lovers, and those who want to educate themselves more on climate change’s effect on our oceans will find this book irresistible.” —W Magazine
“Berwald’s clear, delectable prose is accessible… The book forces the reader to reconsider the future of our planet, and of our role in it. It will, at the very least, leave you with a newfound appreciation of the translucent, spineless jellies.” —Buzzfeed
Juli Berwald received her Ph.D. in Ocean Science from the University of Southern California. A science textbook writer and editor, she has written for a number of publications, including The New York Times, Nature, National Geographic, and Slate. She lives in Austin with her husband and their son and daughter.
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