Science writing from physics to ecology

I write about science and the environment from Mount Rainier, Maryland, just outside the nation’s capital. I’ve written for science and general-interest publications including The New York Times, Nature, Science, Washington Post, Quanta, Inside Science, Science News, APS News, Johns Hopkins Magazine, Wesleyan Magazine, Discover, Aeon, Nautilus, Smithsonian and Slate.

Selected Recent Work

NEWS The Best Way to Protect the World’s Forests? Keep People In Them, Smithsonian, December 28, 2016
Indigenous leaders and conservationists argue for a new way to protect forests.

PROFILE America’s most innovative rancher, Wesleyan magazine, December 30, 3016
Anya Fernald blazes her own trail in the sustainable meat world.

NEWS In Temperate Forests, Edges Hold More Carbon than the Middles, Inside Science, December 19, 2016
A “green lining”: Edges of some temperate forests grow faster and absorb more carbon.

ESSAY What the death of an oak tree can teach us about mortality, Aeon, December 6, 2016
Trees are not like us — and we can learn from that.

FEATURE Scientists are close to building a quantum computer that can beat a conventional one, Science, December 1, 2016
Private companies big and small place their bets on a future quantum computer.

FEATURE Can community based-logging fight climate change?, Discover, November 4, 2016
How logging done right could save the forest and the climate.

NEWS Nature lovers may risk loving nature to death, Inside Science, November 3, 2016
Study quantifies threats to plants and points the finger — at us.

NEWS Your future smartwatch might be printed with an inkjet printer, Science, November 1, 2016
Carbon could challenge silicon in the realm of flexible electronics.

FEATURE Warning to forest destroyers: this scientist will catch you, Nature, October 4, 2016
Profile of geographer Matthew Hansen, who is shining a light on the dark world of deforestation.

OP-ED Update the Nobel Prize, New York Times, October 3, 2016
In which I suggest a way to modernize the world’s most famous science prize.

NEWS Peru signals space ambitions with Earth-monitoring satellite, Nature, September 15, 2016
Spacecraft could help scientists track logging, natural disasters and illegal mining.

BOOK REVIEW The socially savvy tree, Science, September 15, 2016
Review of The Hidden Life of Trees, a runaway German bestseller now available in English.

FEATURE Researchers Unpack a Cellular Traffic Jam, Quanta, August 16, 2016
How theoretical physics could help shed light on cancer’s deadliest act.

Republished at Wired

FEATURE Collaborations: Partners in knowledge, Nature, July 27, 2016
How to make collaborations between scientists and indigenous people effective and inclusive.

OP-ED The battle to save Dueling Creek, Washington Post, July 8, 2016
Why even a battle-scarred little suburban park is worth saving.

PROFILE Edward Bouchet continues to inspire, APS News, June 2016
Edward Bouchet, the first African-American to earn a physics PhD, didn’t get nearly enough recognition in his lifetime, but he’s a pretty big deal today.

PROFILE Traditional musician and storyteller Anna Roberts-Gevalt ’09 blazes a modern trail, Wesleyan Magazine, April 5, 2016
A profile of one of the most creative and forward-looking people in traditional music.

NEWS Battling the emperor of maladies, APS News, April 2016
Physicists and oncologists team up to make progress on cancer

FEATURE For some, Einstein’s space-time ripples have yet to break their silence, Inside Science, March 25, 2016
LIGO made the headlines recently, but how else are physicists looking for gravitational waves? (with a photo credit!)

OP-ED The ups and downs of the Bradford pear, New York Times, March 18, 2016
Of all the environmental evils in our world, is an ugly pear tree such a bad thing?

Followup blog post on gaining perspective on the Bradford pear

NEWS Reshaping the Chesapeake Bay, one living shoreline at a time, Washington Post, March 14, 2016 (with a photo credit!)
Scientists seek to re-envision coastal protection so it helps ecosystems instead of harms them.

OP-ED Chasing the rabbit in D.C., Washington Post, January 22, 2016
Why square dancing can make the world a better place.

FEATURE STORY The physics of life, Nature, January 5, 2016
From flocking birds to self-organizing molecules, physicists are seeking to understand “active matter” — and looking for a fundamental theory of the living world.

NEWS Indigenous people could be key to storing carbon in tropical forests, new report concludes, ScienceInsider, December 2, 2015
Too many times scientists have discounted indigenous knowledge, but on climate change the two communities are aligning. Indigenous leaders are attempting to use science to advocate for a stronger voice at the Paris climate talks.

FEATURE STORY Battling a giant killer, Science, August 21, 2015

An afternoon hiking among dead eastern hemlocks in Georgia led to more than two years of research and reporting, and ultimately to this story on the long, hard fight to save this beautiful and important tree.

FEATURE STORY Seventy years later, atomic bombs still influence health research, Inside Science, August 5, 2015
Seventy years later, radiation safety standards are still based on atomic bomb survivor studies. Scientists say it’s past time for an update.

FEATURE STORY Weighing the world’s trees, Nature, June 30, 2015

Using everything from simple tape measures to state-of-the-art satellites, scientists are trying to figure out how much carbon is stored in the world’s forests–and how long it will stay there.

OP-ED Cities as havens for trees, New York Times, December 25, 2014
A beautiful eastern hemlock tree in my neighborhood got me thinking about whether cities can help preserve trees that are threatened in the wild.

ESSAY These women should win a Nobel Prize in physics, Slate, October 6, 2014
Only two women have won the Nobel Prize in Physics. I profile 10 who deserve consideration.


My Writing

Why tell stories about science? Science, like any other endeavor, has characters, plot, intrigue and heartbreak. But perhaps unique among human pursuits, it inevitably progresses: We always know more than we did before. My writing sheds light on that process, showing what scientists know, what they hope to learn, and why it matters.

Writing – A nearly complete listing of my published work.

Editing – I have edited science stories, books, reports, blog posts and more.

Blog – Occasional essays and original reporting on a range of topics. Most touch on issues related to the environment and sustainability.

Multimedia – In 2012 I produced a series of pieces for the Perpetual Notion Machine, a science radio show in Madison, Wisconsin. I have also developed innovative posters, brochures, and videos on topics in physics and science education.

Music and Dance – I play traditional music and organize old-time music and dance events.

Check out my work, read more about me, and please contact me if you would like to discuss a project. You can also subscribe to my writing.