I think every undergrad biology major who wants to know more about the realities of field work should be urged to read this book. Instead of the usual focus on the science part of natural history expeditions - the data & conclusions - Jackson's memoir thoroughly examines everything but the science. (Okay, okay, there's a little science in there, but not much.) The heart of the book consists of her recounting of day-to-day life catching snakes (and frogs and toads and lizards) in the Republic of Congo, drawn from her expedition journals and later reflections. She offers loads of specifics on what it is like to be a working herpetologist: making initial contacts, designing and packing for an expedition, mentoring students, negotiating with local officials, working around bizarre regulations, preserving specimens in decidedly suboptimal conditions, dealing with infections and snakebite, etc. etc. etc. But it's never too much etcetera - because her warmth, humor, passion, and fierce intelligence light up every page. I felt like I really understood what her work in the Congo was like, and how it fit into the larger context of her life. I also appreciated that she took her time both explaining how she got there and describing what happened after she left. Highly recommended for armchair travelers who are curious about a modern-day biological expedition, for herp enthusiasts, and for those interested in the scientific life. Not recommended for the easily squicked, since it includes several loving descriptions of disgusting experiences.
TIGER link: QL31.J23 A3 2008