For a complete list of my published writing, click here.
Ecology & Wildlife
Oyster Coast, for Texas Parks & Wildlife
Droughts, hurricane after hurricane and industrial-scale harvesting pressure have changed the Texas coast and damaged the oysters that grow in its estuaries. Scientifically speaking, this bivalve mollusk is a bioindicator of its ecosystem, as Pollack says. But the charismatic oyster — a symbol for vitality, a muddy bivalve that can produce a pearl as well as a culinary delicacy that can be deep-fried or grilled or served raw on the half-shell — can tell as much about the people who eat them and how those people interact with their place.
For Wildlife Lovers, a Kind of Sophie’s Choice, for Sierra
The tribal officials immediately recognized that the upsurge of sea lions—along with the protections established by the MMPA—would be a problem for the Columbia River salmon runs. “Even the best laws have unintended consequences,” says Chuck Hudson, intergovernmental affairs director for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, a fisheries management agency representing four Native American nations on the Columbia. “Among those consequences is when a law protects one species so much that it conflicts with the Endangered Species Act.”
Grizzlies Dodge a Bullet, for Sierra
Scientists, conservationists, and tribal leaders have listed many reasons why it’s too soon to delist grizzlies and resume trophy hunting. Grizzlies reproduce slowly, for one. Another concern is connectivity: The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is essentially an island for grizzlies, beyond which lies an uncrossable sea of human-inhabited ranchland and subdivisions. This leaves the Yellowstone bears completely isolated. Grizzly recovery, Rice says, is less about reaching a certain target number of animals and more about connecting populations, allowing for genetic and demographic diversity to protect bears against serious threats like climate change and habitat loss.
Reforestation Experts Help Restore a Wild Blanco River, for Reporting Texas and The Austin American-Statesman
The infamous Memorial Day weekend flood of 2015 changed Wimberley and its people. Hundreds of homes were destroyed. Twelve people lost their lives. The river seemed to betray those who populated its cypress-shaded banks, which also changed. The flood deforested much of the riverside — uprooting iconic bald cypresses, pecans, sycamores and leaving behind mangled earth and debris. In a single night, it seemed that the ideal Hill Country riverside house with its shaded and manicured riverbank had met its match: a riparian environment in flux.
49 Years a Trapper, for Reporting Texas and The Austin American-Statesman
Dan Hepker drives deep into a tangle of yaupon and six-year-old pine saplings on a 900-acre ranch on the edge of town. Metal stakes and traps rattle in a box in the truck bed, alongside a trowel, mallet and a collection of glass vials containing odorous lures made from the glands of coyotes, bobcats, foxes and other fur-bearers, and a .22-caliber revolver.
Food & Agriculture
Recoupling the Farm and the Environment Around It, for Sierra
A seed is never just a seed, writes Mark Schapiro in his new book, Seeds of Resistance. “Like all environmental stories, start with a seed and you quickly end up in the realms of money and power—who has it, and who’s struggling to gain or regain it.”
Happy Hour Threatened When Needed the Most, for Sierra
A cold one at the end of the day could become scarcer on a warming planet. A report published earlier this fall in Nature Plants suggests that beer—the most popular alcoholic beverage in the world—could see higher prices and lower consumption by the end of the century because of climate change. “Although it may be argued that consuming less beer is not disastrous—and may even have health benefits,” the study says, “there is little doubt that for millions of people around the world, the climate impacts on beer consumption will add insult to injury.”
Rancher Takes an Unconventional Path to Restoring His Land, for Reporting Texas
Deep in far West Texas, the front-deck lights of an old ranch house shine into the desert night. Inside, Christopher Gill is drinking a Vienna-style Dos Equis after unpacking his bags from a Southwest Airlines flight he makes every other week between his home in San Antonio and El Paso. From there, it’s a two-hour drive to his home in the Sierra Diablo mountains.
