I wish to know my world better
October 25, 2016 4:48 PM   Subscribe

Specifically the natural world around me. I recently moved back to California (southern, but interested in all) and have a growing desire to know and understand the 'natural' world around me. The flora and fauna (ID & cultural/commercial/ethnobotanical qualities), weather, and the changes to this aspect of the world, all interest me, especially in an environment so dynamic and exceptional, yet heavily culled and altered by human hand. Books, articles, websites, film, writers; any and all resources are welcome. Thank you.

What I have read, and enjoyed thus far:
Introduction to Water in California
The Olhone Way
posted by shaqlvaney to Science & Nature (15 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
An Island called California is an excellent place to start book wise.
posted by fshgrl at 5:05 PM on October 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you're interested in learning what birds are seen in your area, and where, go to eBird's region explorer and enter your county in the search box. The list of local birding hotspots may give you some good ideas on places to get out in nature, even if you aren't interested in birding.
posted by jkent at 5:18 PM on October 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you learn well in a group setting, and would like to meet others with an interest in the natural world, search for Master Naturalist Programs in your city. Here is the general site for the Certified California Naturalist program. These type of programs often offer short courses in many of the topics you're interested in, and can open opportunities to participate in volunteer and citizen science studies too, if that's your thing.
posted by scrambles at 5:20 PM on October 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

scrambles just beat me, I came in to suggest Master Gardener or Master Naturalist programs, they are FANTASTIC!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:29 PM on October 25, 2016

Schoenherr's A Natural History of California is very good and very long. You could read just the parts about Southern California, although I think part of its strength is how integrated the whole thing is. UC Press has a series of Natural History guides that are great.
posted by one_bean at 5:32 PM on October 25, 2016

Schoenherr's A Natural History of California ordered and excited for the chance to become a California Naturalist. Thank you all.
posted by shaqlvaney at 6:14 PM on October 25, 2016

Birding is a great way to get in to this. There are birds everywhere! Try How To Be A Better Birder and Sibley's Birding Basics. Pick up a cheap-ish pair of 8x40 binoculars and a bird guide and you're set!
posted by dondiego87 at 6:15 PM on October 25, 2016

Joan Didion's essay, Holy Water, was first published in the late 1970s, so the details may have changed, but the overall message is still relevant.
posted by she's not there at 6:18 PM on October 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

David Quammen
posted by j_curiouser at 6:39 PM on October 25, 2016

I read The Olhone Way as part of my docent training for the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District in the Bay Area. Get out there on some guided hikes.

Check out The Good Rain by Tim Egen
posted by humboldt32 at 6:49 PM on October 25, 2016

You might look for and join a native plant sociery. Most states have them. They generally have meetings once a month where a speaker comes and talks about interesting sciencey things. Its not always native plants but its usually related to native plants in some way. I absolutely love these talks, and have learned an enormous amount about the environment around me.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 8:40 PM on October 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ooh! John McPhee, Assembling California is great for geology!
posted by athirstforsalt at 10:34 PM on October 25, 2016

In order to understand a bit more about humans' influence on your new surroundings, read Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner. It's a slightly eccentric book, but it's still worth reading. And the book Encounters with the Archdruid by John McPhee. And check out the movie Chinatown.

If you get interested in water and rivers and irrigation in the West, here is some further reading. These are more just straight history books, so they're drier reading than Reisner or McPhee, but I think they're fascinating:

Rivers of Empire - Donald Wooster

Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the American West - Wallace Stegner

Water and the West: The Colorado River Compact and the Politics of Water in the American West - Norris Hundley Jr
posted by colfax at 5:19 AM on October 26, 2016

For the critter side of things in the CA (and AZ) desert, I enjoyed this book: A Field Guide to Desert Holes

It's good just for reading in your living room as wel as taking with you while poking around in the desert.
posted by bluesky78987 at 7:34 AM on October 26, 2016

Hey friend, I went on a similar search this spring for information about michigan. Read reading, trying to memorize, learning about things I can't see, all interesting. But the thing that really has made me feel most connected is the daily connection to slow changes. I started biking to work instead of driving. It's really amazing how real the world becomes when you don't have a heater or AC, when you can look at something besides the break lights in front of you. I don't know what your situation is, if that would be possible, but I highly recommend trying it.
posted by rebent at 7:34 PM on October 26, 2016

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