Scientific American // Team Players
In this November 2018 feature article, Dr. Rogier Braakman and I share the growing consensus among microbiologists that interactions among different organisms - not winner-take-all individualism - signifies the dominant mode of life on Earth. We blend journalistic reporting and explanations of our own research to provide readers with wide-ranging context and caveats; ultimately, we demonstrate that microscale interactions enable new modes of metabolism, drive evolution, and control biogeochemical cycles on a global scale. The final paragraph is excerpted here:
“We still have much to learn about the microbial communities that underlie the natural world and the role of collaborations. The results to date suggest that close metabolic partnerships drive evolutionary dynamics and open up vast new realms for colonization. But researchers have only just started looking at interactions beyond the microscopic scale, and placing these new findings into context in the real world continues to be a major challenge. How many species can interact in a meaningful way? How do the general principles shaping these interactions change in different environments or at different scales of space and time? A dense web of interacting microbes might mean that human-caused environmental influences could ripple through the entire network and lead to worldwide consequences we cannot yet anticipate. Continuing to decode these microbial networks is crucial as we enter an era of dramatic global change.”
Undark Magazine // The High Seas Are Being Exploited. Exploration Must Keep Pace.
In [this op-ed], I argue that recent UN discussions about establishing a framework for conserving areas of the high seas are a promising development for the scientific and environmentalist communities. An excerpt:
"As we enter, complicit, into the “sixth extinction,” we are influencing biomes across the planet before we understand them, precluding the opportunity to catalog, preserve, appreciate, and utilize the full range of Earth’s biodiversity. This pattern extends to the high seas, and as the U.N. develops a new legal framework for their conservation, the marine science community has a critical role to play. We must share the scientific stories of these waters — the engines of our planet that support immense biodiversity and critical climate sustaining processes — emphasizing that protecting the high seas is a boon rather than a burden.
Accelerating scientific exploration, to survey both imminently threatened ecosystems and unseen wonders, will start to fill in the blank spaces on the map. Given the accelerating pace of high seas exploitation, the opportunity cost of doing nothing — a whale nursery gone unprotected, or a powerful antibiotic gone undiscovered — would be an immense and irreversible loss. There are simply too many remarkable discoveries on the horizon, and building a strong and scientifically robust basis for conservation will empower future generations to enjoy their benefits."
Undark Magazine // The Virus Hunters
My [latest feature] follows an intrepid group of researchers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as they trace the ecology of potentially dangerous viruses among different animal populations. From bat caves to bonobo sanctuaries to hospitals, the team is working to understand virus distributions and prevent spillover events that could lead to a pandemic. But in a notoriously under-resourced country like the DRC, the challenges - both scientific and logistical - often seem insurmountable.
Discover Magazine // Contributing Writer
At Discover Magazine, I wrote weekly articles about the science that is pushing the boundaries of biology, from the deep sea to outer space to the brave new world of synthetic biology.
WIRED Magazine // Contributing Writer
From 2012 to 2015, the Extremo Files was a part of the WIRED Science Blogs network. Approximately 200 articles covered a range of subjects, focusing on microbial life, space science, science diplomacy, and exploration.
Falling Walls // Falling Walls Fragments
Since 2013, I have served as a contributor to Falling Walls Fragments, the journalistic arm of "The International Conference on Future Breakthroughs in Science and Society." My associated work can be found [here].
Synbiobeta // special series on DNA Synthesis
The confluence of affordable sequencing, DNA synthesis, and increasingly complex synthetic biological techniques is re-shaping applied microbiology. This series checks in on several of the companies leading the charge as they build the future of industrial production and basic research.
Martian diaries // Exclusive access inside Mars Science Laboratory Mission Control
For the first few months of the Mars Science Laboratory mission's primary phase, I was granted exclusive access to mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. I worked alongside the science team to describe the mission planning process and share some initial results. A selection of the fourteen resulting articles is provided below, but all can be found [here].
The New York Times // Green, Inc. // Environmental Reporting Around the World
Environmental, economic, political, and social interests are converging rapidly as hydrocarbon production expands among nontraditional players and alternative energies become cost-competitive, fueled by technological ingenuity and local, off-the-grid needs. This extended series for The New York Times offers a sense of how this multi-pronged dynamic is affecting communities around the world. A selection is provided below, but all articles can be found [here].
Selected Other Projects
WIRED Online // [Ski Racing Science]
Vision Magazine // [Ocean Exploration: The Deep Space Age]
WIRED Online // [Ai Weiwei's Technological Future]
The Christian Science Monitor // [Haitian Music Schools]
The New York Times // [On the Ground With Jeffrey Sachs]
Geographical Magazine // [Capital Decisions in South Sudan]
Earth Island Journal // [Dangers of The Jellyfish Oceans]
Selections from my work have been taught in science writing courses at Michigan State University, Western Washington University, and the University of Maryland.