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This commentary is the text of an oral presentation delivered at the 88th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Mammalogists in Brookings, South Dakota, on 22 June 2008 to recognize receipt of the Joseph Grinnell Award for Excellence in Education in Mammalogy. Much has been written by previous recipients of the Joseph Grinnell Award about the declining interest in natural history and organismic biology in academia and in society in general. In the course of 40 years of university teaching and student advising, as well as field research with students on 5 continents, I too have witnessed this increasing abandonment of the natural world. This phenomenon seems to stem from changes in the early experiences of children and young people over the past ...

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