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I’m a researcher and writer in ecolinguistics and environmental communication. Get my weekly digest of nature writing ideas/tools:

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About me

Hi there! My name is Gavin. I have an M.A. and Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. My main research examines how language and culture shape human relationships with threatened species and places, with most of my work focused on Hawaiian green sea turtles in Hawai‘i. …

Ed Yong on the Craft of Science Writing and Communication

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When it comes to science writing and communication, there are few writers as skilled at their craft as Ed Yong. He’s something of a science writing prodigy. His writing spans topics ranging from the microbes that inhabit our bodies and orca conservation to language genes and most recently, the current global pandemic.

In fact, Yong’s coronavirus reporting has been widely praised as some of the most well-researched, compelling, and informative coverage on the pandemic. He currently covers science as a staff writer for the Atlantic, and his work has appeared in National Geographic, Nautilus, Scientific American, Wired, Aeon, Nature, the…

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James Nestor’s book ‘Breath’ chronicles the new science on the ancient art of better breathing.

“If I had to limit my advice on healthier living to just one tip, it would be simply to learn how to breathe better.” — Dr. Andrew Weil

When I first started reading James Nestor’s new book, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, I was curious but skeptical. Why do I need to learn to breathe better? I’ve been breathing my whole life. It seems like I’ve been doing it pretty well so far. On average about 25,000 times a day. After all, I’m still alive.

Perhaps if you meditate or practice yoga, you are aware of how…

2 ‘Structuring’ tips to get started reverse-engineering how great nature writers write

Photo by Hayley Maxwell on Unsplash

*Note: I will be adding storygram techniques for nature writing that I collect over the coming months to this article, so feel free to bookmark this post as a “growing reference” for your own nature & science writing.

When it comes to developing our writing skills, whether we’re journalists, academics, memoirists, or something in between, there is one general strategy I repeatedly draw on: reverse-engineer the writing of your favorite writers.

Or, as the brilliant science writer and recent Pulitzer Prize winner Ed Yong puts it:

‘Actively deconstruct the work of good journalists in an attempt to decipher and reverse-engineer…

Super-smelling conservation dogs are fast becoming essential partners in the 21st-century fight to protect the planet’s threatened ecosystems

Photo by Tadeusz Lakota on Unsplash

Lily, a 12-year old Labrador, has worked as a conservation dog in places around the world from Arizona to Cameroon. Her work has helped conservationists monitor endangered wildlife populations like black-footed ferrets and gorillas, or root out invasive species like zebra mussels attached to boats and pepperwood in Wyoming.

Fenix, a small Belgian Malinois, helps keep rhinos safe from snares and poachers in North Luangwa National Park, in Zambia.

Briar, a 4-year-old Brittany, tracks down the invasive devil weed in Hawai‘i in conservation efforts to restore native ecosystems across the Hawaiian Islands.

And Eba, a five-year-old mutt, works as a…

“The reason for writing is simple. Through writing you will learn what you think and you will come to know yourself.” — Deborah J. Haynes

Photo by Julia Joppien on Unsplash

In this article, I do two things: 1) define what I mean by keeping an ‘everything notebook’. And 2) show how I incorporate nature writing into this notebook through daily nature writing, or what I call ‘ecojournaling.’

First of all, my personal approach to note-taking draws inspiration from the Everything Notebook, an approach to note-taking-for-writing created by Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega.

The Everything Notebook evolved from the daily demands of writing in academia, involving things like writing research papers, preparing talks for conferences, and recording notes from readings. …

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. And that space is our power to choose a response…”

Page 45 from Emily Dickinson’s herbarium. Houghton Library, Harvard University (public domain).

Suleika Jaouad is an award-winning journalist and author of the New York Times column and video series “Life, Interrupted.” The series is about Jaouad’s self-described ‘encanceration’ as a Leukemia patient over the course of four years in her mid-20s.

After leaving the hospital, recovering from an ordeal doctors told her she had a 35% chance of surviving, she wrote a memoir about her experience, and her experience of recovery after, called “Between Two Kingdoms.” The title is inspired by a book by acclaimed photographer and author Susan Sontag called Illness as Metaphor. Sontag writes,

“Everyone who is born holds dual…

A new law in Idaho permits killing over 90 percent of the state’s wolves

Photo by Thomas Bonometti on Unsplash

In Idaho in early May (May 5 2021), Republican Governor Brad Little signed into law a bill that allows people to kill more than 90% of the state’s wolf population, estimated to be around 1,500 wolves.

To give some context to this bill and offer some takeaways for environmental communicators, in this post, I look at four issues:

  1. a brief history of America’s wolf eradication efforts for over a century,
  2. the reintroduction of wolves to national parks in the 1990’s and the surprising scientific discovery of the role wolves play in creating ecologically beneficial ‘trophic cascades,’ and…
  3. some takeaways for…

How Environmental Communication Can Help Us Avoid A Ghastly Future

Photo by Samuel Scrimshaw on Unsplash

In January this year, a ‘perspective article’ was published in the journal Frontiers in Conservation Science, ‘Underestimating the Challenges of Avoiding a Ghastly Future.’

In it, more than a dozen co-authors, mostly in the biological sciences, paint a grim picture of the future humanity faces if we stay on our current trajectory: a sixth mass extinction, biodiversity loss, growing resource conflicts, climate disruption, ecological overshoot, and overconsumption tied to ‘population growth.’

“Humanity,” the authors argue, “is causing a rapid loss of biodiversity and, with it, Earth’s ability to support complex life. …

3 powerful formulas from pros in research and science-based writing

Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash

When it comes to the most challenging parts of writing a research paper, the intro might seem to be the easiest hurdle to accomplish. But how to write good introductions was one of the questions I was asked the most as a writing teacher.

The truth is, whatever I happen to be writing at the moment, whether a short essay, an academic journal article or even a book, I still struggle with intros the most.

Generally speaking, there tend to be two kinds of writers in my experience as teaching academic writing: let’s-see-what-happens-ers, and planners. While the first group tends…

Gavin Lamb, PhD

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