Latest Posts


The narcotic pleasures of trapping flies

Frederik Sjöberg's The Fly Trap, a memior and biography of the Swedish entomologist Rene Malaise (inventor of of the Malaise trap, something no serious fly collector would be without) may be the best book I've ever read on entomology -- except maybe for Hugh Raffles' Insectopedia. In this essay for TLS, which thankfully is free, I talk about the accomplished Malaise's descent into a sort of scientific crankery -- a conviction that the fabled sunken continent of Atlantis was real. Malaise’s sense of a destroyed world was based significantly, in Sjöberg’s view, on his youthful experience of a 1923 earthquake in Japan, in which the ground quite literally dropped out from under him. He never forgot it.  


A Course on Book Reviewing

I'm very happy to say I'll be teaching an online course, through the wonderful the Fine Arts Work Center, this spring. It's on writing book reviews, which I've done quite a lot of and still abolutely love. Please feel free to get in touch if you're interested! 


On Donuts and Politics in El Salvador

This is a little non-science piece for the New Yorker website on fast food in Central America and an intriguing donut mogul who is running for mayor of San Salvador, where I've been living for the past year or so. I wouldn't call it an entirely hopeful commentary, but it's slightly less depressing than the usual dispatches from this neck of the woods.


Are Jaguars Indomitable?

In the Wall Street Journal I take a look at Alan Rabinowitz's "An Indominitable Beast," a conservation book on jaguars and their extraordinary survival abilities both as individuals and as a species. Rabinowitz worked hard to establish the first jaguar reserve in the 1980s in Belize, and more recently, biocorridors through Mexico and Central America and into Brazil that should, in theory, guarantee the genetic diversity of jaguars. But how will any of this work if Nicaragua allows its monster canal to be built? Rabinowitz never says.  



Jairo's Legacy

In May of 2013, a young Costa Rican science worker, Jairo Mora Sandoval, was murdered by egg poachers while collecting nesting data for an international marine turtle conservation group. The international scandal that endued seemed to suggest that things might get better on the remote and dangerous Caribbean coast where Jairo worked. But six months afterward, I visited to find that little had changed. In an article for The Tortoise, the magazine of The Turtle Conservancy, I describe my trip to Limon, Costa Rica, where the cops who were supposed to be protecting turtle eggs and the people who study them, were in fact eating them, and anarchy reigned on the beach where Jairo died.