ArticlePDF Available

Reviews: the home place: memoirs of a colored man's love affair with nature (Lanham, J.D.); the seabird's cry: the lives and loves of the planet's great ocean voyagers (Nicholson, A.); the end of the earth (Franzen, J.); making motherhood work: how women manage careers and caregiving (Collins, C.)

Book Reviews 285
Marine Ornithology 47: 285–290 (2019)
Love for the land may be a form of religion, particularly for
those who end up loving the great outdoors, from butterflies,
birds and wolves, to seascapes. For those that admire a haunted
hoot of an owl or wake up early to get their feet wet in a bog
before dawn and watch flamingoes landing in the morning
twilight, the land is the giver of all. Wild places can be a healer
for those who seek comfort and a savior for those who seek
salvation. Same goes for family—a form of rudimentary tribe,
a religion, a church to find peace and a place to find oneness.
Joseph Drew Lanham takes us on a journey through these
deep valleys down memory lane. In the process he explores
our human roots and the very foundation of our engagement
with nature. It is not just Drew’s story, it is a story about most
naturalists, biologists, poets and painters, and those who feel
‘out of place’ in the hectic urban landscape. Drew’s The Home
Place is not painted in black and white; it is painted in color.
Through color, the dark history of a continent is clinically
exposed in a charming, soft, feathery tone. No harsh language
or bitter examples; the somber darkness just there in the corner
is seeping like a band of fog in a cold autumn evening.
The Home Place is a memoir of a farm boy of a unique
phenotype, one prone to prejudice in his society who became
an ornithologist. ‘Colored’ phenotype in American ornithology
is as rare as a Spotted Owl in the old growth forests, a Short-
tailed Albatross in the Pacific, or a Dovekie in the Atlantic. In a
birder’s eye though, the rarer the phenotype, the cooler it gets—
the vagrants are sought after amongst the ubiquitous residents!
Simply because we are oddities in the city-doused majority,
biologists would share most of Drew’s feelings more than once,
irrespective of color, race, religion or status. A fear of the safety
of your gear, your life, and the danger of losing your passport—
strangled in a strange land. However, experiencing such fears in
your homeland, amongst your own people, would be something
of a whole different level. Through an eye of an ornithologist,
Drew shows us the cruelty of racism.
Like many budding naturalists, the little Drew found his God
and Heaven both in his backyard woodlands. In his own words
“nature seems worthy of worship”. The Home Place shows how
childhood experiences, adventures, and imprinting could shape
a ‘wildling’ into a scientist and conservationist. The urban
sprawl and disappearing traditional ways of living bar today’s
majority from such experiences and advantages. The modern
kids are imprinted to technology and a sterile world around
them. What would be the path of a future conservationist in the
decades to come? As for future seabird biologists, will they have
enough puffins, fulmars and kittiwakes let alone, albatrosses,
shearwaters and auklets left for them to inspire and imprint in
their childhood?
The painting of the farmer—in Drew’s dad—created a vivid
picture of a man who ploughed, weeded, and fought with nature
to control and tame it, so that the beef, the bacon, the cereal,
and the pulses would come to the table to nourish. The smell
of freshly ploughed earth and salty sweat are there all over the
pages providing a stunning description of wilderness and man’s
struggle to keep it at bay. Similar experiences made me a birder
and a scientist many moons ago. I am sure such experiences are
key in making wildlings into scientists across the globe. The
Home Place talks about the importance of introducing birds into
kids’ routine as well. Most of Lanham’s success in science and
conservation had apparently begun from a few tiny childhood
experiences; some were planned, such as getting a seven-year
old to paint a mockingbird, and some were unplanned, such as
seeing the grace of a soaring vulture.
