cover image Emerald Labyrinth: A Scientist’s Adventures in the Jungles of the Congo

Emerald Labyrinth: A Scientist’s Adventures in the Jungles of the Congo

Eli Greenbaum. ForeEdge, $19.95 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-5126-0097-1

Greenbaum, professor of evolutionary genetics at the University of Texas at El Paso, combines scientific endeavor, environmentalism, and Congolese history as he shares his experiences exploring remarkable ecosystems in the midst of a civil war. He spent the summers of 2008 and 2009 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo searching for new and rarely seen species of amphibians and reptiles with the goal of better understanding the evolutionary relationships between species. By analyzing DNA, Greenbaum explains how he is able to look into the past more accurately than simply by looking at the morphological differences among individual members of a species. Additionally, by documenting the existence of new and rare species, his research supports “recent efforts to expand national parks and forest reserves in Congo.” All of this would be exciting enough, but he conducted his work amid the presence of armed militias in an environment filled with deadly biotic threats. Greenbaum recognizes that some of the species he has found “will be extinct by the end of the century,” but he remains optimistic about the possibilities that ecotourism and other conservation strategies may hold as the Congolese people attempt to forge a positive future. This is an appealing, if somewhat workmanlike, chronicle of two extended seasons of field work in remote areas of the D.R.C. (Nov.)