Article

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.”

Vocabulary

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 country's 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.

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

Credits

Media Credits

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Writer

Stuart Thornton

Editor

Jeannie Evers
Kara West

Producer

Caryl-Sue, National Geographic Society

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