Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society


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Bookshelf Special Feature Part 2: National Park Science

A Review of National Park Science: Jane Carruthers’ Magnum Opus

 by Bernhard Gißibl

Part 1 features Jane Carruthers’ introduction to her book and a comment by Libby Robin. A full review of National Park Science by Bernhard Gißibl will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Environment and History.

Jane Carruthers’ National Park Science is the first comprehensive and authoritative study of the rise of the conservation sciences in South Africa. The book charts the various disciplines that have contributed to the field and situates their development in the national and international processes and constellations that shaped the professionalization and institutionalization of sciences as varied as zoology, botany, animal ecology, invasion biology, and many other, ever more specialized subdisciplines. It is a story of science made in Africa, and is awe inspiring in its interdisciplinarity.

Cover photographDigesting an impressive number of sources from an array of disciplines and archives, Carruthers traces how the raw material of South Africa’s flora and fauna was nurtured in various protected areas, not just national parks. The study shows how protected nature was subjected to thorough analysis by amateurs, hunters, collectors, and, increasingly, university-trained scientists. Hailing from South Africa herself, Carruthers analyzes how the various sciences contributed to the management of these territories, how the management objectives of protected areas shaped the kind of science that could be conducted, and how governmental interests were served by both the protected areas and the sciences they enabled. Continue reading


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Bookshelf Special Feature Part 1: National Park Science by Jane Carruthers

Jane at opening of A

We were delighted to welcome Jane Carruthers back to the Rachel Carson Center this autumn. Jane has a longstanding relationship with the RCC; she served on its advisory board for six years, the latter three as its chair, and was a great influence on the center in its formative years. She was made an honorary Carson fellow in 2014 in recognition of her enormous contribution to the work of the center. After all the support the RCC has had from Jane, it was a great pleasure for us to host a celebration of the publication of her latest book National Park Science: A Century of Research in South Africa (Cambridge University Press, 2017) here in Munich.

Jane spoke about her book to staff and students as part of our Tuesday Discussion series, and was joined by two other influential environmental historians, Bernhard Gißibl and Libby Robin, who talked us through the contribution that her book makes to the field. We are pleased to present written versions of the three scholars’ remarks on the new book on Seeing the Woods. A full review of National Park Science by Bernhard Gißibl will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Environment and History, an edited draft of which will be featured here on Seeing the Woods next week.

(*These are edited versions of the talks presented at the Tuesday Discussion. All photos are courtesy of Jane Carruthers.)

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