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Resurrection Science: Conservation,…

Resurrection Science: Conservation, De-Extinction and the Precarious… (2015)

by M. R. O'Connor

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A fascinating and sobering look at the fate of species on earth in light of the effects we humans are having on nature. Extinction is put into perspective nicely and is shown to be both less serious, in terms of sheer number of taxa being lost, and more serious, in terms of the pervasive effects humans have on nature. Even if we are not causing the extinction of the same number of species as some of the more serious predictions suggested, we are affecting all species in unpredictable ways.

In addition, the author takes a serious look at the tools gradually becoming available to ecologists to practice what is being called genetic conservation. This involves managing not just numbers of individuals in a species, but also managing the genetic resources of the species to better ensure long-term survival and viability. Such tools also include gene and tissue banking and the ultimate possibility of de-extinction of species. O'Connor looks deeply into the ethical and philosophical aspects of such a possibility and reveals how controversial such ideas are. He even discusses the potential that some scientists have suggested of re-resurrecting Neanderthals. Pretty heady stuff. ( )
  bness2 | May 23, 2017 |
Interesting look at the science of protecting endangered animals and even possibly bringing back extinct species. O'Connor acknowledges the challenges in conservation when it impacts humans, and the spray toads were a good example: the dam and power generation were essential to the African people, and the measures created to preserve the habitat were hugely expensive and of doubtful help. And she looks at the problems of small gene pools and the questions of bringing in outside sources - such as the Florida panthers and the desert pupfish. But the book was best in the latter chapters - the naturally and historically small gene pools of right whales, the uselessness of conserving Hawaiian crows outside their natural habitat, and the possibility of 'resurrecting' passenger pigeons. She even delves into the ethics of potentially bringing back neanderthals - and the rather disturbing arguments for it. Overall, it's an interesting book - 3.5 stars. ( )
  J.Green | Nov 22, 2016 |
Received via NetGalley and St. Martin's Press in exchange for an completely unbiased review.
Also posted on Silk & Serif

M.R O'Connor attempts to tackle the moral and social implications regarding de-extinction efforts. Considering the fact that mammoth DNA has been fully sequenced, it stands to reason the sequencing of other animal DNA is only a breath away. O'Connor delves in the questions: which animals are worth saving? What are the implications on the environment and human society? Will establishing the science of de-extinction devalue the meaning of "extinct species"?

The novel looks at extremely troubled Spray Toads whose natural habitat has been destroyed by human efforts. Spray Toads have helped humans understand the unintended effects of industrialization has on wildlife but also arises the question of when human development should be halted for environmental conservatism. The author also questions the moral implications when expensive conservation attempts are considered more important and saving human lives.

Meanwhile, the example of Florida Panthers is used to understand how human interaction with wildlife and changes of habitat has destroyed this mammal's genetic legacy. A fearsome and beautiful creature reduced to inbreeding and tiny numbers due to habitat destruction. Humanity is growing at an exponential rate, destroying natural habitats and destroying the genetic legacy of many animals.

I definitely recommend reading this novel if you are just delving into the subject of de-extinction, as it is informative and thorough with plenty of wonderful animal histories.
Finally, the Northern White Rhino is used as an example of the cruelty of poachers with tales of over hunting due to greed. The Northern White Rhino is a perfect example of a species who suffered the failure of many conservation efforts and could potentially benefit from de-extinction programs. It definitely felt this was a fantastic creature to utilize in developing an understanding of the benefits de-extinction as well as a cautionary tale of human history.

O'Connor also looks at the implications of human contact, habitat destruction and the science of de-extinction in regards to:

Northern Right Whales (one of my favourite entries and definitely inspires me to read more Right Whale literature)
White Sands Pupfish
Hawaiian Crow
Passenger Pigeon

Unfortunately, I honestly didn't click with the way the novel was narrated. Although O'Connor has a well researched and carried a solid premise..I dislike most narratives that hold humanity as most important. The discussion largely discussed the economic ramifications on smaller, poor communities in relation to expensive conservation projects and questioned whether human progress should be halted in the name of preserving the environment. Although I understand that "progress" cannot be stopped and economic powers will never halt construction of hydro-electric dams for mere toads; I am appalled that human life is considered more important than animal life. I found it uncomfortable reading a narrator who leans a bit further down the "save humanity" spectrum than I am. Regardless, Resurrection Science is extremely educational and definitely worth the read. I also plan on buying it if I can find it in my city because it's worth keeping on the bookshelf for reference.

