Born December 19, 1952. Education: Attended Northwestern University and Western Washington University; University of Washington, Ph.D. Addresses: Home: Washington, DC.
World Wildlife Fund, former lead scientist and vice president for conservation science; RESOLVE, director of biodiversity and wildlife solutions.
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Award, 2007, and AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books, both for Tigerland and Other Unintended Destinations.
- (With others) A Conservation Assessment of the Terrestrial Ecoregions of Latin America and the Caribbean, World Bank (Washington, DC), 1995.
- (With M. Olson, P. Hedao, and others) Global 200 Ecoregions, World Wildlife Fund (Washington, DC), 1997.
- The Return of the Unicorns: The Natural History and Conservation of the Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 2003.
- Tigerland and Other Unintended Destinations, Island Press (Washington, DC), 2005.
- The Kingdom of Rarities, Island Press (Washington, DC), 2013.
Eric Dinerstein worked for the World Wildlife Fund as lead scientist and vice president for conservation science. He then joined the staff of RESOLVE, serving as director of biodiversity and wildlife solutions. Dinerstein is a renowned wildlife conservationist who specializes in tropical mammals, bats, rhinoceri, seed dispersal, community ecology, large mammal biology, and biogeography. His books include The Return of the Unicorns: The Natural History and Conservation of the Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros, the award-winning Tigerland and Other Unintended Destinations, and The Kingdom of Rarities. In the latter volume, Dinerstein finds that most rare species are rare because they thrive in small, specific habitats. While humans can have a hand in driving species toward extinction, some species exist on the brink without human intervention. These uncommon species (both plants and animals) exist in remote and untouched regions, from New Guinea to Bhutan, and they thrive in rare and specialized ecological conditions.
Dinerstein explains in The Kingdom of Rarities that he first became interested in the biology of rare species while working as a survey ecologist in his early twenties. As his work took him around the globe, Dinerstein attempted to seek out and study as many rare species as possible. Dinerstein also believes that these species are overlooked by the scientific community, resulting in gaps in scientific understanding of evolution, habitats, and ecosystems. The author thus attempts to compile forty years of his research; he examines how rare species play a part in impacting larger surrounding ecosystems, and how this in turn affects more common or endangered species. The book is divided into nine chapters, each focusing on different regions and their specific ecological issues. Dinerstein also shares how historical and political action or inaction has affected local habitats.
Commending the book on the Guardian Grrl Scientist Web site, a critic remarked: "In this engaging and thought-provoking chronicle, we tag along with the author as he shares the story of his lifelong quest to appreciate rarity in all its facets. ... We sit next to him before crackling campfires when he joins fellow scientists and listen as they explain their life's work to understand the many nuanced reasons that make some species rare. Dinerstein examines decades of research in both mammals and birds and, in contrast to so many books I've read, he frequently discusses findings for plants, too. Passionate but never polemic, Dinerstein deftly weaves together findings from many disparate fields of research, along with the urgent necessity to conserve these rare species." Janet Raloff, writing in Science News, was also impressed, advising that "armchair naturalists will delight in following Dinerstein as he treks the globe to find uncommon species and figure out why they are rare." Lauding Dinerstein's efforts in his Maclean's assessment, Brian Bethune observed: "In prose that is both lyrical and exact, he takes readers through various 'motherlodes of rarities.'" While Choice correspondent K.K. Goldbeck-DeBose noted that Dinerstein wrote The Kingdom of Rarities "for those with an understanding of natural history/biology, he expertly weaves in examples to provide a solid context for laypersons."
In the Wall Street Journal, Jennie Erin Smith found that "one of the lingering lessons of The Kingdom of Rarities is how much science can be required to determine why a species is rare. Predicting future rarity is more torturous still." Emilie Holland, writing on the Rhode Island Natural History Survey Web site, reported that the work ends in the high Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, a nation "which has committed to conserving an astounding 60% of its land area under native forest cover." She added: "From this vantage point Eric Dinerstein poses the idea that, in order to find lasting solutions to conserving our biodiversity, we will need to find a way to mainstream conservation into our cultural, economic, and even religious norms, by linking a science-based approach that focuses on populations, with a philosophy that gives ethical value to individual species and their well-being. A lofty goal perhaps, but one that is being achieved in a country, traditionally perceived as poor by the outside world, where they measure their conservation achievements not in terms of economics, but in terms of 'gross national happiness.'"
Further commenting on the nature of conservation further, Dinerstein told NPR Online interviewer John Nielsen: "In the midst of bad news which gain the headlines there are these important stories which if you just dig a little deeper you see the perseverance and the dedication [of the people, institutions, and nations] who have committed to restoring these populations over the next few decades. They're still at work, they're still out there, and they deserve all our support. It's a courageous effort and it requires tremendous patience and tremendous courage to be out there doing what they're doing and they deserve all our credit."
FURTHER READINGS ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
- Booklist, September 15, 2005, Donna Seaman, review of Tigerland and Other Unintended Destinations, p. 15.
- Choice, September, 2013, K.K. Goldbeck-DeBose, review of The Kingdom of Rarities, p. 103.
- Maclean's, February 4, 2013, Brian Bethune, review of The Kingdom of Rarities, p. 61.
- Reference & Research Book News, April, 2013, review of The Kingdom of Rarities.
- Science News, November 26, 2005, review of Tigerland and Other Unintended Destinations, p. 351; April 6, 2013, Janet Raloff, review of The Kingdom of Rarities, p. 30.
- Wall Street Journal, February 1, 2013, Jennie Erin Smith, review of The Kingdom of Rarities.
- Guardian Grrl Scientist, http://www.theguardian.com/science/grrlscientist/ (July 9, 2014), review of The Kingdom of Rarities.
- Island Press Web site, http://islandpress.org/ (August 4, 2014), author profile.
- NPR Online, http://www.npr.org/ (June 12, 2006), John Nielsen, author interview.
- Rhode Island Natural History Survey Web site, http://rinhs.org/ (November 22, 2013), Emilie Holland, review of The Kingdom of Rarities. *