A sampling of my work. Click on publication title for further information about each article. To open a new window that links to the article, click on underlined article title below list of articles.
Stories in Stone
To see my blog with short pieces mostly about building stone please go to stories-in-stone.blogspot.com
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
In August 2005, I was fortunate to travel to Alaska to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with a class from the University of Washington's Program on the Environment. It was an amazing experience to visit this austerely beautiful landscape. Let me put my feelings in simple terms "It would be a true crime to have any development in the Refuge. This landscape must be protected." If you are interested in my trip, I wrote a five-part series for grist.org. Click here to access what Grist calls Dispatches.
Triassic Park: On the Origin of (Dinosaur) Species (February 2011)
Benchmarks: December 31 1853, Dinner in a Dinosaur (December 2010)
Benchmarks: November 27, 1873, Red River Logjam Removed for Good (November 2010)
Books: The Mountains of Saint Francis is a Tribute to Italian Geology (October 2010)
Books: Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose (September 2010)
Benchmarks: August 2, 1922, Marines Invade Teapot Dome, Deepen Scandal (August 2010)
Books: Giving Credit Where Credit is Due, Two New Books Chronicle the Life of Fossil Hunter Mary Anning (July 2010)
Impact Theory: Sexy Geology for Better or Worse (June 2010)
Dinosaurs' True Colors Revealed (May 2010)
Ancient Elephants "Rose from the Dead" (April 2010)
Following the Stone Trail of the Bunker Hill Monument (March 2010)
Watching Stone Crumble (February 2010)Watching Stone Crumble (February 2010)
Mississippi Delta Drowning (November 2009)
Benchmarks: "On the Origin of Species" Published (November 2009)
Book Review: Passing Strange (August 2009)
Re-examing the Burgest Shale (August 2009)
Finding Water in the Heart of Darkness: Afghanistand's Ongoing Water Crisis (July 2009)
Old Plutonium Reveals New Secrets (June 2009)
Travels in Geology: Exploring Lake Baikal, The Sacred Sea (April 2009)
Rewriting Rivers (March 2009)
Footprints in Kileaua Ash Not From Warriors (March 2009)
Glaciers Present A Comlicated Tale (March 2009)
It's Dirty Job, But Someone Has To Do It (September 2008)
Talking Fossils (May 2008)
Travertine: A Tie That Binds Two Great Structures (April 2008)
Poetry in Stone (June 2007)
Digging Dinosaurs (January 2007)
Book Review: Bedrock - Writers on the Wonders of Geology (August 2006)
Ramping up Italian earthquake studies (May 2006)
Cascadia Up Close (September 2005)
Mass extinction, massive problem (April 2005)
What’s in a Name? (August 2004)
Natural Inquiries: Watching Evolution in Action (February-March 2007)
Rising From the Ashes (May 2005)
In the Hot Seat (September 2005)
Bacteria Builders (March 31, 2008)
Metric Mission (April 7, 2007)
Bug Blocker (May 9, 2005)
Fastest Food (May 9, 2005)
Snappy Meals (April 18, 2005)
Sprouting Phones (April 18, 2005)
Revealing the Secrets of Time (Fall 2004)
A Mountain’s Majesty (May/June 2003)
Learning Centers (January/February 2003)
Conspicuous Consumption (April/May 2002)
The Glacier in the Crater at Mount St. Helens (Fall 2005)
Red Slugs (Winter 2005)
Scientific American Explorations
The Big Sleep (Winter 2001)
Street Tree Safari (Spring 2000)
Pick Up and Go (Spring 2000)
Downtown Rock Hound (Fall 1999)
Seattle Times Pacific Northwest Magazine
A Little Goose Poop (7/17/05)
The Strange History of the Ship Canal (4/30/00)
Playgrounds of the Imagination (5/2/99)
Stories in Stone (1/24/99)
The Seattle Weekly
In Search of the Original ‘Seattle’ (2/16/05)
Alien Invasion (September 2003)
What Lies Beneath (June 2001)
A Wrangle Over Darwin (September/October 1998)
Lessons in Stone (November/December 1997)
Lethal Beauty (Winter 2005)
The Sparrow War (June 2002)
Washington Trails Association
Back to My First Backpack Trip (May 2005)
It's Dirty Job
In the past few years, fossil feces, or coprolites, have become an important tool for understanding the past. Coprologists have been able to reconstruct the diets of dinosaurs and date when humans first arrived in the new world. The field has a long history beginning with the eccentric geologist William Buckland. hamburgers.
