Subtitled 'Reflections on Citizen Science' this is a wonderfully observed, carefully documented and inspiring read for anyone interested in rivers, freshwater ecology or citizen science.
The book studies several different citizen science inititatives that focus on the USA's Hudson River, including recording and controlling invasive species, evaluating the health of fish species, ceaning up the river and tracking bald eagles. Each chapter focuses closely on the one aspect of the river ecology, with Busch enthusiastically describing how close attention to detail increases her appreciation of the local ecology and discussing what we can take from these types of scientific investigations and learn from them in other areas of life.
The author also considers the human relationship with nature:
' In my mind it remains an open question whether a sense of displacement from the natural world brings us greater anxieties or whether our other existing stresses cause us to distance outselves from nature and cause this larger sense of being adrift. I would suspect that both of these are true and that, in fact, displacement is likely to travel this infinite loop: the greater our disquiet, the more we tend to remive ourselves from nature; the more we become so removed, the more deeply our anxieties take root.
But all of this said, or perhaps as a direct result of it, the seatch for some sense of belonging seems to befall many of us, whether it is in watching, naming, counting, documenting or otherwise boting the natural events unfolding around us'.
As someone who volunteers to look after our local river (the Water of Leith) I found this book fascinating. I was very interested in finding out more about a different river ecosystem on the other side of the world that however faces a lot of the same pressures as our local river. I also found Busch's enthusiasm infectious. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves rivers or wants to get involved with citizen science.
The Incidental Steward by Akiko Busch published by Yale University Press (2013)