Speaking of Life Traces…

With the much-awaited publication of my new book (Life Traces of the Georgia Coast), it’s now time to talk about it. Fortunately, I’ve had plenty of time to prepare for this part of the launching of the book, which is one advantage gained from its publication taking longer than originally anticipated. (I’m not complaining, just saying.)

A brief preview of my book, which I gave to my peers in August as a 20-minute talk at the International Congress on Ichnology meeting (Ichnia 2012) in St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada. Please note that all subsequent talks about the book will not involve audience members to be screeched in, although folks attending my talk to the Atlanta Science Tavern event on January 26 might be tempted. (Photograph by Ruth Schowalter.)

But what’s been most exciting about this process is the overwhelmingly positive reception to my inquiries about giving talks. Amazingly, no one (so far) has said “no” when I asked if I could speak. This is a lesson for other authors who might be organizing public presentations on your own, without the financial or logistical support of a trade-book publisher: pick what you think are the right venues for speaking about your book, then ask. Until then, you never know who will agree that having you speak about your book would be a fine idea.

I am also blessed with a very good infrastructure for giving talks here in Georgia, particularly in the metro Atlanta area. Despite all of the tired jokes about banjo music – along with urging participants to accompany this music with porcine sounds¬† – Atlanta has a thriving scene of science and natural history enthusiasts. This intellectual richness is exemplified the Atlanta Science Tavern, which was even noticed by some out-of-town newspaper for its “Mars Landing Party” last July.

Lastly, the subject of the book is of great interest to many people in Georgia, especially those who have been to its barrier islands. More than a million visitors are estimated to visit the Georgia coast each year, with many of those driving the 4+ hours from Atlanta to get there. Of these million people, at least a few walk along a beach or marsh, or hike through a maritime forest, and see traces made by the animals that live there on the islands, prompting¬† them to ask, “I wonder what made that?” For those folks and more, these talks are for you.

Here’s my current schedule of appearances for the next few months, but be sure to check in once in a while on this Web site for updates. Hope to see you at one or more of these events!

Wednesday, January 23, 4:00 p.m., Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. Talk title: Big Burrows through Ecospace and Time. This talk is part of the Department of Environmental Studies Seminar Series for the spring semester, 2013; all seminars are in Math & Sciences Building, Room N304. Free and open to the public.

Saturday, January 26, 7:00 p.m. – Atlanta Science Tavern, at Manuel’s Tavern, Atlanta, Georgia. Talk title: Exploring Tracks and Prints, Marks and Holes on Georgia’s Barrier Islands. Preregistration required, $3 suggested donation. This event is currently FULL, but you can put your name on the waiting list through the preceding link.

Tuesday, February 5, 7:00 p.m. – Georgia Center for the Book, DeKalb Public Library, Decatur, Georgia. Talk title: Life Traces of the Georgia Coast. Free and open to the public

Saturday, February 16, 5:30 p.m. – Jekyll Island Green Screen Event, Jekyll Island Convention Center, Jekyll Island, Georgia. Poster presentation (along with other presenters) summarizing some of my latest research on the Georgia barrier islands (exact title of poster to be updated later). Free and open to the public.

Sunday, February 24, 3:00 p.m. – Andalusia, home of author Flannery O’Connor, in Milledgeville, Georgia. Tentative talk title: Tracks and Traces of Flannery O’Connor’s Favorite Birds. Free and open to the public.

Sunday, March 24, 2:30 p.m. – Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Atlanta, Georgia. Tentative talk title: Tracking Exotic Mammals on the Georgia Coast. Admission fee applies if you’re not a member of the museum, but the lecture is free with admission.

P.S. Bookstores, just remember, if you invite me to speak in your store, I will bring your employees this. Consider yourselves bribed.

Trace Evidence for New Book

This past Friday, I very happily received the first complimentary copy of my new book, Life Traces of the Georgia Coast from Indiana University Press. After years of field observations, photographing, writing, editing, drawing, teaching, and speaking about the plant and animal traces described in this book, it was immensely satisfying to hold a physical copy in my hands, feeling its heft and admiring its textures and smells in a way that e-books will never replace. So for any doubters out there (and I don’t blame you for that), here is a photograph of the book:

A photograph, purportedly documenting the publication of at least one copy of my new book Life Traces of the Georgia Coast. Photo scale (bottom) in centimeters.

Still, given that a photograph of the book only constitutes one line of evidence supporting its existence, I knew that more data were needed. So of course, I turned to ichnology for help. After all, a 692-page hard-cover book should also make an easily definable resting trace. Here is that trace, formed by the book in the same spot shown previously.

Ichnological evidence supporting the existence of my new book, Life Traces of the Georgia Coast. Using the “holy trinity” of ichnology – substrate, anatomy, and behavior – as guides for understanding it better: the substrate is a bedspread; the “anatomy” is the 6 X 9″ outline of the book, with depth of the trace reflecting its thickness (and mass); and the behavior was mine, consisting of placing the book on the bedspread and removing it. E-book versions of the book should make similarly shaped rectangular traces, although these will vary in dimensions according to the reading device hosting the book.

However, I also admit that hard-core skeptics may claim that such photos could have been faked, whether through the manipulative use of image-processing software, or slipping the cover jacket onto a copy of Danielle Steel’s latest oeuvre. As a result, the best and perhaps only way to test such a hypothesis is for you and everyone you know to buy the book (which you can do here, here, or here). Or, better yet, ask your your local bookstore to carry copies of it, which will also help to ensure the continuing existence of those bookstores for future book-purchasing and ichnological experiments, including books of other science-book authors.