A birder’s taste for color depends on rarity. The red feet of
the Red-legged Kittiwake in a Black-legged Kittiwake world
is sought after and celebrated with the same enthusiasm as the
black beak of the Aleutian Tern in a world of red-billed Arctic
Terns. Throughout his Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair
with Nature, Drew talks about how the color of man is perceived
differently. As a brown birder and an ornithologist, I, too, share
similar feelings. At the seabird colonies in windswept Aleutians
and in the barren, lichen-clad Labrador, my colleagues look
colorless. It has not changed even in the city in bird conferences
such as in IOC, NAOC or PSG – I am still surrounded by a sea
of colorless colleagues. Sharing Drew’s feelings, at times “it is
discouraging”. At the same time, as an immigrant grad student
turned into an ornithologist without much social biases—I
started to like it. After all I am the ‘rare bird’. One of a kind…..
an Asian vagrant in the Americas, far away from its native South
Asian rainforests.
In North American woods or on a skiff, a brown birder with
a pair of bins may be a less of a thing compared to that of a
black birder. Though birding in Alaska, Labrador, Yellowknife,
Florida and Texas has its own effects, mostly pleasant, where
few were curious about what this brown-sugar lad is after. An
occasional ‘F’ word or a middle finger from a truck just spiced
up the moment…for me.
In his gentle feathery tone, the college professor preaches to us,
urging us to reach out to paint a better picture for wild things
and wild places in the minds of the public. The same way Aldo
Leopold’s Sand Country Almanac (Leopold 1949) inspired
Lanham, a colored kid who already had enough nature in his
nurture to become a wildlife biologist and a conservationist,
The Home Place, a story of farmland turned into a childhood
paradise, would be an inspiration for kids across the globe.
Especially for kids of immigrant minorities who are craving
a source of identity and inspiration, to become somebody
significant, to get the recognition that their parents never had,
and to be part of a community they were introduced to by forces
alien to them in global politics and socioeconomics.
On a more personal note, as a brown farm boy turned into a
birder, biologist and forester, I loved the gentle path that Drew
took, from the family to the farm to the school and to the science
of landscape restoration. My path has been, so far, surprisingly
similar. The next step for me, I wonder, might lay in the Gulf
Lanham, J.D. 2017. Milkweed Editions, Minneapolis, USA, 240 pp. Paperback: ISBN 978-1571313508, US$16.
Book Reviews 285
SENEVIRATNE, S.S. The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature (Lanham)
286 Book Reviews
Marine Ornithology 47: 285–290 (2019)
Most seabird ecologists can attest to the sense of wonder at their
first encounter with a seabird colony. The deafening sound of
seabird calls above pounding waves, the smell of salt and guano,
and the breathtaking sight of thousands of birds coming in from
or returning to the sea. The Seabird’s Cry explores 10 seabirds:
the fulmar, puffin, kittiwake, gull, guillemot, cormorant and shag,
shearwater, gannet, great auk and its cousin razorbill, and albatross
in the perfect marriage of seabird science and storytelling. “The
astonishing findings of seabird scientists mean that a sense of
wonder now emerges not from ignorance of the birds but from
understanding them,” says Nicholson. The Seabird’s Cry eloquently
captures the feeling of magic that seabirds inspire.
Nicholson, whose father bought the Shiants, a group of islands
off the Scottish coast for 1 300 pounds in 1937, approaches the
plight of seabirds from the perspective of a life-long admirer of
the oceanic environment. Nicholson has a background in great
literature and history, which is demonstrated as he weaves poetry
throughout. As many of us have likely imagined when observing
seabirds gracefully soaring around the hull of a ship—Nicholson
describes seabirds as being otherworldly, transcendent—they are “a
part of what we long for: beauty on the margins of understanding.
From Homer to Milton, it will delight and perhaps surprise seabird
ecologists to learn of the role of seabirds in mythology: kittiwake-
like seabirds are portrayed as the bringers of salvation and a
cormorant was sent by Satan to corrupt Eden.
Nicholson regales the reader with the classic revelations of seabird
science. The chapter on shearwaters describes Ronald Lockley’s
eccentric experiments releasing Skokholm Island Manx Shearwaters
at different locations around the Atlantic, from Devon to Venice.
