The Channel Country is of special interest because its extreme aridity is disrupted unpredictably by summer monsoonal rains, causing massive flooding, and is followed by prodigious growth of plants and reproduction of animals, before returning to daunting conditions of drought. Yet, it is a region teeming with life, both plant and animal, possessing unusual capacities for existing there. It is also a region favoured by hardy pastoralists and their livestock, who have learned to coexist with this harsh climate.
In Meanderings in the Bush, the authors describe their many adventures and misadventures in the region, with its climate, its animals and its human inhabitants. They also discuss results of their research which reveals some of the secrets for survival of many of the native animals, including marsupials, rodents, birds and the remarkable desert crab. These studies are cast in the light of both the prehistoric and historic records of the Lake Eyre Basin, including the probable impacts of changing and/or stable climates, Aboriginal occupation, later European pastoral development and the influences of introduced exotic mammals.
Accessible narrative style
Vivid descriptions of some of Australia’s iconic desert country
Emphasises the importance of protecting fragile ecosystems from harmful anthropogenic perturbations
"…this book is a brilliant and absorbing expose of a facet of Australia that most Australians do not see (but should). It is also an entertaining way to learn about animal physiology, and what animal physiologists do, with the emphasis on the ecological side of things. And the enthusiasm of the authors is infectious, and their tales humorous….the book makes a great companion to Boom and Bust"
Stephen Debus, Australian Field Ornithology 2010, Vol 27
"This book is a true one. It speaks of zoological science in a unique land – the Channel Country of arid Australia – through personal and immediate experience. It is a book imbued with the joy of scientific discovery and of the fun that accompanies the life of the field biologist. It tells of the fascination that Professor MacMillen felt from the time of his first exposure to what he describes as ‘a land of ecological wonder’. In so doing, it happens also to tell the human side of several scientific marvels uncovered by Dick MacMillen, such as the extraordinary water-conserving abilities of Australian hopping-mice and the amazing paradox of the desert crab. The book is true, furthermore, because it revels in the contrariness of the Australian deserts, where flooded roads are as much a hazard as are the dust and bush-flies that one expects. Large periods of my own career have similarly been devoted to the joys and tribulations of outback life and exploration, and so I can vouch for its authenticity. I commend this splendid book to you."
Endorsement from Steve Morton, Group Executive, Manufacturing, Materials & Minerals, CSIRO
"This charming book relates some of the serendipitous stories emerging from four decades of field work in the Australian arid zone. These ‘meanderings’ – reflective writings, written for a non-technical audience – are important to the history of arid zone zoology in Australia…We in Australia, most of all, need to understand the adaptive features of creatures living with the boom and bust conditions of the Australian inland, and it is important that this book be available to us, and targeted to our readership."
Libby Robin, Historical Records of Australian Science, Vol 20 No 2, 2009
"It does inspire awe at the complexity of an arid existence on delicate water dependent creatures."
Pia Parker, WA Naturalist News, March 2010
Dick MacMillen, an American ecologist, spent the first of many research leaves in Australia in 1966. He was joined by his wife Barbara MacMillen, a geographer, on his third trip in 1983; both of them returning on three more trips, together with their Australian-born son. Their remarkable insights, both scientific and personal, convey a vivid picture of the unique nature of the Channel Country and its inhabitants, both animal and human, and the importance of conserving these qualities for future generations.