Botkin, Daniel B. 1937–
Botkin, Daniel B. 1937–
PERSONAL: Born August 19, 1937, in Oklahoma City, OK; son of Benjamin Albert (a folklorist) and Gertrude (Fritz) Botkin; married Ellen Chase, December 22, 1960 (divorced, 1977); married Erene Victoria Pecan (a financial planner), April 7, 1979; children: Nancy Everett, Jonathan Daniel. Education: University of Rochester, B.A., 1959; University of Wisconsin—Madison, M.A., 1962; Rutgers University, Ph.D., 1968.
CAREER: Educator, author, and environmental biologist. U.S. Peace Corps, Washington, DC, volunteer, 1962–63; Worldwide Medical News Service, New York, NY, science writer, 1964; Yale University, New Haven, CT, from assistant to associate professor of forestry, 1968–75; Ecosystems Center, Marine Biology Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA, research scientist, 1976–78; University of California, Santa Barbara, professor of biology and environmental studies, 1978–92, professor emeritus, 1992–, research professor in department of ecology, evolution, and marine biology, 1999–; Center for the Study of the Environment, Santa Barbara, CA, president and founder, 1991–; George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, professor of biology and director of program on global change, 1992–. Developed major U.S. projects in ecology, including Long-term Ecological Research Program, National Science Foundation, and Mission to Earth, National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Advisor and consultant for many companies; held contract with U.S. Department of Defense. Public speaker at universities, professional organizations, and public organizations, including the National Zoo, Washington, DC; Missouri Botanic Garden, St. Louis, MO; the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC; Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI; College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, ME; University of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN; Georgetown University, Washington, DC; University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA; Iowa State University, 1990–91; Wichita State University, 1997; Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, 2004. Member of board of trustees, Folklife Center, Library of Congress, Washington, DC, 2004, and Santa Barbara Botanic Garden.
MEMBER: Authors Guild, Authors League of America, Textbook Authors Association, American Association for the Advancement of Science (fellow), American Society of Naturalists, Ecological Society of America, British Ecological Society, Sigma Chi, Cosmos Club (Washington, DC).
AWARDS, HONORS: Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars fellow, 1978–79; Rockefeller Bellagio Institute (Como, Italy) fellow, 1985; East-West Center (Honolulu, HI) fellow, 1985–87; Mitchell International Prize in Sustainable Development, Mitchell Center for Sustainable Development, 1991; Bernhard Eduard Fernow Award, American Forests and the German Forestry Association, 1995, for outstanding contributions in international forestry; elected to Environmental Hall of Fame, California Polytechnic Institute, Pomona, CA, 1995; Texty Award, Text and Academic Authors Association, 2004, for best textbook of 2003; grants from the A.W. Mellon Foundation, W. Alton Jones Foundation, Pew Charitable Trust, National Science Foundation, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
(Editor, with Darrell C. West and Herman H. Shugart) Forest Succession: Concepts and Application, Springer-Verlag (New York, NY), 1981.
(With Edward A. Keller) Environmental Studies: Earth as a Living Planet, C.E. Merrill (Columbus, OH), 1982, fifth edition, John Wiley (New York, NY) 2005.
(Editor, with others) Changing the Global Environment: Perspectives on Human Involvement, Academic Press (Boston, MA), 1989.
Discordant Harmonies: A New Ecology for the Twenty-first Century, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1990.
Forest Dynamics: An Ecological Model, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1993.
(With Edward A. Keller) Environmental Sciences, J. Wiley & Sons (New York, NY), 1995.
Our Natural History: The Lessons of Lewis and Clark, Putnam (New York, NY), 1995, new edition, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2004.
(With Brian J. Skinner and Stephen C. Porter) The Blue Planet: An Introduction to Earth System Science, second edition, J. Wiley & Sons (New York, NY), 1999.
Passage of Discovery: The American Rivers Guide to the Missouri River of Lewis and Clark, Perigee Books (New York, NY), 1999.
(With others) Forces of Change: A New View of Nature, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 2000.
No Man's Garden: Thoreau and a New Vision for Civilization and Nature, Island Press (Washington, DC), 2001.
Strange Encounters: Adventures of a Renegade Nature, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin (New York, NY), 2003.
Beyond the Stony Mountains: Nature in the American West from Lewis and Clark to Today, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2004.
Also author/creator of JABOWA-II: The Forest Growth Model (computer program), Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1992. Contributor of numerous articles to scientific journals, magazines, and newspapers. Botkin's works have been translated into Spanish.
SIDELIGHTS: Educator and biologist Daniel B. Botkin has frequently published on environmental issues. He combines his skills, talents, and concern for the environment to teach, lecture, develop curriculums, conduct research and analysis, participate on advisory committees, and write. For his efforts, the American Forests Association honored him in 1995 with their Bernhard Eduard Fernow award for "outstanding contributions in international forestry."
Commenting in a George Mason University Gazette Online article, Botkin told Sharon Young Richardson: "We're still solving environmental problems based on Greek and Roman myths about the balance of nature. Those myths are contradicted by the research of the last thirty years but if you look at the laws [made to protect the environment], these myths are still there." Botkin explained that at the base of these myths is the belief that nature, undisturbed by human influence, is constant, which is desirable. "Where imperfection arises in this world," he continued, "it is because humankind has done too much or too little." According to Botkin, modern-day environmental protection efforts fail because they do not question this underlying myth.
