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Citizen Scientist: Searching for Heroes and Hope in an Age of Extinction

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  136 ratings  ·  30 reviews
Citizen science might just be our last, best chance to fight extinction. But is there really hope for threatened species? Mary Ellen Hannibal needed to find out.

Hannibal, an award-winning writer and emerging emissary from scientists to the public, sets out to become a citizen scientist herself. In search of vanishing species, she wades into tide pools, follows hawks, and
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published September 6th 2016 by The Experiment (first published August 2016)
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Average rating 3.66  · 
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Mar 09, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has a great concept and really shows how important citizen science is. I am a scientist, and dedicated volunteers (citizen scientists) are more important than ever with what seems like less and less money every year to study or protect species and our environment.

Overall, this book is okay. Portrays the role of citizen science well, but also gets heavily side tracked with her personal life. This book would have been much better if it could have just covered citizen science. I really w
Esther Marie
Jul 04, 2017 rated it liked it
I saw Hannibal speak before I read this book, and that probably contributed to me not liking it. Hannibal writes well, but the science in this book is hard to pick out between the literature references and phrases that are beautiful, but maybe better served in poetry. Honestly, I found Hannibal annoying when I first saw her and I couldn't get over that.

This book isn't bad, but I didn't care for it. If you aren't much of a science person, you might really like this. Those with a more robust scie
Oct 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
I loved the idea and the content. The stories were mostly pretty interesting. It definitely supports the citizen science community and is informative of important projects and new technology being used. I just couldn’t get past the authors writing style. To me it seemed like she loved to name drop and insert herself into stories where I felt it wasn’t necessary. Definitely took away from my overall feeling about a great idea of a book.
May 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Find my full review, with deeper analysis and specific notes, on my blog, The Inner Scientist: https://theinnerscientist.wordpress.c...

Mary Ellen Hannibal’s Citizen Scientist: Searching for Heroes and Hope in an Age of Extinction is a book that encompasses a depth of ponderings and a wealth of rich detail. It is one great emotional journey composed of myriad smaller ones, crossing history and the world. It is a work of literature as well as a science book, a memoir and a set of profiles. In shor
Joe M
May 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
A remarkably encompassing book about the citizen science movement in ecology. This book is focused on the author's experience in citizen science projects mostly around the San Francisco Bay area.

I found the book an enjoyable read, albeit in need of a little more discipline and structure. I did not find it objectionable that the author included details from her personal life; the central conceit of the book is connecting the personal to science and I thought her approach served it well. I did fin
Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
I liked the premise of this book, and really wanted to like it, but I think there were too many topics covered. The author covers many interesting areas such as those mentioned by other reviewers: Steinbeck, Joseph Campbell, and using GPS mapping information to track climate change. At the same time, the author is weaving in the story of the last months of her father's life. I ended up skimming over parts of the book when the author switched to yet another new topic. Also, I am familiar with Jos ...more
Jessica Carew Kraft
Oct 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"Are we about to watch something horrendous unfold?" questions Hannibal in this wildly important book that toggles between global climate change, species decline, and the author's father's death. Taking us on adventure after adventure, charting Pacific sea star populations, reliving Ed Ricketts' and John Steinbeck's voyage to the Sea of Cortez, and gazing up at elegant raptors over the Golden Gate, Hannibal issues a call to join the brigades of everyday observers. Citizen scientists will be the ...more
Sheila Tarbet
May 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: environmental
Really interesting book. Would like to read again, in fact, but must return to the library now. This book makes clear that citizen science is essential to monitoring our biodiversity. With species quickly going extinct, this biodiversity is threatened. But some threats to biodiversity may be alleviated if we have some idea of what they are and where our various species stand. Only citizens can provide a worldwide view of where species are and how frequently they can be observed. Hannibal traces ...more
Sep 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
Perhaps this is inherent to the subject matter, but the book is a slogging refrain:

