Zoo Story – meet the 6th grade amateur zoologist turned author

Gary Meaney is a 6th year pupil at Rathgar High School in Dublin with a passion for the natural world and the great diversity of living things it contains – he has just published his first book. Gary presents Zoology’s greatest mystery below…

My name is Gary, I’m eighteen years old and I recently published my first book, Zoology’s Greatest Mystery and 100 Other Wonders of Nature.

As far back as I can remember, the animal world has been an object of fascination for me. By the age of thirteen, I had acquired my fair share of animal knowledge, which I put to use on the popular online question and answer site Quora. Here I started writing articles about fascinating aspects of wildlife. After four years of writing on Quora, I now have fifteen thousand subscribers and over twenty million total views. There’s one comment I get online more than almost any other: the suggestion that I should compile my most fascinating answers into a published book. Challenge accepted.

When I first conceived my plan to write a nature book, I had no idea it would lead to such a chance interaction with a decorated zoologist!

When I started working on the book, the content itself was actually already done. I selected one hundred and one answers on my Quora page; they covered everything from flying snakes to shape-shifting vines, plus a microscopic creature that turned out to be perhaps the most baffling mystery in all of zoology.

The first real agenda was to present the text in an engaging format. I did this with the help of my dad, who helped me navigate the often confusing ins and outs of Microsoft Word. Once the formatting was done, there was a second hurdle to overcome: the photographs. My writing lends itself well to vibrant visual aids, which I’ve used in spades on Quora, but due to copyright licensing I’ve had to find replacements for nearly four hundred photos! Wikimedia Commons proved to be a godsend during this stage.

With the text properly formatted and accompanied by photos, I finally had a workable book. Only one final touch was missing: the illustration. I’ve always had a passion for drawing, so digitally painting a series of colorful vignettes for the book came easy to me. These illustrations are scattered throughout its pages and I think they are a unique personal touch.

Finally, I had a book that I was really proud of: Zoology’s Greatest Mystery: And 100 Other Wonders of Nature. All the while I had been emailing the nature authorities (Sir David Attenborough and others) in the hope that a brief review for the cover might be written. What I ended up receiving was something much, much more valuable.

Amateur zoologist turned author Gary Meaney

After a period of radio silence from the naturalists I corresponded with, I decided to check my spam folder – just in case. Lo and behold, I find an email from Richard Dawkins: a revered evolutionary biologist, author of the world-renowned book The selfish gene, and a man I greatly admire. He explained that, in the brief sample of the book I sent him, he learned something new about the evolution of felines, and had included the revelation (with reference to me and my book) in his next book. !

Delighted to be recognized by such a respected scientist, I looked forward to meeting him in person. Luckily, he traveled to Dublin shortly after the book’s release for a book signing. Here I offered him a signed copy of Zoology’s Greatest Mystery, which he remarked was an amazing achievement. He signed his own book for me, “with admiration”:

When I first conceived my plan to write a nature book, I had no idea it would lead to such a chance interaction with a decorated zoologist!

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage additional content which may place cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please check their details and accept them to load the content.Manage preferences

Zoology’s Greatest Mystery and 100 Other Wonders of Nature. is available now from Amazon UK, on ​​Kindle, audio, paperback and hardback – find out more here.

Lola R. McClure