Duke biologist/poet is up to 'animal mischief'

Rob Jackson's biological and environmental research explores the scientific intricacies of global warming and biodiversity. But his humorous new book of poems, "Animal Mischief" http://www.biology.duke.edu/jackson/animalmischief.html (Boyds Mills Press), reveals a whimsical side to Jackson perhaps more like Dr. Seuss meets The Crocodile Hunter.

To a casual reader, Jackson's new book explores in whimsical verse a zoo of penguins, sharks, fireflies, armadillos, sloths, octopi and other creatures. But on closer reading, each poem contains a tidbit of knowledge about each animal, slyly aimed at interesting young readers in their biology. For example, there's the deceptively simple

"When an ant finds food around
It drags its stinger on the ground
To lay a trail of chemicals
Directions that the next ant smells"

For those young readers whose scientific curiosity has been piqued by the verse, Jackson has included a section of "Fun Facts" that gives more information about ants as well as the other denizens of his doggerel.

Said Jackson of the book's origins, "I started out for fun and never intended to publish the poems. I began writing them on sabbatical with my family in Argentina."

Traveling through the rain forest and deserts of Patagonia and the Andes with his wife and sons, "At night, I began writing these poems for our boys and then would read a poem or two the next day," he said. "It was a way of passing time while we traveled." Over time, and with the critical eye of his older sons Robert, 9 at the time, and David, 7, he arrived at the collection that would become "Animal Mischief."

"I could get a sense of which poems they really liked; which ones made their faces come alive," said Jackson of his young editors. "Their brother, Will, was only one, so he gave moral support from my backpack. Later, when I got serious about the coll

Contact: Dennis Meredith
Duke University

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