From the Top Shelf

Microcladia-Endpapers-from-An-Ocean-Garden“I fell in love with seaweed at the kitchen counter. I had returned with a sack full from the windswept beach, and as I dropped each specimen into a tub of saltwater, its form and color and translucent sexuality awakened. Pale pinks mingled with bright greens and yellow oranges. Rounded fronds, bumpy textures, and slender tendrils unraveled. I focused on one green algal mass. As I teased out the delicate blades, they stuck to my fingers, or to each other-these ocean flora truly belong in water not air-but I persevered. I felt like I was discovering secrets that few have seen.”                   -Josie Iselin

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I fell in love with seaweed, much in the same way as Josie, albeit I was knees deep in the rocky intertidal covered in sand and all the squishy things. A magical world that many see, but very few take the time to appreciate. This oversight somewhat understandable as many algal species look like clumps of red, brown or green “stuff” when washed ashore. Not entirely exciting to the passing beachcomber.

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However, having spent more hours than is considered healthy gawking at algae from all over the world, I just wished there was a way for people to see it like I did. A love built on the intricate lines and flowing fronds of the most exquisite water bound plants.

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With this passion, I have collected more algae books over the years than you can count. My library is filled. But there is one book, actually brought to my attention by the lovely Dr. Martini (she is an enabler), that sits on the very top shelf. A place reserved for the best of my collection (and the best of my gin).

AnOceanGarden1-1024x1024With the help of the illustrious Curator of the Berkley Collection and phycology queen herself, Kathy Ann Miller, author Josie Iselin compiled one of the most beautiful books I have ever seen. “An Ocean Garden: The Secret Life of Seaweed” takes you on a colorful and vibrant adventure through littoral and sublittoral seaweed species that decorate our coastal spaces. Using a flatbed scanner, she is able to unclump the hidden secrets of these beautiful plants and reveal their inherent elegance. Masterfully, she has depicted life with these salty flowers exactly as I see it.

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Beyond the larger conglomerate of specimens that fill it’s pages, Iselin goes on to discuss their natural history, every day uses, and other savory seaweed vignettes. “An Ocean Garden” is a piece of art, practical in it’s nature for both the well seasoned phycologist and the unfamiliar beach enthusiast. This compilation quite literally sheds light on and brings a new found appreciation for all who thumb through it’s pages of the majestic and not-so-secret world of seaweeds.

Alex Warneke (103 Posts)

Alex currently resides as a Science Communicator for the National Park Service, where she inspires thousands a year to love the watery world. Alex earned her Masters degree in chemical ecology from San Diego State University investigating the effects of heavy metal pollutants on the chemical communication between organisms. In her “free time,” Alex enjoys convincing the public that Ecology is indeed sexy. With that goal, she is a strong proponent of unconventional science communication and extending the broader impacts of science to the general public using the outlets of film and social media. When she is not busy busting a move or filming her next rap video, she can normally be found frolicking through the California kelp forest.


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