Ice, Fire, and Nutcrackers


A Rocky Mountain Ecology

Why do quaking aspens grow in prominent clumps rather than randomly scattered across the landscape? Why and how does a rufous hummingbird drop its metabolism to one-hundredth of its normal rate? Why do bull elk grow those enormous antlers? Using his experience as a biologist and ecologist, George Constantz illuminates these remarkable slices of mountain life in plain but engaging language. Whether it sketches conflict or cooperation, surprise or familiarity, each story resolves when interpreted through the theory of evolution by natural selection.
 
These provocative accounts of birds, insects, rodents, predators, trees, and flowers are sure to stir the reader’s curiosity. Who wouldn’t be intrigued by a rattlesnake’s ability to hunt in total darkness by detecting the infrared radiation emitted by a mouse? Or how white-tailed ptarmigan thrive in their high, treeless alpine environments -- even through the winter? The narratives, often brought home with a counterintuitive twist, invite readers to make new connections and broaden perspectives of a favorite outdoor place. 
Why do quaking aspens grow in prominent clumps rather than randomly scattered across the landscape? Why and how does a rufous hummingbird drop its metabolism to one-hundredth of its normal rate? Why do bull elk grow those enormous antlers? Using his experience as a biologist and ecologist, George Constantz illuminates these remarkable slices of mountain life in plain but engaging language. Whether it sketches conflict or cooperation, surprise or familiarity, each story resolves when interpreted through the theory of evolution by natural selection.
 
These provocative accounts of birds, insects, rodents, predators, trees, and flowers are sure to stir the reader’s curiosity. Who wouldn’t be intrigued by a rattlesnake’s ability to hunt in total darkness by detecting the infrared radiation emitted by a mouse? Or how white-tailed ptarmigan thrive in their high, treeless alpine environments -- even through the winter? The narratives, often brought home with a counterintuitive twist, invite readers to make new connections and broaden perspectives of a favorite outdoor place. 

George Constantz is an independent ecologist with special interest in fishes, streams, and watersheds. He has invested over twenty years working with grassroots watershed organizations to develop their scientific and organizational capacities. Dr. Constantz has taught biology and ecology at both the university and high school levels. His previous book, Hollows, Peepers, and Highlanders: An Appalachian Mountain Ecology, is now in its second edition.

Praise and Reviews:
“The species chosen have provided excellent vehicles [of how basic ecological principles play out] and should each be equally entertaining while informing the reader. Guidebooks and those on the nature of native plants and animals often have one persuasion: to contribute as a reference/fact source. This book goes much beyond that. The general reader will find its strength, beyond fascinating reading, will be the “why” things are the way they are. A well-rounded introduction to the Rockies.” —James Platz, Department of Biology, Creighton University

“I know of no other book quite like this one. I think anyone involved with teaching others about ecology and natural history in the Rockies would like Constantz’s book as a reference.”
—Dennis Knight, Professor Emeritus, Department of Botany, University of Wyoming

“The author creates a good naturalist's tale for each organism he addresses. These tales are based on his own keen field observations, anecdotes, facts, and a good grasp of the mechanisms of biological evolution… The narratives are scholarly and entertaining.”—Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research

“This book will find satisfied readers among scientists, teachers, hikers, and anyone interested in the organisms found on this planet.”
Southeastern Naturalist