Travertine: A Tie that Binds
Few building materials in the world have the pedigree of travertine, a type of limestone deposited in hot springs. Two of the most famous travertine structures were built 2,000 years and half a world apart: the Colosseum in Rome, Italy, and the Getty Museum, a $1 billion multi-building complex in Los Angeles, Calif. Based in part on a chapter from my upcoming book, Stories in Stone, this article weaves together the building of these structures with the observations on the geology of travertine.
A review and conversation with Ray Troll and Kirk Johnson, the illustrator and author of Cruizing the Fossil Freeway, a wonderful road trip across the American West in search of fossils, fossil collectors, and hamburgers.
Robinote some of the most beautiful and evocative poetry in the 20th century. He also built a stunning house and tower on the lows cliffs rising from the sea at Carmel, California. Based in part on a chapter from my upcoming book, Stories in Stone, this article discusses Jeffers' home and poetry, as well as the geology around Carmel.
Paleontologists are living in a dinosaur renaissance. New data-analyzing techniques, new species, and new areas to search have helped researchers make huge leaps in understanding how and where dinosaurs lived and died.
Cascade Up Close
Ever since geologists discovered that the Cascadia subduction zone can generate magnitude 9-plus earthquakes, they have tried to better understand its history and potential for motion. Two new studies offer insights that can help planners and geologists.
Mass extinction, massive problems
The great debate continues over the Great Dying—the largest of all mass extinctions, which occurred 250 million years ago when up to 90 percent of marine organisms and 70 percent of terrestrial organisms died off. The latest round of research casts doubt on an extraterrestrial impact as cause of the extinction event.
What’s in a name?
For many geologists, an ice-cold Rolling Rock beer at the end of a long day in the field is a fine tradition. What better way to wind down than to drink a beer that honors a geologic setting? Rolling Rock stood out for many years as one of the only brews with a geologically themed name, but that designation, however, has begun to change with the advent of microbreweries and a new breed of beers that seem designed especially for geologists. Referencing features and rocks from the pre-Cambrian to the Holocene, these beers give geologists one more reason to get out and do field work.
Red crossbills, with their crossed bills, are an unusual and often unexpected winter visitor. They also exemplify evolution at a microscale and appear to be evolving a new species in Wyoming.
Rising From the Ashes
A short introduction to the ecological changes at the mountain since its eruption in May 1980. I was fortunate to be able to go out in the field with ecologist Charlie Crisafulli, who has been studying St. Helens for 25 years. Of particular note were the hundreds of toadlets we saw at one lake and the lushness of plant life on the Pumice Plain, just in front of the volcano’s crater.
In the Hot Seat
In October 2004, when the most recent eruptive cycle at Mount St. Helens began, the first eruption destroyed a data gathering station in the crater. To obtain new data, geologists at the Cascades Volcano Observatory developed a simple metal tripod, known as a spider, which they could drop into crater without having to put a person on the ground.
New research shows that bacteria are essential to the formation of travertine.
NASA finally decides to make metric the standard for going to the moon.
Every camping trip seems to have one person mosquitoes don’t bite. Why? Scientist James Logan says it’s because the person stinks—at least to mosquitoes.
So you think you eat fast? Ever heard of star-nosed moles? They can stuff 10 items in their mouths in just 2.3 seconds. We can barely blink that often in the same amount of time.
When your next meal can fly away in the blink of an eye, you have to be fast. Venus flytraps can snap shut in one-tenth of second. Now, scientists know how the plants are such good hunters.
British researchers have come up with a novel way to discard old cell phones: Plant them in the garden.
