Working as a botanist for the Royal Horticulture Society, David Douglas landed at the mouth of the Columbia River in the spring of 1825. He made the first systematic collections of flora and fauna across many parts of the greater Pacific Northwest, often gathering flowers and fruit, then returning at a different time of the year to harvest seeds. Colleagues in Great Britain attached his name to more than 80 distinct species, including the region’s iconic timber tree. A colorfully illustrated essay collection, David Douglas, a Naturalist at Work examines various aspects of Douglas’ meteoric career, demonstrating connections between his work and the Pacific Northwest of today. From the Columbia River’s perilous bar to luminous mountain wildflower blooms; from ever-changing technology frontiers to the quiet seasonal rhythms of Native families gathering roots, Nisbet’s compositions collapse time to shed light on the area’s people and landscapes. Originally published in 2012 in conjunction with a major museum exhibit, this is the first paperback edition.
Jack Nisbet is a teacher, naturalist, and award-winning nonfiction writer who focuses on the intersection of human and natural history in the Pacific Northwest.
“David Douglas, A Naturalist at Work makes perceptive connections between people and place, and tantalizing connections across time.”—Barbara Lloyd McMichael, Bellingham Herald
“David Douglas: A Naturalist at Work is gorgeous, including beautiful maps, pictures, and illustrations. It is a text of beauty fit for a carved cedar coffee table. Nisbet opens the lens of history, as the text becomes a parallel experience where the reader visits places both in historical and contemporary time, effortlessly traveling between the two.”—Renée E. D’Aoust, author of Body of a Dancer
“History can so easily become a quaint side-story that seems beside the point in the modern day-to-day. It’s a skill—even an art form—to be able to engage people in the past so that it seems to matter as much as it actually does. David Douglas, A Naturalist at Work performs this task admirably. Nisbet’s ability to move back and forth across time, from the present-day (when he meets with tribal leaders, rides in a tugboat at the mouth of the Columbia or climbs a grand fir tree in search of an elusive cone at its crown) to the deeper past (when he returns to the pages of history) is the best part of this book. Engaged and engaging, the author becomes his subject—David Douglas the curious traveler and Jack Nisbet the time traveling naturalist. Readers can sink into the experience of learning and understanding more about the place where we live.”—Eileen Pearkes, author of The Geography of Memory