The journey that made Lockley famous was from the Boston
harbor, where a shearwater flew over 3 000 miles back to Skokholm
in 12 days, beating the mail sent from Boston by Lockley’s
correspondent who released the bird. In the chapter on albatross,
Nicholson chronicles the efforts of Henri Weimerskirch and Pierre
Jouventin to track these enigmatic birds. The first tracking of a
wandering albatross, flying over 10 000 miles from Crozet as far as
Antarctica, is a “vision of life at sea which Coleridge would have
loved.” This referring to perhaps the most famous poem featuring a
seabird: Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Coleridge.
As someone who has been battered by penguin flippers, soaked by
a storm petrel’s orange fish-smelling regurgitation, and covered in
sticky guano after days of burrow-scoping, I commend Nicholson’s
ability to capture something that popular culture rarely reveals
about seabirds—their malevolence. In the chapter on gannets, a
gannetry is described vividly as a “monument to unkindness.
When a researcher or lost chick wanders through a colony, gannets
slash with “beaks of barbed wire.” Between gannet nests, which are
spaced a “beak thrust” apart, lies a “glutinous black ooze of mud,
decayed seaweed, ordure, and spilt fish” that releases the foulest of
smells when punctured by squabbling male gannets. In the chapter
on gulls, the bird’s existence is described as a “version of hell” in
which cruelty and violence can be pervasive. Nicholson goes on to
describe Jasper Parson’s observations of herring gulls cannibalizing
large numbers of neighboring chicks.
Where The Seabird’s Cry truly shines is emphasizing seabird’s
beauty and wonder. In the chapter on fulmars, when observing
the birds flying in loops above a colony, dancing on the wind, it
inspires introspection: fulmars “make [us] wonder what life consists
of.” Nicholson borrows a term from philosophy to describe them:
inscendent—the act of climbing into life and looking for its essence.
The description of cormorant courtship and mating systems or
love (as off-putting as that term may be for most scientists, in this
context it seems almost natural) is sublime. Observe pair bonding
between these “glamourous birds and you will witness a slow
and careful ballet of tenderness and sweetness between them.”
Nicholson’s description of Nathan Emery’s study of the correlation
between brain size and increasing lengths of monogamy are poetic
in and of themselves. Birds need to be clever to understand their
Nicholson, A. 2018. Henry Holt and Company, New York, USA, 400 pp. B&W illustrations. Hardcover: ISBN 978-1250134189, £65.00.
Paperback: ISBN 978-1250181596, £29.95.
of Mannar in the Indian Ocean, where Jouanin’s Petrels soar at
night amongst thousands of breeding terns in sandy islands and
the opportunity to convert the devilish concrete tide into a green
veil! The Home Place is already churning something deeper in
me. Would that be the same thing that E.O. Wilson had churned
in a colored birder a few decades ago?
J. Drew Lanham’s The Home Place is a stunning read, a
masterpiece, a soft rebellion that touches the deepest of our
instincts: love for the family, love for the wilderness, and our
propensity for discriminative tribalism. The Home Place is a
reminiscent first love of a farm boy who moved away from time
and space. The adventures pursued, the lessons learnt and the
experiences gathered will continue to inspire all of us to see
ourselves colored in nature’s hues.
Sampath S. Seneviratne, Avian Evolution Node, Department of
Zoology & Environment Sciences, University of Colombo, Colombo
03, Sri Lanka | Former Postdoctoral Fellow, Biodiversity Research
Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC and Bird
Studies Canada. | +94 710 821177
LEOPOLD,A. 1949. A Sand County Almanac: And Sketches Here
and There. New York, USA: Oxford University Press.
BUXTON, R.T. The Seabird’s Cry: The Lives and Loves of the Planet’s Great Ocean Voyagers (Nicholson)
Book Reviews 287
Marine Ornithology 47: 285–290 (2019)
Most people know Jonathan Franzen based on his brilliant novel
The Corrections, and many of you are likely wondering why his
book is being reviewed in Marine Ornithology. The End of the End
of the Earth is a collection of essays spanning diverse subjects,
some of them addressing the conservation challenges facing birds
across the globe, including a few on seabirds in particular.
