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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

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The sea otter is one of many marine mammals discussed in Berta's book. The sea otter is one of many marine mammals discussed in Berta's book.

Dive into Marine Biology

SDSU professor Annalisa Berta pens a book for anyone with an interest in marine biology.
By Julie Mashburn

There has long been a gap between scientists and nonscientists when it comes to understanding how the biological world works.  This void vexed Annalisa Berta, a biologist at San Diego State University.

An educator with 30 years of experience, Berta realized the challenge of teaching biology to non-science majors and the need to effectively communicate science to the public. 

After publishing other books geared toward biology students and professionals, Berta recently released a new book titled Return to the Sea: The Life and Evolutionary Times of Marine Mammals.

A Different Kind of Science Book

Berta drew on her experience teaching a non-major course on animal diversity to make this book appealing to general readers.  Complicated topics are presented so any reader can indulge their curiosity of their favorite marine mammals.

“My goal in writing this book,” Berta said “is to use marine mammals — their enormous appeal and charisma — as a vehicle to present aspects of their diversity, evolution, and biology and more generally science and scientific thought.

“As an evolutionary biologist, my focus is on the role that evolution has played in the marine mammals we see today,” Berta said. “It is the thread of evolution and knowledge of the past history of these fascinating mammals that helps us to understand their present day diversity and responses to environmental challenges.“

Nicholas D. Pyenson of the Natural Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, praises Return to the Sea for weaving “ecology, anatomy and evolution into an ideal entry point for anyone interested in knowing more about one of the most fascinating phenomena in macroevolution.”

About the Author

Annalisa Berta is a professor in the Department of Biology at San Diego State University.  Since earning a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, she served as the president of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology and associate editor of the scientific journal Marine Mammal Science. 

She works as the coordinator of the SDSU and University of California Riverside joint doctoral program in evolutionary biology.  Last year, Berta studied and presented lectures on comparative biology at the University of Pisa, Italy as a Fullbright recipient.