Magpies and Mayflies: An Introduction to Plants and Animals of the Central Valley and Sierra Foothills

Exploring California's diverse ecosystems

Follow biologist Derek Madden as he explores some of California’s most diverse ecosystems.

Most often associated with rich farmland, bountiful orchards, spreading cities, irrigation channels, and well-traveled highways, California’s Great Central Valley and nearby Sierra Nevada Foothills have long hosted abundant, varied, and often surprising plant and animal life.

Meet the pickleweed, which survives in intensely alkaline soil by concentrating the salty water on the tips of its branches; lentinus, a hairy-capped mushroom called “train wrecker” because it decomposes railroad ties; the river otter, which has nearly one thousand hairs per square inch of skin; and hundreds of other miracles that carry on their ancient lives in a much-changed environment.

Overflowing with fanciful yet accurate illustrations, Magpies and Mayflies delves deep into the natural world of the Central Valley and Foothills.

About the Authors

Derek Madden is a professor of biology at Modesto Junior College. He is best known for his discovery of a new species of parasite, and for his work on African ants and giraffes. Madden spent nearly ten years roaming roadsides and habitats of Central California, often illustrating wildlife as cars rushed by, or under intense summer sun or in the rain and fog, to document the life of California’s “Outback” region.
Ecologist Ken Charters has documented the natural history of California for over two decades.
Cathy Snyder is a science education specialist. As both a tenured primary school teacher and an adjunct professor of biology, Snyder has introduced thousands of students to the natural wonders of this region.