Franzen begins with ‘The Essay in Dark Times’ about birdwatching
in Ghana, the election of Donald Trump, climate change, and the
nature of essays. He writes that essays are inherently deeply personal
and, if done well, are a form of literature that “invites you to ask
whether you might be somewhat wrong, maybe entirely wrong, and
to imagine why someone else might hate you.” Throughout this
book he contemplates the right or wrong ways to respond to the
dire state of our planet. Franzen’s essays are all deeply personal
and, truth be told, he often reveals parts of his personality that will
make you cringe. He is completely aware of how these confessions
sound and is mortified right along with you. Franzen reveals in his
first essay that he is a compulsive lister, which he confesses makes
him “morally inferior to birders who bird exclusively for the joy of
it.” His obsessive quest for counting species provides the backdrop
for several of the incisive essays about the conservation of birds.
For example, his quest to see the Crested Quail-Dove leads to a
heartbreaking essay on habitat loss in Jamaica.
Franzen spends a lot of energy in his essays worrying that people
hate him. One thing I have come to realize while writing this
review is that his anxiety is not unfounded: people have really
strong opinions about him! Reading this book on an airplane,
total strangers declared to me whether they loved or hated him.
At the last Pacific Seabird Group meeting, Beth Flint received
a well-deserved Lifetime Achievement Award for her work
conserving seabirds. She gave an exquisite talk on new work
being done to save seabirds from sea level rise. I ineloquently
asked the question of how we can balance the need to be
proactive about climate change with other impacts on seabirds,
such as introduced species, mentioning Jonathan Franzen in
reference to this debate. It was an eye-opening experience—this
mention of his name resulted in me getting tracked down and
yelled at by his supporters.
Franzen revisits the moment when he became a vilified target
over the issue of climate change. His essay ‘Carbon Capture,
originally published in The New Yorker, is reprinted in this
book in the essay ‘Save What You Love’. Franzen was a fierce
critic of the National Audubon Society when it declared climate
change as the primary threat to birds. He felt that this campaign
would take away from support to combat other impacts on
birds (e.g., introduced species, habitat loss) that have more
tractable solutions. He skewers the National Audubon Society
for what he saw as a hollow, money-making pitch. He goes on to
highlight the work of two small-scale but enormously successful
conservation projects: the work of Amazon Conservation in
Manu National Park in Peru and of the Area de Conservacion
Franzen, J. 2018. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, USA, 225 pp. Paperback: ISBN 978-0374906757.
mates; it’s easy to anthropomorphize here. “Intimacy between shags
is evidence of tight bonding between birds, [an elevated] principle
of life and survival. Love matters for seabirds, because a harsh
environment…can make raising healthy offspring more difficult” -
could be a proverb.
Although the threats that seabirds face in a rapidly changing world
are subtly present throughout the book, Nicholson underscores in
the last chapter how dire the situation has become. Seabirds are
more threatened than any other vertebrate and world populations
have dropped by about 70% in the past six decades, meaning there
are one billion fewer seabirds now than in 1950 (Croxall et al.
2012). No surprises here, but the abrupt switch from magnificent
stories of seabirds and their ecology to the grim conservation
situation snap the reader to attention. As Nicholson correctly states,
seabirds are indicators of ocean ecosystem health—if they are in
trouble, life in the ocean is in trouble—and deep perturbations are
evident around the world. After spending my entire adult life and
over 300 pages reveling in my love for seabirds, my despair at this
final chapter parallels my feelings about the current biodiversity
conservation crisis we are facing.
