The Naturalist’s Illustrated Guide to the Sierra Foothills and Central Valley

photo of a book titled The Naturalists illustrated guide to the Sierra Foothills and Central Valley by Derek Madden

Paperback, 5.5 x 8.5,
240 pages, with
over 700 black-and-white
ISBN: 9781597144865.

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By Derek Madden, Ken Charters, and Erinn Madden

California’s San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys and the nearby Sierra Nevada Foothills are host to abundant, varied, and often surprising plants and wildlife. This fully illustrated guide pairs over seven hundred meticulous line drawings with descriptions of the birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, fishes, invertebrates, plants, and fungi that make the Central Valley and Foothill Regions their home. Like a ranger-led nature walk, each species receives a lively overview; readers will learn about freshwater jellyfish, mushrooms that decompose railroad ties, handstanding spotted skunks, and salt-shedding pickleweed—not to mention insects. Every write-up not only contains fun facts but also conveys a sense of the complex connections and interactions that sustain life in a unique place. Previously published as Magpies and Mayflies (Heyday, 2005), The Naturalist’s Illustrated Guide to the Sierra Foothills and Central Valley features an attractive new cover, updated scientific and common names, and a full interior redesign.


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.

Ken Charters completed a degree in biology from CSU Fresno, and he continued his ecological research as a grad student at Northern Arizona University. Charters is currently a professor of biology at Cochise College where he teaches and studies ecosystem dynamics.

Erinn Madden graduated with a degree in biology from University of California, Davis, and has spent nearly a decade studying local ecology and animal movements through tropical ecosystems. He is currently a biological technician in Davis, California.