Review of Recent mammals of Alaska, by S.O. MacDonald and J.A. Cook

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Burns, Jennifer M. (2010)

Billed as a summary monograph, this book is more precisely a catalogue of all mammals that have been documented in Alaska during the past 10 000 years, fronted by an introduction to mammalian collections in Alaska, and a short overview of Alaskan biogeography, and summarized in a set of appendices. In between these two segments are 116 1–2-page species accounts, each of which includes a brief summary of the taxonomy, distribution, abundance and status. In creating this text, the authors have summarized a great deal of detailed information gleaned from a thorough combing of both peerreviewed and grey literature. However, the aim of the book is centred less around describing the basic biology and ecology of Alaskan mammals, than on introducing the readers to the archived specimens that exist in museum collections. This focus reflects the training and expertise of the two authors, both of whom have spent their careers affiliated with natural history collections: S.O. MacDonald worked as a curator at the at the University of Alaska Museum (UAM) from 1979 to 1984, and is now curator in the Mammals Division of the Museum of Southwestern Biology (MSB) at the University of New Mexico, whereas J.A. Cook was the Curator of Mammals at UAM from 1990 to 2001, and now fills that role at MSB. Cook, MacDonald and their students have conducted extensive field collections in Alaska, and throughout their careers have advocated strongly that natural history collections are valuable research tools. This book serves as a summary of their work, and as a plea for continued efforts in these areas.
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