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This Land Is Your Land

The Story of Field Biology in America

Field biology is enjoying a resurgence due to several factors, the most important being the realization that there is no ecology, no conservation, and no ecosystem restoration without an understanding of the basic relationships between species and their environments—an understanding gleaned only through field-based natural history. With this resurgence, modern field biologists find themselves asking fundamental existential questions such as: Where did we come from? What is our story? Are we part of a larger legacy? In This Land Is Your Land, seasoned field biologist Michael J. Lannoo answers these questions and more in a tale rooted in the people and institutions of the Midwest. It is a story told from the ground up, a rubber boot–based natural history of field biology in America.

Lannoo illuminates characters such as John Wesley Powell, William Temple Hornaday, and Olaus and Adolph Murie—homegrown midwestern field biologists who either headed east to populate major research centers or went west to conduct their fieldwork along the frontier. From the pioneering work of Victor Shelford, Henry Chandler Cowles, and Aldo Leopold to contemporary insights from biologists such as Jim Furnish and historians such as William Cronon, Lannoo’s unearthing of American—and particularly midwestern—field biologists reveals how these scientists influenced American ecology, conservation biology, and restoration ecology, and in turn drove global conservation efforts through environmental legislation and land set-asides. This Land Is Your Land reveals the little-known legacy of midwestern field biologists, whose ethos and discoveries have enabled us to preserve and understand not just their land, but all lands.

304 pages | 46 halftones, 9 line drawings, 1 table | 6 x 9 | © 2018

Biological Sciences: Conservation, Ecology, Natural History

History: American History

History of Science


"Lannoo’s book provides a focused, in-depth account of the work of a prominent and significant group of field biologists from the Midwest. Writing from an insider’s perspective, Lannoo—himself afield biologist from the Midwest—details the careers of men of science such as Frederick Clements, Warder Clyde Allee, Henry Allan Gleason, and Olaus Murie. . . . This Land Is Your Land reminds us of the significant role [this group] played in the history of field biology and, in many complex ways, continue to play infield biology today."


“An original, absolutely fascinating book. Lannoo has given us an extraordinary gift: the inspirational story of one hundred fifty years’ worth of field biology in North America and what the ideas and actions of hardworking, brilliant biologists (many with charismatic, dominant personalities) have meant to the world—a global network of natural areas and environmental protection legislation. I predict This Land Is Your Land will be a classic narrative of American field biology far into the future.”

Marty Crump, author of "Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog, Adder’s Fork and Lizard’s Leg"

"The author traces the development of American academic institutions, natural history museums, environmental legislation, and government agencies with emphasis on relevance to field biology and associated disciplines (botany, zoology, ecology, and conservation)."

The Quarterly Review of Biology

"Michael Lannoo already proved himself as a careful investigator of historical aspects of the development of awareness of the importance of field biology in Leopold’s Shack and Ricketts’s Lab: the emergence of environmentalism (2010). He now builds on that in broadening it to cover the whole of field biology in the USA in this new work."

Biodiversity and Conservation

Table of Contents


The Foundation
The Explorers
The Settlers
The Thinkers
The Institutions
What It Meant
The Natural Historians
Bred in Their Bones
What It Meant
The Ecologists
An Illinois Original
The Nebraska School of Plant Ecology
The Chicago School of Plant Ecology
The Chicago School of Animal Ecology
The Wisconsin School of Limnology
What It Meant
The Wildlife Biologists
The Scattered Become Gathered
What It Meant
The Conservation Biologists
The Conservation/Preservation Tension
Wither and How to Engage?
America’s Best Idea, Expanded
The Sole Midwestern Wilderness: Quetico-Superior Boundary Waters
Two Agencies Face Tough Transitions
Bureau of Biological Survey/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
U.S. Forest Service
What It Meant
The Restoration Biologists
All the King’s Horses and All the King’s Men
Indiana Jones Revisited
This Land Is Your Land


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