UNBOUND BOOK CLUB: “SPINELESS: THE SCIENCE OF JELLYFISH AND THE ART OF GROWING A BACKBONE” BY JULI BERWALD
7 p.m. Friday, March 30
A former ocean scientist goes in pursuit of the slippery story of jellyfish, rediscovering her passion for marine science and the sea’s imperiled ecosystems.
Jellyfish are an enigma. They have no centralized brain, but they see and feel and react to their environment in complex ways. They look simple, yet their propulsion systems are so advanced that engineers are just learning how to mimic them. They produce some of the deadliest toxins on the planet and still remain undeniably alluring. Long ignored by science, they may be a key to ecosystem stability.
Juli Berwald’s journey into the world of jellyfish is a personal one. More than a decade ago, she left the sea and her scientific career behind to raise a family in landlocked Austin, Texas. Increasingly dire headlines drew her back to jellies, as unprecedented jellyfish blooms toppled ecosystems and collapsed the world’s most productive fisheries. What was unclear was whether these incidents were symptoms of a changing planet or part of a natural cycle.
Berwald’s desire to understand jellyfish takes her on a scientific odyssey. She travels the globe to meet the scientists who devote their careers to jellies; hitches rides on Japanese fishing boats to see giant jellyfish in the wild; raises jellyfish in her dining room; and throughout it all marvels at the complexity of these fascinating and ominous biological wonders. Gracefully blending personal memoir with crystal-clear distillations of science, Spineless reveals that jellyfish are a bellwether for the damage we’re inflicting on the climate and the oceans and a call to realize our collective responsibility for the planet we share.
Included with Polar Nights admission. Book is available in the Anchorage Museum Store.
Future Unbound Book Club read:
April 27 – during North x North Festival
The Discovery of Slowness by Sten Nadolny
A quietly audacious historical novel that uses John Franklin’s life and career as the basis for some light-handed but absorbing philosophizing. The slowness of the title refers specifically to Franklin’s extremely subdued and careful manners, and his disconcerting habit of pausing for a long time before answering any question, but it also comes to stand for a certain way of seeing and responding to the world. Being fast means relying on pre-existing ideas and assumptions; being slow means being open to seeing the world in new ways.