Revealing the Secrets of Time
“ Everything you can ever think of preserved in the fossil record, from microscopic pollen to 35-ton Apatosaurs, I can probably find you an example of it in at least one park, if not more than one,” says Greg McDonald, Paleontology Program Coordinator for the National Park Service. The rich history of fossil finds in parks has helped paleontologists answer many important questions about life. Unfortunately, many visitors steal fossils from parks but there is legislation in the US Congress to address this issue.
A Mountain’s Majesty
Mt. Rainier can be seen by millions of people sitting in backyards, parks, traffic jams, and office buildings across Washington state. For over 100 years, the Mountain, as they call it, has served as a symbol of the protected wilderness and beauty that makes the Pacific Northwest a special place. But has the region's popularity made this icon a biological island threatened by a rising sea of development?
In August 1999, the National Park Service established a five-year action plan called the Natural Resource Challenge (the Challenge). The Challenge, supported by $100 million in base funding, seeks to both improve science gathering within national parks and to disseminate that knowledge to park employees and the general public.
Over the past few years such wildlife-human interactions have become commonplace in national parks. Mule deer at the Grand Canyon have attacked people to get food. Marmots at Sequoia National Park have chewed through the wiring of cars parked at trailheads so often that returning visitors show up with chicken wire enclosures to encircle their vehicles while they are backpacking. At other national parks, black bears have become so habituated to stealing food from tables, tents, and cars that rangers have had to kill the bears to protect people.
Glacier in Mount St. Helens
The glacier in the crater at Mount St. Helens is the youngest glacier in the country and the only one to have a full photographic record of its growth. It has been growing actively, unlike most glaciers in the lower 48, and now averages over 390 feet in depth. It is the also only glacier that sits atop a growing dome of lava, which has recently split the glacier in two.
On June 24, 1933, California naturalist Tracey Storer made an historic collection in Seattle. While visiting the home of William F. Thompson, Director of the International Fisheries Commission, Storer picked up a several-inch long slug, known scientifically as Arion ater, which he then took back south. His slug now floats in a jar of ethanol at the California Academy of Sciences. What makes Storer’s slug historic is that it was the first known specimen of this European native ever found in the western United States.
Scientific American Explorations
The Big Sleep: The Hows and Whys of Hibernation
It's winter. The temperature is dropping and food supplies are dwindling. What do you do? Humans turn up the heat, put on warmer clothes or travel to Palm Springs. Most animals don't have such luxuries and must retreat into burrows or caves and enter into a state of lethargy where they lower their body temperature and shut down their metabolism until spring returns. Some, like wood frogs, take this a step further and survive winter by letting their bodies freeze solid, becoming frogsicles, while some insects defy winter by preventing internal freezing down to -36°F.
Pick Up and Go: The Hows and Whys of Migration
As spring spreads across the land, it brings a fantastic movement of animals as diverse as buffleheads, elk, and monarch butterflies. Why do temperature, food, and mating requirements affect migration? How do animals use chemical clues, celestial signs, and the earth's magnetic field to find their way?
Downtown Rock Hound: The Geological Stories of Rocks Used as Building Stones
What should you do if your kids really like the rocks and minerals they see in school, and they want to know where they can learn more about geology? Take them downtown to investigate buildings that display an assortment of rocks, minerals, and fossils rivaling many natural landscapes. As opposed to my other stories on building stones, this one takes a generic approach, and does not focus on a specific locale.
Seattle Times Pacific Northwest Magazine
A Little Goose Poop: Messing with Mother Nature can get you in deep doo-doo
Forty years ago, sighting a Canada goose would have caused most Seattle residents to stop and stare at this handsome symbol of wildness. Now, many city dwellers just wish this magnificent bird and its poop would go away. I look at the historic plan to introduce in Canada geese into new habitats, dubbed Operation Mother Goose, to illustrate how we manipulate urban wildlife and then complain about the problems we created.
This article is an adaptation of one chapter of The Street-Smart Naturalist.
Washington Trails Association
Back to My
First Backpack Trip (This
link will open a PDF file of this story)
I have few memories of my first backpacking trip, but I know this: I hated it. The trail was steep and the switchbacks endless. It rained the entire time. Someone knocked down the line holding up our rain fly. I awoke cold, wet, and crying. I didn't poop. And yet, to this day, I love to backpack.