I was born and raised in Massachusetts, spending much of my childhood roaming around in the forest behind our house, that or reading comic books. At Yale I studied biology and then went on to get a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell, where I did research on the evolution and genetics of fruitfly mating songs. I wish I could play you the delightful honking, bleating songs of the fruitflies I studied, but alas they’re trapped in an ancient technology known as a floppy disk. You could listen to another fruitfly species’ song here but I warn you, it’s nothing musical like the crooners I studied.

After grad school, instead of getting a normal post-doctoral position, I became a fellow with a
program that takes disgruntled science graduate students and plops them down in news outlets to try out being journalists. I was sent to The Oregonian, the Portland daily. To my amazement, since the only news I regularly read was the arts section, I fell in love with science writing. What a glorious breath of fresh air compared with the stultifying labor-camp, sensory-deprivation tank of graduate school! It was equally exciting to discover the diversity in The Oregonian’s newsroom. Unlike the Ivy League where every one of my heroes was an old white guy, at the newspaper there were amazing women, Asian-American, Native-American, Latino and Latina, African-American and openly gay journalists all working under an African-American editor-in-chief.

The following winter, I started writing for
The New York Times as a news clerk in the science section until I left to become a regular and frequent contributor from afar here and afar there, lovely and interesting work where I was able to think and write about science, be edited by and interact with some really smart and cool people, and live wherever life took me. Thank you NYT.

Then in 2009, a longstanding fascination I’ve had with taxonomy - which everyone thinks is dull and fusty, but is actually a bizarre and ancient practice that reveals fundamental truths about what it is to be human - led to the publication of my book
Naming Nature.

I’m currently at work on a novel and a book of essays.

I live in the paradise some call Bellingham, Washington with my husband,
Merrill Peterson, a biologist at Western Washington University, and our son. Our daughter has fledged and makes art. I write, play with the family’s hypo-allergenic cat and read (currently All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, One Dark Crown by Kendare Black, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, and Volume I of the Complete Saga of Icelanders). I also like to go outside to look for animals, and spend time messing with my typewriter collection.