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Spineless
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A former ocean scientist goes in pursuit of the slippery story of jellyfish, rediscovering her passion for marine science and the sea's imperiled ecosystems. Jellyfish are an enigma. They have no centralized brain, but they see and feel and react to their environment in complex ways. They look simple, yet their propulsion systems are so advanced that engineers are just learning how to mimic them. They produce some of the deadliest toxins on the planet and still remain undeniably alluring. Long ignored by science, they may be a key to ecosystem stability. Juli Berwald's journey into the world of jellyfish is a personal one. More than a decade ago, she left the sea and her scientific career behind to raise a family in landlocked Austin, Texas. Increasingly dire headlines drew her back to jellies, as unprecedented jellyfish blooms toppled ecosystems and collapsed the world's most productive fisheries. What was unclear was whether these incidents were symptoms of a changing planet or part of a natural cycle. Berwald's desire to understand jellyfish takes her on a scientific odyssey. She travels the globe to meet the scientists who devote their careers to jellies; hitches rides on Japanese fishing boats to see giant jellyfish in the wild; raises jellyfish in her dining room; and throughout it all marvels at the complexity of these fascinating and ominous biological wonders. Gracefully blending personal memoir with crystal-clear distillations of science, Spineless reveals that jellyfish are a bellwether for the damage we're inflicting on the climate and the oceans and a call to realize our collective responsibility for the planet we share.
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About the Author

Juli Berwald received her Ph.D. in Ocean Science from the University of Southern California. A science textbook writer and editor, she has written for a number of publications, including The New York Times, Nature, National Geographic, and Slate. She lives in Austin with her husband and their son and daughter.

Reviews

"Spineless is as mesmerizing, surprising, and beautiful as the jellyfish itself. Every page contains some astonishing treasure. If you cherish the sea, if you care about the environment, if you relish life on this sweet, blue planet, you will love this book." --Sy Montgomery, New York Times-bestselling author of The Soul of an Octopus "Part travelogue, part memoir, part deep-dive (literally) into the world of jellyfish... Spineless can serve as inspiration for any of us to reclaim a creative space in the midst of family life." --NPR "[Spineless is] fascinating... This combination of insider and outsider perspective is uniquely suited to a book on creatures whose internal organs are visible through transparent outer layers." --Wall Street Journal "[Berwald's] sense of wonder is infectious and the book is a heartfelt plea for humans to fulfill their responsibilities toward nature." --New Yorker "In this memoir/science-reporting mash-up, [Berwald] profiles one of the ocean's most intriguing creatures--the unique contractions it uses to propel through water, its acidifying habitat and its booming populations." --Scientific American "An astonishingly gorgeous book... Science enthusiasts, curious animal lovers, and those who want to educate themselves more on climate change's effect on our oceans will find this book irresistible." --W Magazine "Berwald's clear, delectable prose is accessible... The book forces the reader to reconsider the future of our planet, and of our role in it. It will, at the very least, leave you with a newfound appreciation of the translucent, spineless jellies." --Buzzfeed "A wandering, compelling mixture of memoir and nature writing... [written with] clear, strong prose, a welcome help when dealing with the complex stew of biomechanics, chemistry and evolutionary theory that the subject entails." --Texas Observer "Breathtaking... What shines through this is Berwald's fascination with her subject, and the way it transformed a woman feeling stuck in her life and craving a new purpose." --Outside "There is perhaps no more soothing sight than the illuminated jellyfish tanks in an aquarium. In Spineless Juli Berwald brings us inside, unraveling a memoir about the scientific exploration of these strange, wonderful creatures." --Popular Science "Berwald offers an engrossing look at the enigmatic sea creature most easily recognised in its swimming 'medusa' form. . . . A revelatory science memoir." --BBC Culture "It's a story of personal discovery, rediscovery of the underwater world, and an earth-spanning journey to study these complex creatures, all the while throwing into stark relief the importance of understanding and protecting our increasingly endangered marine ecosystems." --Southern Living "Full of humor and intrigue, Spineless is a seaworthy saga brimming with information about not only jellyfish but also about the health and future of the oceans and our planet." --BookPage "Stunning memoir." --Bustle "Captivating and informative." --Publishers Weekly (starred review) "Unexpected and uniquely delightful." --Parade Magazine "In this astonishing adventure of a book, Juli Berwald takes us on a personal journey into the enchanting and mystifying aqueous world of jellyfish, and in so doing, sheds light on the vital ecological balances upon which our own survival depends." --Ruth Ozeki, author of A Tale for the Time Being

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