on 24 August 2006
If Miss Jean Brodie was a marine biologist she would, after reading the first page, dismiss this book with its discussion of the attributes of 'Miss Nubile' and hormone laden young men as soft porn. In doing so she would miss out on a distillation of over 30 years experience from a committed, slightly eccentric educationalist and respected academic with a passion for tropical marine ecology. For anyone teaching biology or marine science this engagingly written book is a marvellous toolbox of anecdotes and examples that will stimulate even the most cynical of students.
Each chapter follows a roughly similar pattern with a lyrical initial paragraph and an anecdotal introduction to set the scene followed by a series of easily digestible sections on the same theme. The subject matter for each section, drawn from his years of experience on the field, ranges from the dangers of eating fugu (puffer fish) through to the disproportionate size of the humble barnacles penis. Through a colourful and often humorous approach to each topic, the reader is given a toe-hold grasp of some fairly chewy areas of biology (e.g. honest signalling, evolution, symbiosis, behaviour).
I showed this book to my mother-in-law (not a biologist) who was impressed by the ease with which she could understand the subjects and concepts explored. Having had her interest stimulated by the book she proceeded to bombard me with more questions - how I wish my own students would react similarly to my delivery! I will be using much of the material presented in Sensuous Seas to spice up my own lectures to marine biology undergraduates but this book will also be of interest to armchair and amateur field naturalists.
on 29 October 2011
If you can grit your teeth and get past the author's judgemental chauvanism there are actually some genuine gems about marine biology in this book. The author's assumption that the first thought on the mind of any new male university student will be when they can get laid, and any female student will solely be thinking about whether her bosum is the biggest, tells more about himself than probably any of his students. And if you can scrape through the various passages demonstrating his sexual prowess (or lack there of) or general macho tendencies in treating marine invertebrates as 1950s pre-paintball ammo, then, what you do learn about marine animals may be worth it. I've never owned a book that I have so keenly wished to lob at the author's head before, while still finding myself entertained by the odd tangent into stories of marine life.