"Seeing Spots: Notes from the Underground," by Matthew Bettelheim

Wildlife biologist Matthew Bettelheim looks back at his years spent in pursuit of the burrow-dwelling California tiger salamander in Seeing Spots: Field Notes from the Underground.

“I learned how to operate a fyke net. To back up a loaded trailer. To execute a steering-wheel wave like a local. Walking along a dry cobble creek bed, even in the dead of night, I was as likely to encounter a wild boar as I was a pheasant or a skunk. Two of those we’d send fleeing into the night – one of those would send us fleeing for the truck. And one night I found myself walking alongside a rattlesnake who matched me slither for step down the creek, both of us looking for frogs, but for different reasons. But during my time served, I never saw the species I set out to see. We would drive miles from the nearest town down long aimless roads, passing gate after gate, to count invasive American bullfrogs by the thousands. I remember one beached seine haul where the belly of the net began hopping up the shore driven by a resourceful bullfrog so large, I swear he was the size of my face.”

Next Chapter: "Ticks, Quails, and Pollywog Tails," by Matthew Bettelheim