The Legacy of Lonesome Larry

This story has a happy ending. I promise. Every year before the turn of the last century, some 150,000 sockeye salmon made an epic journey: They traveled from the Pacific Ocean up the Columbia River, hung a right into the Snake, a left into the Salmon, and finally, after swimming upstream for 900 miles, arrived in the clear, icy waters […]

More Energy, Less Freedom

The writer and filmmaker Swain Wolfe spent his earliest years at a tuberculosis sanatarium near Colorado Springs, Colorado, where his father was the director. After World War II, the sanatarium closed, his parents divorced, and his mother moved Wolfe and his sister to a ranch in western Colorado and then, when Wolfe was a teenager, to Montana. […]

The Roads Not Traveled

On September 3, the U.S. Wilderness Act turns 50 years old. The law’s call to protect places “where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man” has always been poignant, and our enthusiasm for trammeling seems greater every year. So the Wilderness Act’s half-century mark has occasioned a great deal of handwringing. Does wilderness […]

Follow the Fish

For a landlubber, I’ve been spending a lot of time around fish. Not long ago, I plunged my hands into paddlefish guts for a story about caviar poaching in the Ozarks; last year, I spent several weeks in very fishy places on and around the Mekong River, researching an ongoing project about hydropower development on the […]

Draw Me a Picture of Nature

The literary critic Raymond Williams once wrote that “Nature is perhaps the most complex word in the language.” It’s a head-scratcher right up there with love, or goodness: We depend on it for survival, but we’re often not quite sure where it is, what it is, or whether we’re a part of it. Jessica Mikels-Carrasco, […]

Slay a Monster—With Science!

  “There are monsters in my mind,” my daughter said at bedtime. “Oh, honey,” I said. “Monsters don’t exist.” She glared at me. “Yes, they do.” I sighed. “Have you ever heard of allometric scaling?” Well, it didn’t go exactly like that.

Freezeproof a Fairy—With Science!

Tom Painter, a research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, studies snow hydrology in mountains around the world. He’s also a leading expert on the thermodynamics of fairies and princesses. Painter started his fairy-princess sideline a few years ago, when he was asked to lend his expertise to Tinkerbell: Secret of the Wings. In the movie—bear with […]

Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods

Allow me to introduce you to the hugag, a moose-like creature native to Minnesota, Wisconsin, and eastern Canada. “Its head and neck are leathery and hairless; its strangely corrugated ears flop downward,” wrote William Cox, the first state forester of Minnesota. “Its four-toed feet, long bushy tail, shaggy coat and general make-up give the beast […]