Nicholson concludes on a reticently positive note. In 2016
he facilitated the removal of ship rats from his father’s (now
his) Shiant Islands, resulting in a recolonization of wren and
wheateaters and a new booming chorus of bird song. In a world
of frightening human-caused global change, we could all show
a little more love for nature. In The Seabird’s Cry, Nicholson
captures the enchanting world of seabirds, inspiring its readers to
fall in love with these birds.
My hope is that in my time as book review editor for Marine
Ornithology, I can help facilitate a collective celebration of love for
nature, science, seabirds, and the marine environment. In this time
of crisis, it’s important as a scientific community to band together
to solve problems—from mothers (Wang et al., this issue) to “rare
phenotypes” (Seneviratne, this issue) to those on the conservation
front lines (Karnovsky, this issue). In Nicholson’s words, seabirds
‘display beauty in the most demanding moments life can offer’;
perhaps we as scientists can do the same.
Rachel T. Buxton, PhD, Research Scientist, Carleton University,
Department of Biology, Ottawa, Canada. Rachel.Buxton@colostate.
2012. Seabird conservation status, threats and priority actions:
A global assessment. Bird Conservation International 22: 1–34.
KARNOVSKY , N.J. The End of the End of the Earth (Franzen)
288 Book Reviews
Marine Ornithology 47: 285–290 (2019)
in Costa Rica. In the process he gives wonderful vignettes of
conservation heros Daniel Janzen, Winnie Hallwachs, and Don
Alberto Manqueriapa.
After the original essay was published, many declared Franzen
a climate denier and enemy of the National Audubon Society.
Reading about what motivated him to write the essay and how the
fallout affected him in ‘The Essay in Dark Times’ before reading
‘Save What You Love’ is illuminating and may make some critics
soften their invective. The fact is, Franzen does not shy away from
asking hard questions about how to best protect birds, given the
many stressors on their populations. He asks the questions that we
often ask ourselves.
One of the essays that I continue to be haunted by is called ‘May
Your Life Be Ruined’. In it, he travels to Egypt and Albania and
witnesses the widespread and indiscriminate bird hunting. He gives
an account of both the birds and the hunters who hunt them. I was
left with a deep worry for the decoy kestrel that escaped, the young
hunters, and the fragile bird populations who are funneled into bird
traps during their migration across the Mediterranean. I had read
an earlier version of this essay in National Geographic and assign
this extraordinary piece of journalism in my undergraduate classes.
In his essay ‘Invisible Losses’, Franzen describes the conservation
challenges of many seabirds. He brings the reader into the ‘murre
blind’ on the Farallon Islands where he beautifully describes
watching the Common Murres return to their nest sites with food
for chicks with seabird biologist Pete Warzybok. He recounts their
long history of challenges, from egg collecting and gill nets to a
changing ocean. He goes to South Africa and relays conversations
between tuna-boat captain Deon van Antwerpen, seabird biologist
Ross Wanless, and Andrea Angel, who leads BirdLife South
Africa’s Albatross Task Force, about how to best modify longlines
to reduce bycatch of albatross. He describes in painful detail how
mice are eating Tristan Albatrosses alive on Gough Island. It is not
all bad news, however; he also reports on the rodent eradication
success stories on South Georgia and Anacapa Island. It is a treat to
read about conservation in action and to meet, through Franzen, the
individuals who were responsible for these hard-won victories. The
vignettes of Nick Holmes, science director of Island Conservation,
and of Liz and Bruce Tuanui, founders of the Chatham Island Taiko
Trust, show that profound changes can be made by dedicated,
creative people who have managed to undo some of the harm
caused by humans.
In his essay ‘Postcards from East Africa’, Franzen reluctantly goes
to the Serengeti. He desperately wants to set himself apart from
others who go on safari just to check off the trip on their bucket
list. Franzen’s whining about the trip and having to watch mammals
(which he views as much less worthy) is hard to stomach as someone
who would give my eye teeth for the chance to see a lion take down a
gazelle. He does come to appreciate the mammals (“Who could resist
the sight of worried cheetah cubs? I couldn’t, for about five minutes.”)
and his ecstatic descriptions of the birds makes you wish you could
get there immediately with binoculars in hand.
