Professor Emeritus Earns Nature Book Recognition

Silver City, NM – Ever heard the term citizen scientist? Professor Emeritus Sharman Apt Russell wrote a book on the subject, and it has landed on the list of Best Nature Books of 2014.

Diary Of A Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World was released in 2014. It is a 224-page journey by Russell describing her exploration in a yearlong study of a little-known species, the Western red-bellied tiger beetle.

Russell has taught in the Humanities Department at Western New Mexico University since 1981, teaching developmental writing and graduate courses in Nature Writing, Writing for Magazines, and Writing for Social Changes. Diary of a Citizen Scientist is her twelfth published book.

“I have long been interested in citizen science,” explains Russell about the term referring to non-professionals who become acknowledged experts in a science field or study. “Citizen science represents real revolution and renaissance on how we do science, in how scientists work with non-scientists and in how science can enter our everyday lives.”

Russell’s previous book Standing in the Light: My Life as a Pantheist described a year of bird-banding, monitoring avian populations. In the book world, Russell is considered a nature and science writer, writing on topics such as butterflies and pollinating ecology and archaeology.

“I am a true fan of citizen science, a true believer that it can transform research and that it offers individuals a chance to transform themselves to do something entirely new and challenging,” said Russell.

In her latest book, Russell follows the tiny beetles throughout Southwestern New Mexico, often following the Gila River where the beetles can be found. Russell describes the beetles as “charismatic,” “elegant,” and “fierce.”

“In my own life, I explored the romance of being a field biologist,” explains Russell. “It got me out walking by the river and in the forest, and gave me plenty of opportunity for philosophical reflection.”

Yet, the tediousness and often discomfort of a field biologist helped Russell stick to her day job as a professor and writer.

“Science is about a lot of detail work and rigorous note-taking and chart-making. I’m just as glad to be a part-time scientist.”

Diary of a Citizen Scientist is available to purchase online and in bookstores. The Guardian newspaper selected it as a top Nature Book of 2014.

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