Lastly, just to make this experiment statistically significant, I suggest a sample size of at least n = 10,000, which should account for inadvertent mishaps that may prevent deliveries of the book, such as lightning strikes, volcanic eruptions, or meteorite impacts. Only then will you be able to assess, with any degree of certainty, whether the book is real or not.

Thank you in advance for your “citizen science,” and I look forward to discussing these research results with you soon.

Suggested Further Reading

Martin, A.J. 2012. Life Traces of the Georgia Coast: Revealing the Unseen Lives of Plants and Animals. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana: 692 p.


A Sneak Peek at a Book Jacket (with Traces)

After returning from a two-week vacation in California with my wife Ruth, we noticed a cardboard tube awaiting us at home. Intriguingly, the mystery package, which was only about 60 cm (24 in) long and 8 cm (3 in) wide, had been sent by Indiana University Press, the publisher of my new book, Life Traces of the Georgia Coast. We were a little puzzled by it, considering that it couldn’t possibly contain complimentary copies of the book. (As of this writing, I still have not held a corporeal representation of the book, hence my continuing skepticism that it is really published.) What was in this mystery tube?

Front cover and spine of my new book, Life Traces of the Georgia Coast: Revealing the Unseen Lives of Plants and Animals (Indiana University Press). The book, newly released this month, is not yet in stores, but supposedly on its way to those places and to people who were kind enough to pre-order it. But if you didn’t pre-order it, that’s OK: you can get it right here, right now.

Upon opening it, we were delighted to find that it held ten life-sized prints of the book jacket: front cover, spine, back cover, and front-back inside flaps. The cover art, done by Georgia artist Alan Campbell, looked gorgeous, and had reduced well to the 16 X 25 cm (6 X 9″) format, retaining details of traces and tracemakers, but also conveying a nice aesthetic sense. I was also amused to see the spine had the title (of course) but also said “Martin” and “Indiana.” Although I’ve lived in Georgia for more than 27 years, I was born and raised in Indiana, so it somehow seemed fitting in a circle-of-life sort of way to see this put so simply on the book.

Back cover of Life Traces of the Georgia Coast, highlighting a few of the tracemakers mentioned in the book – sea oats, sandhill crane, sand fiddler crab, and sea star – while also providing a pretty sunset view of primary dunes, beach, and subtidal environments on Sapelo Island. (P.S. I love that it says “Science” and “Nature” at the top, too.)

I had no idea what the back cover might be like until seeing these prints, but I thought it was well designed, bearing a fair representative sample of tracemakers of the Georgia barrier islands: sea oats (Uniola paniculata), a sandhill crane (Grus canadensis), sand fiddler crab (Uca pugilator), and lined sea star (Luidia clathrata), as well as a scenic view of some coastal environments. I had taken all of these photos, so it was exciting to see these arranged in such a pleasing way. My only scientifically based objection is that I would have like to see it include photos of insects, worms, amphibians, reptiles, or mammals (these and much more are covered in the book), as well as a few more tracks, trails, or burrows. Granted, I suppose they only had so much room for that 6 X 9″ space, and thus I understood how they couldn’t use this space to better represent the biodiversity of Georgia-coast tracemakers and their traces. (Oh well: guess you’ll have to read the book to learn about all that.)

Inside front and back flap material for Life Traces of the Georgia Coast, which also includes a summary of the book (written by me) and a rare photo of me (taken by Ruth Schowalter) in my natural habitat, which in this instance was on St. Catherines Island, Georgia.

I had written the summary of the book on the inside flap nearly a year ago, so it was fun to look at it with fresh eyes, almost as if someone else had written it for me. Fortunately, I banished my inner critic while reading it, and just enjoyed the sense that it likely achieved its goal, which was to tell people about the book and provoke their interest in it.

In short, this cover jacket symbolizes a next-to-last step toward the book being real in my mind. Now, like any good scientist, all I need is some independently verifiable evidence in the form of tactile data, such as a physical book in my hands. Stay tuned for that update, which I’ll be sure to share once it happens. In the meantime, many thanks to all of the staff at Indiana University Press – who I’ll mention by name next time – for their essential role in making the book happen and promoting it in this new year.

Information about the Book, from Indiana University Press

Life Traces of the Georgia Coast: Revealing the Unseen Lives of Plants and Animals, Anthony J. Martin

Have you ever wondered what left behind those prints and tracks on the seashore, or what made those marks or dug those holes in the dunes? Life Traces of the Georgia Coast is an up-close look at these traces of life and the animals and plants that made them. It tells about the how the tracemakers lived and how they interacted with their environments. This is a book about ichnology (the study of such traces), a wonderful way to learn about the behavior of organisms, living and long extinct. Life Traces presents an overview of the traces left by modern animals and plants in this biologically rich region; shows how life traces relate to the environments, natural history, and behaviors of their tracemakers; and applies that knowledge toward a better understanding of the fossilized traces that ancient life left in the geologic record. Augmented by numerous illustrations of traces made by both ancient and modern organisms, the book shows how ancient trace fossils directly relate to modern traces and tracemakers, among them, insects, grasses, crabs, shorebirds, alligators, and sea turtles. The result is an aesthetically appealing and scientifically accurate book that will serve as both a source book for scientists and for anyone interested in the natural history of the Georgia coast.

Life of the Past – Science/Paleontology

692 pp., 34 color illus., 137 b&w illus.
cloth 978-0-253-00602-8 $60.00
ebook 978-0-253-00609-7 $51.99

More information at:

http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/catalog/806767 ]http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/catalog/806767