To Drink Or Not To Drink?

This week, a headline literally* gave me whiplash. The loss of 1,600 points on the Dow? No, don’t be silly. Another government shutdown? No, not that one either. I mean the big news. Backpackers no longer have to filter their water. Because there’s nothing in the water that can hurt them! Wow, right? Like many outdoor […]

It All Depends Where You Look

Last month, while on assignment in Cozumel for a story on sponges, I went diving on a beautiful reef. It was stunning – a world of color, dreamlike shapes, and life everywhere I looked. Normally, I would have just swam about, marveled at the pretty nature, and come back to my hotel with a fat […]

Redux: A Pilgrimage for the Soul

Everyone has their own version of pilgrimage, though we might not all call it that. A couple years ago I had the opportunity to join a group of actual religious pilgrims and took the opportunity to reflect on my own pilgrimage thousands of miles away. Sadly, the following year, a failing bridge cancelled the ride. […]

Peter Pan Complex

Last month I published a story in Nature about the sad story of the axolotl. It’s a tragic tale of an incredibly bizarre creature looking at extinction in the wild. Of the many odd attributes of the axolotl – ability to regrow limbs, giant cells, laughably big genome – the one that always gets mentioned […]

A Plant’s Nightmare

There is a semi-annual ceremony in the Vance house. At some point – perhaps after a sudden trip to the nursery or an impulse stop at a roadside garden – I bring in a bunch of new plants to the house. Then I remove the carcasses of the ones who have not survived the twisted […]

Goodbye to the Friend I Never Met

Saturday was the day I finally gave up. The last hope for the vaquita marina, the world’s smallest and most endangered cetacean, is gone. On Saturday, biologists working in the Upper Gulf of California announced that the latest animal they had captured in an effort to save the species had died in captivity. For the first […]

Redux: Stranger in a Foreign Land

This story has little do with science. Unless you consider the science of empathy. We often think of empathy as a form of pity but in ethology that’s not what it is at all. It’s about seeing the world through someone else’s eyes. And nothing has help me more with that than living in Mexico. […]