Zoo Story – meet the 6th-year amateur zoologist turned author

Gary Meaney is a 6th-year student from High School Rathgar in Dublin, with a passion for the natural world and the vast diversity of living things it contains – now he’s published his first book. Gary you introduce Zoology’s Greatest Mystery below…

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

For as long as I can remember, the animal world has been an object of fascination to me. By the time I was thirteen, I had acquired my fair share of knowledge about animals, which I put to use on the popular online Q&A site Quora. Here, I started writing articles about fascinating aspects of wildlife. After four years of writing on Quora, I now have fifteen thousand followers, 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 hatched my plan to write a book on nature, I had no idea that it would lead to such a serendipitous interaction with a decorated zoologist!

When I started working on the book, the content itself was effectively already done. I selected a hundred and one answers from my Quora page; they covered everything from flying snakes to shape-shifting vines, as well as a microscopic creature that has proven perhaps the most puzzling mystery in all zoology.

The first real order of business was to lay out the text in an engaging format. I did this with the assistance of my dad, who helped me navigate the oft-bewildering ins and outs of Microsoft Word. Once the formatting was finished, there was a second obstacle to overcome: photographs. My writing lends itself well to vibrant visual aids, which I used in spades on Quora, but due to copyright licensing I had to find replacements for nearly four hundred photos! Wikimedia Commons proved a godsend during this stage.

With the text formatted correctly and accompanied by photos, I finally had a workable book. It just needed one finishing touch – 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 feel they are a unique personal touch.

At last, I had a book that I was truly proud of: Zoology’s Greatest Mystery: And 100 Other Wonders of Nature. All the while, I had been emailing authorities on nature (Sir David Attenborough and the like) in the hopes that one might write a brief review for the front cover. What I ended up receiving was something much, much more valuable.

Amateur zoologist turned author Gary Meaney

After a spell of radio silence from the naturalists I was corresponding with, I decided to check my spam folder – just in case. Lo and behold, there I find an email from Richard Dawkins: a venerated evolutionary biologist, author of the world-famous book The Selfish Gene, and a man who 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 upcoming book by him!

Thrilled to be recognized by such a respected scientist, I was eager to meet him in person. As luck would have it, he visited Dublin shortly after the book’s release for a book signing. Here, I gifted 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 hatched my plan to write a book on nature, I had no idea that it would lead to such a serendipitous interaction with a decorated zoologist!

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

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