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Wired Wilderness

Hardback
, 264 pages

15 b&w illus.

ISBN:
9780801897108
October 2010
$55.00

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Wired Wilderness

Technologies of Tracking and the Making of Modern Wildlife

American wildlife biologists first began fitting animals with radio transmitters in the 1950s. By the 1980s the practice had proven so useful to scientists and nonscientists alike that it became global. Wired Wilderness is the first book-length study of the origin, evolution, use, and impact of these now-commonplace tracking technologies.

Combining approaches from environmental history, the history of science and technology, animal studies, and the cultural and political history of the United States, Etienne Benson traces the radio tracking of wild animals across a wide range of institutions, regions, and species and in a variety of contexts. He explains how hunters, animal-rights activists, and other conservation-minded groups gradually turned tagging from a tool for control into a conduit for connection with wildlife. Drawing on extensive archival research, interviews with wildlife biologists and engineers, and in-depth case studies of specific conservation issues—such as the management of deer, grouse, and other game animals in the upper Midwest and the conservation of tigers and rhinoceroses in Nepal—Benson illuminates telemetry's context-dependent uses and meanings as well as commonalities among tagging practices.

Wired Wilderness traces the evolution of the modern wildlife biologist’s field practices and shows how the intense interest of nonscientists at once constrained and benefited the field. Scholars of and researchers involved in wildlife management will find this history both fascinating and revealing.

Etienne Benson received his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"A fascinating window onto the professional aspirations, disciplinary concerns, and field practices of American wildlife biologists in the post–World War II era. Benson is on to an important topic here and he handles it exceptionally well."

"An outstanding survey of how wild animals are tracked and documented."

"A much-needed reminder that human dimensions have influenced and will continue to influence the direction of wildlife conservation, science, and management just as much as changing technologies."

"A gripping tale of wildlife research in the face of constant aggravation."

"A fascinating read and will appeal to anyone with an interest in wildlife management or research."

"These individual stories provide colour and depth to a unique study of biopolitics in the history of animal tracking."

"An important addition to an emerging picture on how and why efforts emerged to keep a pulse on the planet."

"An empirically well-grounded study of a technology so defining of an important field of nature management that its publication should be of interest to many people."

"The greatest stength of Wired Wilderness is its extraordinary detail, melding the history of science and technology with environmental history."

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