Franzen describes his trip to Antarctica on a three-week-long cruise
with Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic in the essay
that gives the book its name ‘The End of the End of the Earth’.
He gives a withering account of the Lindblad summer-camp type
of experience. His journey from pariah to hero on the ship is very
funny. Once again, as someone who has never seen the sublime
King Penguins of South Georgia, his misery about the vacation
is annoying. However, his description of the poorly attended final
lecture onboard the ship on climate change is one of the most
sobering parts of the book that will resonate with many readers.
This collection of essays will appeal to birders, conservationists,
and lovers of literature. I enjoyed the parts of this book that had
nothing to do with birds as much as the rest. Franzen often includes
sentences with long lists of birds, which folks who are not interested
in birds may struggle with. To me, these sentences read like a list
of succulent treats.
This book is paean to birds. Franzen’s passion is deeply infectious
and non-birders will likely catch bird fever from reading this
book. Birders will enjoy reading about his pursuit of lifers across
the globe and his hilarious bird-spotting superstitions. Readers
interested in Franzen’s stunning prose will not be disappointed and
will thrill to the essays about fellow writers such as the late David
Foster Wallace and Edith Wharton.
Franzen provides several shocking statistics throughout the book.
For example, “Every minute in America, thirty thousand paper cups
are chucked.” Franzen asks himself and the reader how to best cope
with the overwhelming problems facing birds and planet earth.
Fortunately, he provides many examples of people who are in the
trenches making a difference. It is my hope that readers will use this
book as a suggested guide to where donations could really make a
difference in advancing conservation.
I am grateful that Franzen loves birds. His insights will be read by
many who probably never thought about birds or climate change or
loss of biodiversity across the globe before. How amazing that they
now know of the Ashy Storm Petrel and the Magenta Petrel! In fact,
I have thought of several areas of the planet that I hope he visits and
will write about. I wonder what is left on his life list that might lead
to a sequel to this book.
Nina J. Karnovsky, PhD, Willard George Halstead Zoology
Professor, Pomona College, Department of Biology, Claremont, CA
91711, USA.
Book Reviews 289
Marine Ornithology 47: 285–290 (2019)
Making Motherhood Work is an insightful and eye-opening read on
how mothers around the world try to balance family life and careers.
Caitlyn Collins transports the reader into the homes and lives of
working women in Sweden, Germany, Italy, and the United States.
For scientist and seabird ecologist moms, Making Motherhood
Work preaches to our choir and empowers us with knowledge of
how policies and cultures in different parts of the world shape a
working mom’s struggle. Collins’s book helps us take stock of
how the culture within the scientific community perpetuates the
conflict between science and motherhood (Buxton et al. 2019).
Lack of support for scientist moms is one of the sources of the
leaky pipeline for women in science (Cech and Blair-Loy 2019) and
Making Motherhood Work offers demonstrable solutions through
examples from other countries.
Collins introduces the concept of ‘work-family justice’ to replace
the notion of work-family balance and the unattainable goal of
‘having it all’. Framing the conflict between work and family life
as an issue of ‘balance’ individualizes the problem, placing the
blame on working mothers. This misguided framework suggests
that working moms’ stress is a result of our own shortcomings
and mismanaged time commitments: if we could just work a little
harder, we could ‘have it all’. Instead, Collins argues, the onus
should be placed on society—the conflict between work and family
is not inevitable and it’s not the fault of women or parents. To
achieve work-family justice for working moms is to create a system
where everyone has the support necessary to be successful in their
careers and in motherhood.