Energy, Industry & Climate
Montana’s Paradise Valley is More Valuable Than Gold, for Sierra
Zinke signed the [20-year ban on new mining claims] on Monday at an outdoor ceremony in Paradise Valley, where the Yellowstone River flows through the Absaroka Range on its way to the plains of eastern Montana. The 10,926-foot Emigrant Peak stood half-shrouded in clouds over Zinke’s shoulder as he told local business owners, conservationists, and reporters, “I’m a pro-mining guy. But there’s places to mine and places not to mine.”
A Quarter of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Come From Public Lands, for Sierra
In 2016, the Obama administration’s interior secretary, Sally Jewell, ordered the USGS to collect data on greenhouse gas emissions associated with the extraction and burning of fossil fuels from federal lands. The agency focused on federal holdings both on- and offshore between 2005 and 2014 and found that an average of 23.7 percent of annual nationwide carbon dioxide emissions stem from energy sector activity in these areas.
Scott Pruitt Tried to Do More Harm on His Last Day on the Job, for Sierra
In the last hours of Pruitt’s tenure, the EPA announced that it would maintain a Clean Air Act loophole that allows Fitzgerald Glider Kits to keep building super-polluting trucks. Acting administrator Andrew Wheeler evidently has every intention of maintaining the loophole, essentially telling Fitzgerald to keep on trucking—no matter what it means for local air pollution.
To Think Like a Mosquito, for Berkeley Health
The deadliest animal in the world is a miniscule flying insect that carries disease. Mosquitoes, which to many of us in the United States aren’t much more than a backyard nuisance, transmit viruses like yellow fever, dengue, Zika, and chikungunya. These viruses can lead to symptoms like rash, vomiting, headaches, and even birth defects like microcephaly. Too often, they result in death. The World Health Organization estimates that mosquitoes account for the premature death of 720,000 people around the world each year.
Moving Beyond Medicine and Into Our Neighborhoods, for Berkeley Health
Mujahid became a social epidemiologist by asking why. When she was a graduate biostatistics student at the University of Michigan, a professor explained to her that all biostatistical models need to account for certain variables, including race, gender, and age. Statisticians understood that health disparities often fall along racial and ethnic divides, but Mujahid wanted to investigate the causes for these variables. “Race was associated with every health outcome, but I wanted to know why,” she says. “Why were African Americans more likely to live sicker and die younger?”
Book & Photography Reviews
The Wild Beauty of Summer Storms, for Sierra
Mike Olbinski’s 2014 Toyota 4Runner has over 200,000 miles on it and hundreds of small dents in the roof left by hail. Those miles span much of the American Great Plains, between Olbinski’s home in Phoenix over to West Texas, and all the way up to the Dakotas or Montana. The dents come from the weather he chases. A mounted laptop with radar, GPS tracking, and weather models tells him where to go. “You have to go where the storms are,” he says.
A View of the World From a Strand of Omega-3 Molecules, for Sierra
Like many people searching for better health and well-being, author and journalist Paul Greenberg found himself drawn to the promise of longevity—not only for himself, but also for the oceans, the fish that reside in them, and by extension, the larger planet that depends on those oceans.
Baptism by Wildfire-Fighting, for Sierra
When filmmakers Alex Jablonski and Kahlil Hudson decided to make a documentary about wildland firefighting, they wanted to get up close and personal with the men in the fireline. So they went there themselves. “We actually became firefighters to make this film,” says Jablonski. “If we were going to do this story right, we needed to experience it with these guys, and just be there all the time.”
Art Wolfe’s Arboreal Imagery, for Sierra
In his new book, Trees: Between Earth and Heaven, photographer Art Wolfe turns his lens to the woody and fibrous, carbon-sequestering perennials that define so many landscapes around the world. The book includes flat-topped acacias in the African savanna, towering spruce and cedar wrapped in moss, twisting and twining koas and banyans, and giant sequoias covered in snow. But to an artist like Wolfe, trees represent much more than the sum of their parts. “There’s a sacredness in forests that is unlike any man-made structures,” he says. Or as ethnobotanist Wade Davis writes in the introduction to the book, trees are “living entities, points of inspiration, and metaphors to propel our lives forward.”