Shifting Baselines in the Outback

Daniel Pauley, a fisheries scientist, coined the term “shifting baselines” in 1995 to describe how depleted fish populations came to be considered “normal” by generations that had never experienced the teeming abundance their grandparents had known. The concept is now a fundamental one in conservation. As ecosystems change and as human memory dims, former states […]

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 Wolf Dies

Recently, a bounty was announced for the poacher of wolf designated as OR-33 that was shot in Klamath County, Oregon. Rob Klavins, a staffer at the non-profit Oregon Wild, wrote a eulogy for the animal, in which he lamented that “[O]f all the wolves I’ve been privileged to have some deeper understanding of, not a single […]

A wild flower, caged.

About 150 miles northwest of Tahiti lies Raiatea, 65 square miles, and the spiritual center of the Polynesian world. This week, a holy site there, Taputapuatea, was added to the list of UNESCO world heritage sites. Another world-famous marvel on the island is the tiare apetahi, an incredibly rare flower found only on Raiatea, and […]

Guest Post: Ashes, Ashes

We’re on vacation, kayaking through mangroves near Naples, Florida. My nine-year-old is in the bow, paddling like crazy, splashing me with his enthusiasm. My husband and six-year-old glide nearby. My view is limited. Tangled mangroves line the winding watery path, obscuring what’s within and beyond. I want to go slowly, to gaze at every statuesque […]

Redux: Coming of Age in a Trash Forest

My friend Taya and I were out at her parents’ country place, about twelve acres in the western foothills of the Cascades. I was maybe eight, visiting for the first time. Taya was taking me on a tour. We were struggling along, as short-legged people do through dense, early successional Northwest forest. She stopped and […]

Urban Wilderness and the “High Line Problem”

In October of 2013, I toured three miles of disused railroad line in Philadelphia. Some of it was underground, some on ground level, and some elevated. All of it was covered in spontaneous vegetation—garden plants, common weeds, and native species, a wild, diverse hodgepodge of over 50 species alive with fungi and butterflies and ladybugs. […]