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In the Sierra, A Modern Audubon Stalks Skinks & Bugs

February 07, 2008


Alumnus John Muir Laws, CRS '89, featured in The Washington Post:

He took his first hike into the Sierra Nevada, the landscape of his obsession, while still in the womb. His parents named him John Muir Laws. He once spent a week searching for a single perfect orchid to paint. He says, "I am constantly amazed by things." Such as? "The diversity of chipmunks." He is not joking. He cares about newts. If asked, he does an excellent imitation of a startled vole. He has opinions about beetles.

This fall, he published "The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada." It is 366 pages long and contains 2,800 illustrations, each painted by Laws. The new field guide, already praised by outdoor connoisseurs as a naturalist's bible, begins with "Small Fungi Growing on Wood" (specifically, Calocera cornea, the staghorn jelly fungus) and ends with stars (the night sky at winter solstice, Dec. 22). It is small enough to slip into your pocket but includes 1,700 species of flowers, trees, bugs, frogs, snails, skinks, birds, fish, rodents. It took him six years. The world needs more of this -- this kind of sustained, informed, deep gee-whizdom....

Read the rest of the article.