Botkin's Our Natural History: The Lessons of Lewis and Clark uses the records kept by pioneer explorers Lewis and Clark to gain a sense of what the American West was like prior to extensive contact with humans. "The book's premise is that we don't know what nature was like before we changed it because we rely on myths about nature," Botkin told Richardson. "If we don't know that, we don't know how we changed it." Botkin compares Lewis and Clark's descriptions of the West from 1804 to 1806 with his own observations of the same area. He visited many places Lewis and Clark described, and studied their experiences to help determine what can be done today to solve environmental problems. In a review published in Booklist, Donna Seaman noted that Botkin puts Lewis and Clark's information to "brilliant use." Botkin discusses what has happened to the rivers, prairies, people, and animals of the Rocky Mountains since the early 1800s in conclusions that "are hard hitting and provocative," Seaman stated. While Seaman felt that Botkin's contribution would spark a reevaluation of humanity's treatment of the environment, a contributor to Publishers Weekly commented positively on Our Natural History for its "fresh and welcome perspective" on the expedition of Lewis and Clark.
With Environmental Science: Earth as a Living System Botkin and coauthor Edward A. Keller offer a textbook overview of the science of the environment, the earth, and related issues such as human population, energy, agriculture, and air pollution. The authors emphasize how interconnected such specific topics are to environmental science overall. Writing in BioScience, Walter G. Rosen noted that "it is hard to imagine a topic more inclusive than global environmental science, particularly when 'values, knowledge, and social justice' are added to a mix that already embraces biology, chemistry, physics, geology, geography, climatology, oceanography demography, and law." Botkin and Keller gather a large array of information and organize it in a manner "designed to provoke critical thinking and to assist the student in applying the new learning to the real world and it problems," Rosen continued. He concluded: "In the present state of the emerging science and philosophy of global ecology, it is hard to imagine a better approach than that found in Environmental Science."
No Man's Garden: Thoreau and a New Vision for Civilization and Nature is an attempt by Botkin to reconcile the nature versus civilization debate by drawing on—among other texts—the writings of Henry David Thoreau. In BioScience, Brian Czech wrote that the book's thrust is "misguided" and its premise "unnecessary and unoriginal." While Czech concluded that "readers would do well to extract their lessons about Thoreau from Thoreau's writings," Patricia Ann Owens asserted in a Library Journal review that Botkin attempts to bring the reader into a more personal relationship with ecology. "Beauty surrounds us," she wrote, "and Thoreau teaches us to accept and revel in the spirituality and creativity that flows from it." Maintaining that Botkin utilizes Thoreau's life as a "metaphor" rather than subject in his book, American Forests contributor Carl Reidel nonetheless commented that No Man's Garden "draws on a fascinating array of his [Thoreau's] writings and experiences" in interpreting the nineteenth-century naturalist's view of nature.
Strange Encounters: Adventures of a Renegade Naturalist is a more personal perspective on Botkin's work as a scientist. A Publishers Weekly critic called it "a refreshing, open-minded collection about nature, ecology and science." In this collection of essays, the author relates his personal stories about trying to deal with environmental problems and the evolving character of the human comprehension of nature and ecological issues. These tales allow Botkin to offer a firsthand account of what kinds of questions are being asked and how decisions are made by researchers, government officials, companies, and those who live off the land. Emphasizing how out of date many of the conceptual ideas and frameworks are for people's understanding of ecological issues, Botkin also uses his sometimes odd tales to explain how this situation is negatively affecting conservation efforts and the environment. Writing in the Journal of Environmental Education, Michael J. Mappin also noted that "one can view it as an entertaining light read about intriguing characters and strange encounters in the natural world."
In Beyond the Stony Mountains: Nature in the American West from Lewis and Clark to Today Botkin returns to ideas he first explored in Our Natural History. The naturalist again follows the western trail of the explorers, using this strategy to look at the environmental changes that have happened over the last two hundred years. While offering some practical travel information on exploring specific places, Botkin also discusses related geological and natural phenomenon, as well as historical takes on how human mindsets toward wildlife have changed over time. A Kirkus Reviews critic found the text problematic, writing that"Botkin may feel passionately about the land he discusses, but there's scant evidence of it in his choppy, flat, and oddly repetitive prose." In contrast, Nancy Moeckel commented in the Library Journal that "Botkin takes a journey that … is still entertaining, though-provoking, and well worth it."
Botkin once commented: "I have degrees in physics, English literature, and biology. I have a long commitment to an interdisciplinary approach to understanding nature and environmental issues. I have done scientific research in wilderness areas and have developed a computer model of forest growth that is now used all over the world."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Forests, summer, 2001, Carl Reidel, review of No Man's Garden: Thoreau and a New Vision for Civilization and Nature, p. 12.
BioScience, January, 1996, Walter G. Rosen, review of Environmental Science: Earth as a Living System, p. 61; March, 2001, Brian Czech, "Straw Men in No Man's Garden," review of No Man's Garden, p. 250.
Booklist, April 1, 1995, Donna Seaman, review of Our Natural History: The Lessons of Lewis and Clark, p. 1362.
Journal of Environmental Education, Summer, 2004, Michael J. Mappin, review of Strange Encounters: Adventures of a Renegade Naturalist, p. 59.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2004, review of Beyond the Stony Mountains: Nature in the American West from Lewis and Clark to Today, p. 719.
Library Journal, November 15, 2000, Patricia Ann Owens, review of No Man's Garden, p. 93; August, 2004, Nancy Moeckel, review of Beyond the Stony Mountains, p. 1111.
Publishers Weekly, April 3, 1995, review of Our Natural History, p. 51; August 18, 2003, review of Strange Encounters, p. 72.
Sierra, November-December, 2001, Bob Schildgen, review of No Man's Garden, p. 74.
Center for the Study of the Environment Web site, http://www/naturestudy.org/ (November 19, 2005), biography of Daniel B. Botkin.
Daniel B. Botkin Home Page, http://www.danielbotkin.com (November 19, 2005).
George Mason University Gazette Online, http://www.gmu.edu/ (November 28, 2005), Sharon Young Richardson, "Botkin Wins International Forestry Award."