The Curious World of Seaweed

Josie Iselin

The thin region where the sea meets the land is unlike either land or sea. It is betwixt and between, a threshold from one state to another. It is a linear point or a coastal ribbon, a place of dramatic change and remarkable abundance—abundance of life and also of possibility. The regions where continents meet the great oceans of our planet are long stretches of liminal space.

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Marine algae are the supreme eco-engineers of life: they oxygenate the waters, create habitat for countless other organisms, and form the base of a food chain that keeps our planet unique in the universe as we know it. In this beautiful volume Josie Iselin explores both the artistic and the biological presence of sixteen seaweeds and kelps that live in the thin region where the Pacific Ocean converges with the North American continent--a place of incomparable richness. Each species receives a detailed description of its structure, ecological importance, and humans' scientific inquiry into it, told in scientifically illuminating yet deeply reverent and inspired prose. Throughout the writings are historical botanical illustrations and Iselin's signature, Marimekko-like portraits of each specimen that reveal their vibrant colors--whether rosy, "olivaceous," or grass-green--and whimsical shapes. Iselin posits that we can learn not only about the seaweeds but also from them: their resilience, their resourcefulness, their poetry and magic.