About Me

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I've been a Canberran since moving here from Adelaide on the first day of 1980. I now live in suburban Duffy with my partner Louise Maher, ABC 666 radio and on-line journalist. Among my early memories is following Sleepy Lizards (Shinglebacks) around the paddocks north of Adelaide, guarded by the faithful bull terrier. I have always been passionate about the natural world, trying to understand how it works, how the nature of Australia came to be, and sharing those understandings. My especial passions are birds, orchids and mammals. For much of my life I have been a full-time naturalist, running bush tours, writing books etc, doing consultancies, presenting a regular radio slot on local ABC, chairing a government environment advisory committee and running adult education classes. Recently I have eased back somewhat, but am still writing, teaching, doing some radio work and running overseas tours - as part of my fascination with our Gondwanan origins I've been running tours to South America for the past decade. I was awarded the Australian Plants Society Award in 2001 and the Australian Natural History Medallion in 2006, both for services to education and conservation. In January 2018 I was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for 'service to conservation and the environment'.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Australian Bird Names; a new book

I don't generally advertise here, but I thought my new book - co-authored with friend, colleague and linguist Jeannie Gray - might be of interest to those who read this blog. 
It's been out for a little while, but I'm mentioning it now because it's just been awarded a Whitley Certificate of Commendation. I don't expect that to make you sit up and take notice, but in its own little field it's fairly prestigious. The Whitley Book Awards are granted annually by the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales for Australian zoological books published during the year; ours was judged to be "best book in the category Zoological Resource".

We believe it to be unique, and not just in Australia. Jeannie used her knowledge of Greek and Latin to elicit the meanings of names of every Australian bird species - family, genus and species - but perhaps more significantly tracked down and translated the original descriptions in a range of languages where there were ambiguities or uncertainties. I tried to extract every name ever used in English for each species, and to explain why. Needless to say we came across some great stories in the process. You won't be too surprised to hear that some of these contain some humour.

Anyway, that's enough skiting from me; here's the publisher's link to the book if you're interested.

Thanks for bearing with me; normal business will be resumed on Thursday!


Susan said...

Do you know the book Flora Britanica by Richard Mabey? It was a project to cover the social history of British native plants, so it has stories from people all over the country about what plants are called in their area and where possible, why.

My Biotope guide for the orchids of France, Belgium and Luxembourg (the native orchid bible for here) has explanations of the meanings of all the scientific names of the species. It's always nice to know.

Flabmeister said...

Congratulations on the Whitley Certificate of Commendation. Any award the book gets is richly deserved: it is brilliant.


Ian Fraser said...

Thanks Martin, I really appreciate those kind words; I'm still reeling from the honour actually.
I don't know Flora Britanica Susan, but I'll look it up.