The book presents many statistics that were surprising for us
working moms in the US and Canada. For example, in Sweden,
a ‘dual-earner’ career model is not only encouraged but expected
of parents, which promotes equality between parents. Sweden is a
social democratic country and Collins writes that there is a sense
of collective responsibility to children, family, and to society as
a whole. Parents in Sweden are legally allowed 240 days of paid
leave to take care of a newborn, and if you’re a single parent, you’re
allowed all 480 days (16 months) of leave! Moreover, Collins found
that it is highly unusual—and even viewed as strange—for a parent
to stay at home beyond the time allotted for parental leave after a
baby is born. This is because of the strong support for free daycare
options beginning at a young age. But the grass is not always
greener on the other side of the world. In the former East Germany,
although the ‘dual-worker’ family model resulted in women being
encouraged to combine child-rearing with employment, women
also are expected to maintain responsibility for the home. In
combination with the tumultuous history of the fall of the Berlin
Wall and mixing of west Germany’s ‘stay-at-home mom” culture,
this has led to feelings of pressure for working moms to live up to
an idealized version of motherhood: “the demand that society has
for moms are that ‘mom has to do everything perfectly…and [when
there are problems], it’s the mom’s fault’”. These sentiments echo
what so many of us feel as working moms in the US and Canada.
At times it was disheartening to read the stories of other working
moms' struggles. At the conclusion of the book, we felt frustrated
but cautiously hopeful that one day change may come to the US.
Currently, the US does not have any nationwide policy on paid
parental leave to take care of a newborn. The lack of formal policy
across the nation leaves it up to employers to come up with their
own policies, resulting in unequal opportunities for parental leave
and childcare. In Canada, where policies fall somewhere between
Sweden and the US, working moms receive up to 18 months
maternity leave paid at 33 % (or 12 months paid at 55 %), with
some employers topping-up salaries.
While we can relate to the feelings of pressure and stress from the
professional moms interviewed in Making Motherhood Work, as
scientist moms we face unique conflicts. For example, in many
fieldwork-oriented careers (including seabird ecology), spending
long weeks or even months in the field or at sea are often an
important part of the job. As a result, many early-career female
field ecologists report having to cope with being discouraged from
getting married or having children. Furthermore, working moms
are often removed from field projects without warning because
they seem “no longer able or interested because they had a kid.
As a working academic-scientist mom, there are many additional
expectations including managing graduate and undergraduate
students, serving on committees, writing grant applications, and
the deeply entrenched ‘publish or perish’ mantra, all of which
leave little room for maternity leave and family commitments.
Yet seabird ecologist and conservation biologist moms offer a
unique set of perspectives. Encouraging parents in field ecology
and promoting gender diversity, which has a range of benefits in
scientific endeavors (Nielsen et al. 2017), have the added benefit
of demonstrating to children and young aspiring scientists that a
career dedicated to the conservation of the natural world is feasible
in combination with motherhood.
We were left wondering how we can promote the cultural change
necessary for the scientific community to promote work-family
justice. For starters, we, as a society, need to promote gender
equality at work and at home; break down gender stereotypes;
recognize the judgement that working moms experience from
all facets of their community; and create flexible, workable
solutions to accommodate the diversity of working scientist
moms (Buxton et al. 2019). Working parents should lead by
example and divide the labor of parenthood equally. In the US,
policies are in dire need of change, but before nationwide policy
changes can truly gain momentum, we need to radically evolve
our cultural and societal perceptions of working moms. Making
Motherhood Work is a good start, bringing to light a continuation
of a fight that was started long ago by generations of working
women before us.
All of us have spent weeks and months on seabird colonies, endured
extreme remote conditions to count birds, dangled off cliffs in dank
weather to capture birds for measurements, tissue sampling, and
banding. The fragrant odor of seabird guano is a distant memory for
most of us now that we have kids and can’t be away for long periods
of time. But that doesn’t mean that we stopped contributing in our
fields. On the contrary, we have adapted to our changing personal
Collins, C. 2019. Princeton University Press, Princeton, USA, 360 pp. Hardcover: ISBN 978-0691178851, US$29.95.
