Boom & Bust: Bird Stories for a Dry Country

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Csiro Publishing, 2009 - Nature - 299 pages
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Winner of the 2009 Whitley Medal

In Boom and Bust, the authors draw on the natural history of Australia's charismatic birds to explore the relations between fauna, people and environment. They consider changing ideas about deserts and how these have helped to understand birds and their behavior in this driest of continents.

The book describes the responses of animals and plants to environmental variability and stress. It is also a cultural concept, capturing the patterns of change wrought by humans in Australia, where culture began shaping the landscape about 55,000 years ago as ecosystems responded to Aboriginal management. In 1788, the British settlement brought, almost simultaneously, both agricultural and industrial revolutions to a land previously managed by fire for hunting. How have birds responded to this second dramatic invasion?

Boom and Bust is also a tool for understanding global change. How can Australians in the 21st century better understand how to continue to live on this land as its conditions dynamically unfold in response to the major anthropogenic changes to the whole Earth system? This interdisciplinary collection is written in a straightforward and accessible style. Many of the writers are practicing field specialists, and have woven their personal field work into the stories they tell about the birds.

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Introduction boom and bust
The boom and bust desert world a birds eye view
Barcoo bantam It runs like hell
Rain and grass lessons in how to be a zebra finch
Grey teal survivors in a changing world
Australian pelican flexible responses to uncertainty
Night parrots fugitives of the inland
Genyornis last of the dromornithids
Rainbirds organising the country
Woodswallows a longer term evolutionary view of boom and bust
Whitewinged choughs the social consequences of boom and bust
Emu national symbols and ecological limits
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About the author (2009)

Libby Robin is an environmental historian who has had a long interest in conservation initiatives in deserts. Her books include How a Continent Created a Nation, which won the NSW Premier's Prize for Australian History (2007) and The Flight of the Emu, which won the Victorian Premier's Literary Award for Science Writing (2003). Her most recent co-edited book is Boom and Bust: Bird Stories for a Dry Country (CSIRO Publishing 2009), which won the Whitley Medal in 2009.

Leo Joseph is the Director of the Australian National Wildlife Collection, CSIRO, Canberra. He has been involved in ornithology as an amateur and research scientist for some 35 years and has published widely in national and international scientific journals.

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