In Search of the Golden Frog

Marty Crump, Author, Martha L. Crump, Author University of Chicago Press $27 (320p) ISBN 978-0-226-12198-7
Since 1968, biologist Crump has trekked through forests, across ponds and into the treetops of Ecuador, Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia and Chile looking for all sorts of reptiles and amphibians, and especially for frogs and toads--pop-eyed and poisonous, quizzical or questionable, rambunctious or round-bellied, sinuous, triangular or unfortunately extinct. Crump's colloquial and quite readable book about her adventures and discoveries belongs to a rapidly growing subgenre of popular science writing: she has simply adapted her field notes and diaries, giving a day-by-day, blow-by-blow, sloth-by-snake-by-toad account of her life in the tropical wild. Crump, who teaches herpetology at Northern Arizona University, attempts neither a grand story about the progress of bioscience, nor an autobiography, nor an analysis of developing nations' eco-policies, though material for all three can be extracted from her journals: instead, she simply explains what it's like to be her. We readers learn, as she does, astonishing data about frog reproduction; we meet beauteous bromeliads, scary scorpions and ""mama llamas."" We encounter the government and corporate employees who escort her teams to wild regions, and the native peoples who live there--on one 1993 jaunt, these include friendly Quechua groups (with rifles) and ""Huaoranis who refuse contact with outsiders and spear anyone who enters their territory."" And we hear, with pleasant frequency, how Crump, a mother of two, balances work and family. At one point, partner Peter, young Karen and an even-younger Rob accompany the narrator to Argentina, and their domestic worlds give Crump an enticing--if exhausting--counterpoint to her professional endeavors. Armchair, aspiring or actual field biologists will certainly sympathize with Crump as she manages her panoply of little disasters, delights and real discoveries. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/19/2000
Release date: 06/01/2000
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