Some enterprising Californians try to count some frogs
with internet-enabled tools to fight the demagogues
but sadly our fine heroes find that they are much too late
for all the numbers that come in are sure to devastate
Extinction plucks the species out not slowly but in droves
And all the hope that we have left is to say, "told you so"
Aug 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Part memoir, part call to action, part ecology text. Descriptions of citizen scientist projects that allow environmental and ecology studies to occur on a larger and more meaningful scale than earlier studies which did not include citizen scientists. Descriptions of how the app inaturalist enables these citizen scientists. Interesting biology and ecology facts interspersed with author's life and interests. An engaging argument for why science would benefit from inclusion. ...more
R Green
Jun 10, 2018 rated it did not like it
Exceedingly boring. Much more could be gained from reading anything referenced in the text. And there is far too much referenced in the text ... Citizen Scientist is page upon page of cliches and useless details, including an entire chapter on the life of John Steinbeck and some of his literary pals.
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very interesting and eye opening book. I picked it up mostly for the citizen science, but there’s a lot more going on here and Hannibal manages to weave a good deal of history, intros to various branches of ecological science, and personal memoir into a single book. It’s all over the place, but in a good way.
Dan Carpenter
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Got me turned on to Zooniverse, iNaturalist, and Nature's Notebook and so it was worth it to me! ...more
Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written, easy to read and spiritual.
Matt Mesa
Feb 20, 2020 rated it liked it
A bit bland and basic for my tastes. But do get involved into what Mary discusses. It’s our only hope.
Kelly Guilbeau
Mar 30, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020
A bit scattered, with lots of interesting stories. I'm not sure I learned too much about citizen science, to be honest. ...more
Cassidy Proce
Jun 08, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: owned, 2020
Had to force myself to finish it..
Aug 17, 2020 rated it liked it
This was a book about a subject I knew very little about but I had trouble staying interested. The book felt very shallow to me. I also never got a sense of how everything fit together.
Jan 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: environment
interesting chapters including:
eco damage tracked by satellite data
steinbeck - J. Campbell - Ricketts connection
EO Wilson - 'keep half the world natural, prevent extinction of plants and animals - that will save us from climate change
Nov 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Mary Ellen Hannibal is a Citizen Scientist. Many of us are or would like to be. I participate in the annual weekend Audubon walks in the spring for 6 weeks, I contribute to ebird, and I also run a Celebrate Urban Birds count every Thursday in Akron. I am curious as to what else I can do along these lines, and intend to do more after retirement.

I suppose I should clarify what a citizen scientist is or does before I go further. A citizen scientist is a participant who helps to provide data for, o
May 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Sort of scattershot. Tries to do too many things and eventually gets hard to follow.
Andrea Sand
Feb 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Given our current Administration, books such as Citizen Scientist are vital to our planet’s well-being. I salute Mary Ellen Hannibal for the intelligent manner in which she opens our eyes to the fragility of life – not by bludgeoning us over the head with a screed, but by a much more nuanced and beautifully written invitation to observe, accommodate and support the animals and plants all around us, our “fellow travelers on one heroic journey.”

In describing the gift of witnessing the unfolding of
Wendy Feltham
Jan 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Citizen Scientist is a well written book that encourages the reader to become involved and make a difference. This book covers a lot of ground, as Mary Ellen Hannibal writes of the contributions of historic citizen scientists, from Charles Darwin to Ed Ricketts to Rachel Carson, and several current projects and interesting people gathering data about species facing extinction. I really enjoyed reading about Hannibal's participation in citizen science projects on Mt. Tamalpais, low tide, and rapt ...more
Oct 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An interesting and well documented investigation into the merits of citizen scientist. 'Knowing with better accuracy what we are looking at is a virtue of citizen science'. It is a new trend that as in the case of 'citizen journalism' it has the merit of involving more human resources and diverse backgrounds into the scientific investigation. Such an approach, can, for instance, contribute to a comprehensive research into the case of endangered species. It is written simply yet with poignant sci ...more
Michael Nalbone
Oct 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
The reason it took so long to read, I would have to put the book down after reading a chapter because "it filled my brain up." After reading this book one can look at a "Climate Change Denier" with only pity for their ignorance. ...more
Feb 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not what I was after but it was well done.
Sarah Boon
Feb 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Finally finished. Now to write about it for Canadian Science Publishing....

Detailed review
Ellie Hannibal
Aug 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book; it's close to my heart for many reasons, but the most important to note is that it's highly readable, deeply informed, and taught me more about earth, citizen science and mother nature than anything else in my life. This book has not only deepened my experience of being human, but has already brought by 6 year old twins closer to nature, which of course is really the purpose of it all in the end. It's a treasure and not to be missed. ...more
Mar 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
I had no idea what to expect from this book, but I came away from it feeling motivated and enthused to do my part for the environment and science (and immediately downloaded iNaturalist and started snapping pictures). Intertwined with a detailed overview of the history, methods, and future of citizen scientists is her own journey - this is what I found the most enjoyable part. The information about environmental science can be dry, but Mary Hannibal brings it to life by sharing her motivation, t ...more
Apr 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Mary Ellen Hannibal describes various "citizen science" endeavors, their origins, how they work and the impact they have (or can have) on efforts to preserve critical habitat, threatened species, fragile and rare ecosystems, and indigenous communities. The book is engagingly written in an informal, first person style. Hannibal has a personal connection with each of the endeavors that she describes (many of them are based in California). I wish I'd had more time to spend with the book. ...more
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