Why would a famous virologist and immunologist (and Nobel laureate) write a book linking birds, human diseases, and ecological degradation? The answer is partly that Peter Doherty obviously has a soft spot for birds and birdwatching. He argues that anyone with an enquiring mind and a natural history bent cannot fail to notice birds and to be intrigued by them. But the full answer is that Doherty is perfectly placed to contemplate such seemingly arcane questions because his professional life, spent deep in the intricacies of the immune system and the control of infectious diseases, has allowed him to grasp the fundamental role that birds play in research into infectious diseases, particularly influenza, in the transmission of viral diseases, and also in research into malaria and cancer. He also demonstrates a clear understanding of ecological principles and the complexities of the major conservation issues that we face. Combine this with an ability to write clearly and succinctly about complex subject matter, sprinkled with fascinating personal anecdotes, and you have a quirky and satisfying book.
Peter Menkhorst reviews 'Sentinel Chickens: What Birds Tell Us about Our Health and the World' by Peter Doherty
Sentinel Chickens: What Birds Tell Us about Our Health and the World
by Peter Doherty
Melbourne University Press, $29.99 pb, 231 pp, 9780522861105
Read the rest of this article by subscribing to ABR Online for as little as $10 a month. We offer a range of subscription options, including print, which can be found by clicking here. If you are already a subscriber, enter your username and password in the ‘Log In’ section in the top right-hand corner of the screen. If you require assistance, contact us or consult the Frequently Asked Questions page.
Peter Menkhorst is a Melbourne-based zoologist specialising in mammal and bird ecology and conservation, particularly in devising recovery strategies for threatened species, and guiding their implementation. He has published extensively in both scientific and popular literature, including Mammals of Victoria (1995), a definitive book on the subject, and A Field Guide to the Mammals of Australia (2001, now in its third edition). Peter is currently part of a team preparing a new field guide to Australian birds for CSIRO Publishing.
By this contributor
Leave a comment
Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.
NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.