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Nature All Around Us

A Guide to Urban Ecology

It’s easy to stand in awe of a city’s impressive skyline, marveling at its buildings reaching for the clouds and its vast network of roadways and train lines crisscrossing in every direction. It can often seem like everything in a city is man-made, all concrete, steel, and glass. But even the asphalt jungle is not all asphalt—a sidewalk’s cracks are filled with nature, if we know where and how to look. To aid us in this quest is Nature All Around Us, which will help us to recognize (and look after) the natural world we traipse through in our daily lives.

Nature All Around Us
uses the familiar—such as summer Sundays humming with lawn mowers, gray squirrels foraging in planters, and flocks of pigeons—in order to introduce basic ecological concepts. In twenty-five short chapters organized by scale, from the home to the neighborhood to the city at large, it offers a subtle and entertaining education in ecology sure to inspire appreciation and ultimately stewardship of the environment. Various ecological concepts that any urban dweller might encounter are approachably examined, from understanding why a squirrel might act aggressively towards its neighbor to how nutrients and energy contained within a discarded apple core are recycled back into the food chain. Streaming through the work is an introduction to basic ecology, including the dangers of invasive species and the crucial role played by plants and trees in maintaining air quality.

Taken as a whole, Nature All Around Us is an unprecedented field guide to the ecology of the urban environment that invites us to look at our towns, cities, and even our backyards through the eyes of an ecologist. It is an entertaining, educational, and inspiring glimpse into nature in seemingly unnatural settings, a reminder that we don’t have to trek into the wild to see nature—we just have to open our eyes.

160 pages | 1 halftone, 78 line drawings | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2012

Biological Sciences: Behavioral Biology, Ecology, Evolutionary Biology


“Ladybugs and feral cats, vultures at garbage dumps, chimney swifts endangered by metal flues, all swirl along the boulevards and alleys of this ecological mosaic. A wonderful book.”

John Stilgoe, Harvard University

“Too often we think of nature as something we have to seek out, a remote place far from the city limits; but in fact nature is much closer than we realize. Nature All Around Us encourages us to pause for a moment and recognize the natural world that is truly teeming all around us, even in our most urban spaces. And by doing so, hopefully we’ll realize that ecology is not just the domain of scientists, but something we can all practice and enjoy.”

Robert Hammond, co-founder and executive director of Friends of the High Line

“This is an easily accessible first look at ecology on your doorstep. Those who want to know about the interconnectedness of the natural world will learn about the same principles that apply in a forest or on a mountain, yet closer to home. Moreover, the reader will learn that ecology is a science that helps explain the complex relationships between animals, plants and microorganisms with their environment. It does not imply a judgment, good or bad—it helps us to look deeper past soundbites and easy fixes and provides a means to develop basic literacy in this important timely area of science.”

Nina Bassuk, Cornell University

“This is a clever book with a deep message. As the authors show with wit and charm, you don’t need to venture into the wilderness to explore the natural world. The wonders of ecology are as close as your front porch, back yard, and city street.”

David Baron, author of The Beast in the Garden

Table of Contents

Introduction: What Is Ecology?


1 Apple at My Core
2 Arboreal Aqueducts
3 Lawn Lions
4 Praise for Lazy Gardeners
5 The Evolution of Food
6 Hey, Taxi!
7 Social Life
8 Bathroom Drama
9 Winter Warmth


10 The Secret Life of Ponds
11 A Life of Extremes
12 Prowling Predator
13 Pigeontown
14 Animal Intelligentsia
15 Squirrelly Neighbors
16 From the Chimney Tops
17 Long Lifelines


18 Canary in the City
19 Wing Beats
20 Enough Already!
21 Darwin’s Sweet Tooth?
22 A Breath of Fresh Air
23 Successful Little Birds
24 Opportunistic Gulls
25 Urban Roots


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