About The Book





Giorgio the ‘Possum, and Other Stories from Nature, has been a long time coming. I started working on some of the essays long before I thought about assembling them into a volume of  28 VERY short stories about living things. So, why did I write this book? My original inspiration came when many, many years ago a friend gave me a collection of stories by Roger Swain. In his book, Field Days, Journal of an Itinerant Biologist, Swain writes about many different topics, from avocados to gypsy moths. Other writers who influenced me include David Quammen, Tom Horton, Annie Dillard, Michael Pollan and, most of all, the writings of John McPhee. It’s not that I consider myself in their league as a writer, but I am motivated – I believe – by the same desire they have to share the beauty of nature and the incredible variety of life forms.

Having taught biology for many years, mostly to non-majors in different fields of studies, I frequently saw among students a lack of interest and appreciation for living things. It became apparent that many students had lost connection to the natural world around them, and that their innate childhood curiosity was never revived during their high school years. This frustrated me a great deal, to the point where I began to do less of the “traditional” teaching approach of memorization and regurgitation  in favor of weaving facts into stories in which history, the process of scientific discovery, and the lives of the people who made discoveries, were of paramount importance. I wanted to make connections between biology and the students’ personal lives. I hoped to point out that no matter what field of work they eventually chose, there is a relevance to biological principles and organisms. It is in that spirit that I wrote this book that includes stories about viruses, bacteria, fungi, plants and animals and their surroundings. Although I originally did not intend it this way, there is in most stories an autobiographical connection, as well. Each essay includes history, folklore, interesting bits of facts, and is written in as plain and nontechnical language as I could muster. The chapters can be read in any order. The last chapter is a list of  reference material for those who wish to explore a topic further.



Giorgio’s name came to me after my wife and I had seen this little ‘possum for several days in a row, and we were looking to name him. I looked over at our refrigerator door, where we hang lots of pictures, and saw an ad by a famous Italian couturier. His name served as the inspiration to name our little friend.

The collection of essays includes stories about…

…bird flu and the virus that causes influenza…

H1N1 color picture

…Canada geese…


  …whitetail deer…

deer (cropped)


… beavers, beetles, mushrooms, earthworms, slugs, horses, bacteria, and many other life forms.


Table of contents (page number)

Introduction (1)

Kartoffelkafer (6)

Rebirth (11)

When Hearing Is Seeing (18)

Should We Stay Or Should We Go? (24)

Quo Vadis, Bird Flu? (30)

“The Cell From Hell…” (35)

“Every Face Gathered Paleness…” (39)

A Different Kind of Bank (46)

A Long Winter’s Sleep (52)

A Stone, A Windowpane And The Nightly News (57)

A Hidden World In Plain Sight (66)

Fly, Fly Away (70)

Autumn Delights (76)

I’m Drawn To You (82)

A Horse Of A Different Color 88)

“One If By Land…” (93)

A Sticky Situation (98)

Red Wigglers (103)

Bigger Than A Breadbox (109)

They Might Be Giants (113)

A Penny For Your Thoughts (118)

A Dammed Good Story (121)

Oh, Deer! (128)

Winter Musings (133)

Giorgio (137)

“A Rose By Any Other Name…” (142)

A Fish Story – Not! (147)

Additional Reading (149)



Your comments, messages and critique are welcome at jakobisr@gmail.com. All inquiries and messages will be promptly answered.