As animals adapt to a rapidly changing planet, wildlife conservation has become a critical issue. Many scientific books have been written on the issue, but none like Rosemary Mosco's "Birding Is My Favorite Video Game."
Her whimsical book features cartoons that are both funny and jam-packed with important facts about animals, plants, fungi, bacteria and most importantly, conservation. She artfully weaves together science and art — something we explored when we first introduced you to her Bird and Moon comics. Her uniquely unstuffy approach teaches readers surprising and unusual facts about nature that they may not have known.
Mosco recently talked with us again about why she uses cartoons to tell her stories and her goal for the what the book can accomplish.
Mosco has devoted her life and career to animals and the environment. Those interests have been in her blood since she was a little kid — and she blames her mom for that.
"I grew up assuming that all kids play with baby mantids, or hold seeds in their outstretched hands for chickadees, or flip rocks to find baby garter snakes. I was very lucky."
And her passion and curiosity for flora and fauna only grew as she got older.
"You can fall in love with birds, then switch to identifying plants, then discover dragonflies, then move on to rocks," she says. "Once you get a kid interested in some part of nature, it snowballs. You'll never get bored."
Mosco has been drawing since she was very young, but she didn't get the idea to combine her love of nature and art until she 10 years old at nature camp.
"We were treated to a lecture by an artist from the local natural history museum. He talked about dinosaurs while drawing cartoons the whole time, and doing funny voices, too! I had no idea you could mix art and science in this way. It was eye-opening."
But deciding on which facts work best in a comic format and coming up with a funny joke is easier said than done.
"Sometimes I start with a fact, sometimes a joke, and sometimes just a fun sketch. If the idea makes my friends laugh, and if it touches on some part of an animal's behavior or ecology, I stick with it. I spend a while fleshing it out and doing research. I rearrange panels and try different expressions. I tend to work pretty slowly. That's a frustrating part of making comics — five seconds' worth of reading can take a month to create."
And the hardest part of all Mosco says? Writing the jokes.
"I'm bursting with facts about nature. Every plant and animal is amazing if you look at it the right way. Pigeons? They mate for life and feed their babies milk from their throats. Mice? They sing ultrasonic tunes to woo their partners. The cool facts are endless. I find it much more difficult to craft a fact into a joke that will catch a reader's attention."
Through her jokes, she wants to "give people a laugh, encourage them to love the world around them and help them protect what they love."
Oh, and of course this: "I want them to appreciate the majesty of turkey vultures. Those birds are fabulously disgusting and criminally underrated."
Mosco covers a variety of topics in her latest book, which is divided into five parts — feathers, scales, fins & others, seasons, so you want to be a biologist and tips & tricks. Since it covers a wide variety of topics in singular cartoons, it doesn't have to be read in a specific order.
"I want people to read it like they'd experience a nature hike. They should ramble around and stop to examine anything that catches their interest."
But her book takes a serious tone when it comes to conservation and climate change. Mosco believes whole-heartedly that it's up to us to save this planet.
"Our wild creatures are already facing habitat destruction, species loss, the spread of pests and diseases and now on top of it, a shifting climate. It's tough and often disheartening. But we've got solutions, and we humans are uniquely good at tackling tough problems. I mean, your average endangered bird or fish is terrible at writing a coherent letter to its representatives."
Mosco hasn't lost hope.
"There are so many people working incredibly hard to keep all wildlife (including humans!) happy and healthy."
In the end, Mosco wants her readers to fall in love with the environment.
"I want people to discover that they live in an incredible world. I want them to fall in love with the plants, animals, fungi, bacteria and other life. And then I want them to feel empowered so that they protect what they love!"