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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University November 5, 2007 | Vol. 37 No. 10
A Field Guide to the Big (and Green) Apple

Leslie Day's 'Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City' will be launched this week at Gracie Mansion by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

In 2002, scientists from the American Museum of Natural History in New York ventured out into the city's Central Park to poke around its rich and complex layer of leaf litter. They made a big, yet tiny, discovery.

Hidden under the detritus — piles of broken twigs, soil, fungi, decomposing plants and tree leaves — lived what many believe is the smallest centipede in the world, a brand new species that has only been found in this one park.

The insect, dubbed Hoffman's dwarf centipede, is brilliantly golden in color, is less than an inch long and has 41 pairs of legs. Each day, thousands of park goers unknowingly walk right past or over these unique, tiny creatures.

The Big Apple — a land of skyscrapers and concrete — holds many such natural wonders, and Leslie Day would like to be your guide.

Day, a New York City naturalist, reveals this amazing urban environment in her new book, Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City, published this month by the Johns Hopkins University Press.

The foreword was written by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who will host the book launch on Wednesday, Nov. 7, at a special event at Gracie Mansion, the mayor's official residence. The event also will be attended by Adrian Benepe, New York City parks commissioner, and Johns Hopkins President William R. Brody.

Day says that she wanted to give New York's wildlife its due.

"There are so many different types of plants, trees and mammals in the city, but I wasn't aware of any other field guide," says Day, whose work clocks in at 352 pages.

She says that the discovery of Hoffman's dwarf centipede is just one example of how important these types of ecosystems are.

"It's common for scientists to find new species in places such as tropical rain forests, but the centipede discovery is just one reminder that the conservation of urban parks is important as well," she says.

In fact, New York just might be the most biologically diverse city in temperate America. The five boroughs sit atop one of the most naturally rich sites in North America, directly under the Atlantic migratory flyway, at the mouth of a 300-mile-long river and on three islands — Manhattan, Staten and Long — with miles of coastline.

The book combines original artwork by Mark A. Klingler, a scientific illustrator at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, with a variety of photographs and maps. It's touted as a complete guide for the urban naturalist, with tips on identifying the city's flora and fauna, and even maps showing the nearest subway stop. Readers will learn where to go to spot such animals as brown bats, red foxes and peregrine falcons — a once-endangered bird species that now thrives in New York, nesting in its skyscrapers and tall bridges.

The first part of the book talks about the natural and human history of the city. The second part is devoted to the creatures both big and small that call New York home, the geology of the area and its various trail systems.

Day is an environmental and life sciences educator at the Elisabeth Morrow School and an adjunct faculty member at Bank Street College of Education. She developed the City Naturalists Summer Institute with the Central Park Conservancy and has a doctorate in science education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She and her husband live on a houseboat on the Hudson River in Manhattan. Day grew up in the city and spent a large portion of her childhood playing in Central Park.

Klingler's artwork has appeared internationally in major scientific journals and popular magazines, as well as in museums and at art forums across the country. He trained at Carnegie Mellon University and Pennsylvania Academy of the Arts.

Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City is one of a growing line of JHU Press books devoted to America's largest city. Others include Taxi! A Social History of the New York City Cabdriver, New York Subways: An Illustrated History of New York City's Transit Cars and Grand Central Terminal: Railroads, Engineering, and Architecture in New York City.

The book, priced at $24.95 for the paperback edition and $55 for the hardcover, will be available at all major bookstores and through the JHU Press Web site,


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