I owe my existence in this wet green crease of the Universe to three generations of ancestors who lived in the Oregon Coast Range. I was raised in the rural Willamette Valley foothills near Eugene on an outdoor diet of fishing, hunting, backpacking, and mountaineering. My taste for foraging and far-flung ideas led to a Bachelor’s degree in biology at Western Oregon State University and a Ph.D. in evolutionary genetics from the University of Kansas.

I believe that the soulful music of words can change the world. I’m a biologist and deeply grateful for all that humankind has learned over the millennia. But I was a musician before becoming a scientist, and have come to understand that science requires more than rational discovery to make a difference in the world. Science needs love songs everyone can sing, melodies of water springing from deep aquifers of wisdom into the bright light of day, becoming joyful sunlit riffles running over bright stones, pouring into thoughtful pools sheltering small dark trout, streams that meander across our external and internal landscapes, weaving us into the land from which we came and where we belong. To become alive, science requires a Place in which to live. So while my writing covers a lot of ground, almost all of it is rooted in the rain-soaked Pacific Northwest.

I love running, rain, running in rain, and hunting for almost anything, including clams, calypso orchids, deer, dogwood blossoms, elk, errant thoughts, fossils, firewood, obsidian, old bones, old forests, orange agates polished to perfect roundness by beach sand and endless pounding waves, sunsets, sunrises, salamanders, salmon, salmonberries, wild mushrooms, Wild Turkey, wild turkeys, and that Lazuli Bunting singing his beautiful blue-orange brains out from a dead tree in a desert canyon. And I love my family–my parents, my wife, my daughter, my son, his wife, and my handsome white-haired grandson.

I'm comfortable in front of crowds and passionate about engaging people in the natural world through teaching, speaking, and readings. For eighteen years I've taught a popular University of Oregon course on amphibians and reptiles, and have led hikes and workshops designed to enthrall children and adults with these creepiest of crawlies (check out my course website).  I'm captivated by the internal conflict many of us experience regarding our place in the world. I've spoken on the role of human evolution in this clash of ideals, and the need for artistic expression in making peace with our inner turmoil. I'm the president of the Eugene Natural History Society, a wonderful grass roots environmental education organization, and write a monthly column for their publication Nature Trails.

Care to watch and listen? Here are videos from a few of my multitude of book readings.


If you’d like to love my writing, please read my book Blackberries in July: A Forager’s Field Guide to Inner Peace.