I also learned quite a bit about species of animal I've never heard of or really considered learning about.
I found Resurrection Science: Conservation, De-extinction and the Precarious Future of Wild Things an important read to understand further questions in the march towards developing de-extinction technology and policy. The fact that discerning which animal to use in de-extinction projects is interesting because we still don't properly understand the interconnections of ecology or the effects on the environment regarding re-introduction of missing species.

This book will appeal to readers of science non-ficiton, people new to de-extinction science, animal lovers, humanists, nature lovers and animal documentary lovers. A book filled with animal trivia, experiences of those who are leaders in their fields and interesting moral questions. Resurrection Science: Conservation, De-extinction and the Precarious Future of Wild Things should not be missed by any science or nature lover! ( )
  trigstarom | Jul 9, 2016 |
I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is a fascinating look at the current conservation movement, its history and its future. The book has eight chapters, each dedicated to the on-going work with a specific species, ranging from the very unusual spray toads in eastern Africa, to nearly-extinct pumas in the Florida swamps, to the Hawaiian crows and northern white rhinos.

This engaging book is expertly researched, and the data is presented and analyzed from all angles: political, environmental, financial, and emotional. Ms. O’Connor lays out a meticulous story, weaving the tales of species facing imminent extinction with the thought-provoking stories of the men and women trying to save these species. The author obviously has a passion for their work, as well as a passion for presenting the entire picture, forcing the reader to face tough ethical issues head-on. Her approach isn’t overbearing, surprisingly, and comes across as very balance and forthright. She presents questions to which there are few answers, and it strikes deeply.

I don’t necessarily agree with some of the material presented, but it was a quick, easy read, and a good place for someone to start into the world of conservationism, the science of de-extinction (bringing species back from the brink of extinction), and a thoughtful presentation of the arguments both for and against these theories. ( )
  ssimon2000 | May 31, 2016 |
In Resurrection Science M.R. O'Connor examines many of the difficult aspects of contemporary conservation. This work is broken down into species-specific case studies (each chapter) to illustrate various elements of past, present and future conservation efforts. In so doing some past procedures are shown to have unexpected consequences which leads to a valid questioning of present and future interventions (if indeed interventions are what is best).

In addressing some of the ethical issues of conservation science she has accomplished a feat most nonfiction works strive for yet seldom attain, namely the ability to both provide information while also generating further questions for the reader to ponder. I have some fairly secure stances on conservation and the environment yet found myself questioning what I knew, what I thought I knew and most importantly whether I had thought through many of my stances. I found myself both enthralled by the stories within each chapter as well as applying the lessons from each to my own thinking. Don't get me wrong, when I say lessons I don't mean to imply she is trying to "teach" the reader how to think, the lessons from each chapter are the lessons the scientists and conservation workers learned from their experiences.

I highly recommend this book to anyone even remotely interested in wildlife, wildlife management and conservation, and environmental protection. The chapters are wonderfully written and in some ways self-contained. The ideas that link all of the chapters are integral to the work but does not detract from the readability of each case study.

Reviewed from a copy made available through Goodreads First Reads. ( )
  pomo58 | Aug 10, 2015 |
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When I was a kid in the 1990s, the world often felt like it was on the verge of catastrophe.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 113727929X, Hardcover)

In a world dominated by people and rapid climate change, species large and small are increasingly vulnerable to extinction. In Resurrection Science, journalist M. R. O'Connor explores the extreme measures scientists are taking to try and save them, from captive breeding and genetic management to de-extinction. Paradoxically, the more we intervene to save species, the less wild they often become. In stories of sixteenth-century galleon excavations, panther-tracking in Florida swamps, ancient African rainforests, Neanderthal tool-making, and cryogenic DNA banks, O'Connor investigates the philosophical questions of an age in which we "play god" with earth's biodiversity.

Each chapter in this beautifully written book focuses on a unique species--from the charismatic northern white rhinoceros to the infamous passenger pigeon--and the people entwined in the animals' fates. Incorporating natural history and evolutionary biology with conversations with eminent ethicists, O'Connor's narrative goes to the heart of the human enterprise: What should we preserve of wilderness as we hurtle toward a future in which technology is present in nearly every aspect of our lives? How can we co-exist with species when our existence and their survival appear to be pitted against one another?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 06 Aug 2015 16:15:02 -0400)

"A tour of current advances in biology and ethics demonstrates how humans are increasingly in control of evolution, exploring how as the scientific community endeavors to save near-extinct species, the creatures being saved become less wild and more dependent,"--Novelist.… (more)

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