WANG, S., JONES, H., PHILLIPS, E., PROVENCHER, J., MAJOR, H., BUXTON, R.T. Making Motherhood Work: How Women
Manage Careers and Caregiving (Collins)
290 Book Reviews
Marine Ornithology 47: 285–290 (2019)
environment, holding positions that allow us to direct research and
science, ones that don’t require long stints of field time. We are
successful because we have persevered at finding a work-family
balance that works for us on an individual level. However, achieving
balance has not been easy and we have seen many bright scientist
moms overwhelmed by the pressure. As we aim for inclusion that
will benefit the field of ecology (and arguably the planet), there is
value in shifting the paradigm—from balance to justice.
Shiway Wang, PhD, Science Coordinator, Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
Trustee Council, Anchorage, USA ( The
views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect
the views or positions of the Trustee Council.
Holly Jones, PhD, Northern Illinois University, Biological Sciences
and Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability, and
Energy, DeKalb, USA
Elizabeth Phillips, PhD, NOAA Fisheries Northwest Fisheries
Science Center, Seattle, USA. The views expressed here are her
own and do not necessarily reflect the views or position of NRC
or NOAA.
Jennifer Provencher, PhD, Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment
and Climate Change Canada, Gatineau, Canada.
Heather Major, PhD, University of New Brunswick, Saint John,
Rachel T. Buxton, PhD, Research Scientist, Carleton University,
Department of Biology, Ottawa, Canada.
H. & PROVENCHER, J. 2019. How work-family justice can
bring balance to scientist moms. Scientific American. https://
CECH, E.A. & BLAIR-LOY, M. 2019. The changing career
trajectories of new parents in STEM. Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences 116: 4182–4187.
Gender diversity leads to better science. Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences 114: 1740–1742.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
The gender imbalance in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields has remained constant for decades and increases the farther up the STEM career pipeline one looks. Why does the underrepresentation of women endure? This study investigated the role of parenthood as a mechanism of gender-differentiated attrition from STEM employment. Using a nationally representative 8-year longitudinal sample of US STEM professionals, we examined the career trajectories of new parents after the birth or adoption of their first child. We found substantial attrition of new mothers: 43% of women leave full-time STEM employment after their first child. New mothers are more likely than new fathers to leave STEM, to switch to part-time work, and to exit the labor force. These gender differences hold irrespective of variation by discipline, race, and other demographic factors. However, parenthood is not just a “mother’s problem”; 23% of new fathers also leave STEM after their first child. Suggesting the difficulty of combining STEM work with caregiving responsibilities generally, new parents are more likely to leave full-time STEM jobs than otherwise similar childless peers and even new parents who remain employed full time are more likely than their childless peers to exit STEM for work elsewhere. These results have implications for policymakers and STEM workforce scholars; whereas parenthood is an important mechanism of women’s attrition, both women and men leave at surprisingly high rates after having children. Given that most people become parents during their working lives, STEM fields must do more to retain professionals with children.
Full-text available
Pick up any recent policy paper on women’s participation in science and you will find assurances that gender diversity enhances knowledge outcomes. Universities and science-policy stakeholders, including the European Commission and the US National Institutes of Health, readily subscribe to this argument (1⇓–3). But is there, in fact, a gender-diversity dividend in science? The data suggest that there is. Under the right conditions, teams may benefit from various types of diversity, including scientific discipline, work experience, gender, ethnicity, and nationality. In this paper, we highlight gender diversity. Guided by key research findings, we propose the following “mechanisms for innovation” specifying why gender diversity matters for scientific discovery and what managers should do to maximize its benefits. Encouraging greater diversity is not only the right thing to do: it allows scientific organizations to derive an “innovation dividend” that leads to smarter, more creative teams, hence opening the door to new discoveries.
How work-family justice can bring balance to scientist moms
  • R T Buxton
  • S Wang
  • E Phillips
  • H Jones
  • H Major
  • J Provencher
BUXTON, R.T., WANG, S., PHILLIPS, E., JONES, H., MAJOR, H. & PROVENCHER, J. 2019. How work-family justice can bring balance to scientist moms. Scientific American. https://