November 27, 2001

Book Chats Held In Mann Library

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Mann Library hosted the first of a series of book talks yesterday called “Chats in the Stacks.” The evening featured Prof. David Wolfe, horticulture, who spoke about his recent book, Tales from the Underground: A Natural History of Subterranean Life.

The evening opened with a welcome from Susan McCue, director of Mann Library and an introduction from Susan Henry, the Robert P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS).

“I think [Wolfe] is a great choice for our first presentation. It is a peek into a world most of us never think of,” Henry said.

Wolfe’s book, released in May, highlights the mysteries of life beneath the soil. Wolfe illuminated many of these unknowns in his presentation which included passages and quotes from his book.

“There is an incredible amount of life in the soil that we had been missing before,” Wolfe said, as he held up a jar filled with a “pinch” of soil. “Life beneath us outnumbers all that we see on the surface by two-fold.”

Wolfe mentioned many issues including Water Bears, tiny organisms that are “most famous for their unusual capacity to survive harsh conditions,” such severe cold or drought, earthworms, the “biological blenders” of the soil and the subjects of extensive research by Charles Darwin, and the human impact soil resources, such as dust storms.

Concluding his talk, Wolfe displayed a photograph of his daughter playing with the soil when she was young, to encourage his listeners to “restore [their] fascination with the natural world.”

“I really liked the talk,” said Terry Kristensen, a librarian at the College of Veterinary Medicine. “What I like about the book and his presentations are the amazing things, like [the information on] Darwin’s study of earthworms.”

Much of Wolfe’s motivation to write the book stemmed from his own fascination with plant ecology and organisms that affect soil fertility and plant health. While indulging his own interests, Wolfe also wanted to write the book to educate the public on the topic.

“I love talking about this subject,” Wolfe said. “I like the amazing facts and the audience enjoys it quite a bit, because there is a lot of material to work with.”

The audience, a mix of about 90 students, faculty and staff members seemed receptive to Wolfe’s ideas. A question-and-answer period at the end of the presentation provided further discussion of topics of interest.

“I thought it was interesting, as far as talks go,” said Varisa Huangyutitham ’04. “I had seen the book in the Campus Store and looked at the cover and read a little and thought the talk would be interesting.”

“Chats in the Stacks” will be returning to Mann Library in the spring, to feature a professor from the College of Human Ecology (CHE). The program’s goal is to hold one “chat” each semester, alternating between authors from CALS and CHE.

“We were looking to gather a mix of students, faculty and staff to come together for a common experience,” McCue said. “Since it was our first [chat] we didn’t know what to expect, but we got just what we were hoping for.”

Archived article by Rachel Einschlag