Ocean Drifters: A Secret World Beneath the Waves

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9781554079827: Ocean Drifters: A Secret World Beneath the Waves

"Beasts that look as if they come from a science-fiction movie."
-- The Times (UK)

Beneath the waves lies a hidden microcosm of life: the world of plankton. These microscopic algae and the tiny animals that eat them float freely in the sunlit surface of the sea, where they underpin the whole marine food chain, provide the world with oxygen, and play an essential role in the global carbon cycle. Richard Kirby's high-magnification photographs and informative text bring out the beauty and variety of forms in the plankton, and explain how global change and rising sea temperatures are affecting this complex world with ramifications for the ecology of our entire planet.

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About the Author:

Dr. Richard Kirby is a molecular geneticist who has worked in the U.S. at the Hopkins Marine Station in California and the Belle W. Baruch Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences in South Carolina. He currently holds a Royal Society Research Fellowship at the University of Plymouth in the UK.


Individually, most plankton are tiny and unobtrusive, no larger than a grain of sand or a crumb of bread.... Collectively, however, plankton are mighty... Richard Kirby loves plankton as only a marine biologist can. Fortunately, he is also a master plankton portraitist. The roughly eighty photomicrographs in this book, in which his subjects appear backlist against a black background, highlight the grace and intricacy of plankton structure. Short paragraphs on facing pages describe the physiology and ecology of the highlighted specimens.... It's a celebration of magnificent diversity at the microscopic level. (Laurence A. Marschall Natural History Magazine 2011-11-01)

Plankton, defined by their habitat, not their taxonomy, are the foundation of the marine food chain--without them, marine life would go hungry and food chains would collapse. They also remove carbon dioxide from the sea and provide Earth's atmosphere with oxygen. Molecular geneticist Richard R. Kirby gives a close look at plankton diversity in Ocean Drifters: A Secret World Beneath the Waves. Along with 150 high-magnification photographs, Kirby's book explains how rising sea surface temperatures due to anthropogenic climate change will alter the sea's food web and the ecology of Earth. (Ann Chin Scientific American 2011-09-12)

Molecular-geneticist Kirby studies the diversity of plankton, displayed here in a series of highly magnified photographs that reveal not only the truly alien nature of many planktonic species but also their beauty. Producing approximately 50 percent of the world's oxygen, the phytoplankton are the plants of the plankton. Preying on the phytoplankton are the animal forms, the zooplankton. ... Kirby's bright and clear images are paired with explanations of what species is pictured and facts about its lifestyle. (Nancy Bent Booklist 2012-01-01)

Molecular geneticist Kirby aims to introduce readers to the world of plankton, which are nearly invisible to the naked eye, through a stunning set of high-resolution photos demonstrating the uniqueness of the different species, and the delicate balance they maintain with the rest of the world. Though Kirby uses enough scientific expressions to warrant keeping a dictionary on hand, the book is accessible to lay readers. It would be an excellent addition to school libraries, regardless of the age of the students, and will hopefully raise awareness of the ocean's fragile ecosystems. (Publishers Weekly 2011-10-17)

Not only does this book give you exquisite detail through high magnification photography, the author tells each story with a surprise. And I love surprises! ... I prefer to see the weird and wonderful surprises in living color, hoping one day to see them as colorful movie stars, surprising us further with the many ways plankton interact with the fluid life in the sea. I am buying a bunch of these books as graduation gifts to my students. Thanks to Kirby for giving me the opportunity to see life on the other side of the air/sea interface. (Jeannette Yen, Georgia Institute of Technology, At Quarterly Review of Biology, Vol. 87)

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