• Real-World Geography: David George Gordon
    David George Gordon is a science writer and "bug chef."

    Photograph by Karen Luke Fildes, courtesy David George Gordon

    By Stuart Thornton

    Tuesday, August 9, 2011

    David is the author of 19 books about the natural world, including Creepy Critters of the Southwest, The Secret World of Slugs and Snails: Life in the Very Slow Lane, and, most famously, The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook.

    The success of The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook has allowed David to do bug-cooking demonstrations at places like the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle, Washington, the Food Festival in Singapore, and the Broad Appetit food festival in Richmond, Virginia.

    David also works part-time as a science writer for Washington Sea Grant in Seattle. “I take a lot of the scientific research and then translate it into understandable language for the general public and also for state and federal legislators who don’t really have the time to read a 200-page report,” he says.

    EARLY WORK

    “Since I was quite small—I mean really small—I’ve had a passion for animals and wildlife,” David says. “And I think that is reflected in my books.

    “To me, it’s interesting because I had this really strong desire to see nature even though it wasn’t important necessarily to my parents,” he says. “It wasn’t like I grew up in Belize, where wildlife is everywhere.”

    David grew up in the sprawling city of Chicago, Illinois, but he found ways to interact with nature and wildlife. “I would spend most of my daytime hours either exploring my backyard looking for bugs and things or over at Gompers Park looking for goldfish or whatever else I could find in the lagoon there.”

    After graduating with a biology degree from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, David worked as an aquarist in the city’s Shedd Aquarium before taking a similar position at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington. At the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, David discovered the type of animals he was most interested in. “I realized that it was the invertebrates—not so much the fish—that were really fascinating there,” he says.

    MOST EXCITING PART OF YOUR WORK

    “Currently, I think the thing about being able to travel is exciting,” David says. “I’ve been to 34 states and a couple of foreign countries doing cooking demonstrations. The other part of the fun is getting inside people’s heads and helping them understand their place in the natural world.”

    MOST DEMANDING PART OF YOUR WORK

    David says it is difficult to keep up with all the press and public interest in his books. “It’s also surprising because of my ‘Bug Chef’ thing, I spend a lot of time lining up where I am going to get ingredients,” he says. “Like I just bought four tarantula spiders. Managing the contents of my freezer is always a trip!”

    HOW DO YOU DEFINE GEOGRAPHY?

    “I think of geography as the lay of the land spread across the whole globe.”

    GEO-CONNECTION

    David has discovered that different cultures have different diets. “For example, I do talk about how we [Europeans and Americans] are weirdos, because we don’t eat bugs and everywhere else in the world they do,” he says. “I describe those places around the world.”

    David says the kind of bugs on a menu can change in different areas. “Knowing the difference between South Africa and North Africa and Central Africa, they have different bugs that they eat in those three places,” David says.

    SO, YOU WANT TO BE A . . . SCIENCE WRITER

    “I would say that people who are trying to follow in my path, they should basically find something that they are passionate about and then figure out ways of sharing their passion.”

    GET INVOLVED

    “I think one of the best things to do is to become a volunteer at a zoo or aquarium.”

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    aquarist Noun

    person who works at or with aquariums.

    aquarium Noun

    a container or tank where aquatic plants and animals are kept, or an institution that keeps such containers.

    biology Noun

    study of living things.

    city Noun

    large settlement with a high population density.

    culture Noun

    learned behavior of people, including their languages, belief systems, social structures, institutions, and material goods.

    demonstrate Verb

    to show how something is done.

    diet Noun

    foods eaten by a specific group of people or other organisms.

    Encyclopedic Entry: diet
    federal Adjective

    having to do with a nation's government (as opposed to local or regional government).

    food Noun

    material, usually of plant or animal origin, that living organisms use to obtain nutrients.

    Encyclopedic Entry: food
    general public Noun

    large population, not identified by demographic factors such as skills, income, or ethnicity.

    geography Noun

    study of places and the relationships between people and their environments.

    Encyclopedic Entry: geography
    globe Noun

    scale model of the Earth, or sometimes used to mean the Earth itself.

    Encyclopedic Entry: globe
    invertebrate Noun

    animal without a spine.

    lagoon Noun

    shallow body of water that may have an opening to a larger body of water, but is also protected from it by a sandbar or coral reef.

    Encyclopedic Entry: lagoon
    legislator Noun

    person who is part of an organization that makes laws.

    menu Noun

    list of food items served at a specific place or time.

    press Noun

    news media.

    research Noun

    scientific observations and investigation into a subject, usually following the scientific method: observation, hypothesis, prediction, experimentation, analysis, and conclusion.

    science Noun

    knowledge focused on facts based on observation, identification, description, investigation, and explanation.

    sprawling Adjective

    spread out.

    tarantula Noun

    large, hairy spider native to North America.

    travel Noun

    movement from one place to another.

    wildlife Noun

    organisms living in a natural environment.

    zoo Noun

    place where animals are kept for exhibition.

    Encyclopedic Entry: zoo
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