MECHANICSVILLE, Va.—Welcome to “Wanderers and Wonderers,” a blog about my personal ramblings through the realm of the exploration and environmental narrative.
While I hope you will find this blog interesting, it is a working blog for me in that I will use it to organize my thoughts about the exploration and environmental narratives that serve as inspiration and models (of what not to do as much as of what to do) for my dissertation work in the Media, Art, and Text program at Virginia Commonwealth University.
With my dissertation, I hope to produce an ecoliterary project that inspires us to enhance our appreciation of the sea and encourages us to rethink our relationship with it. Those of you who know me personally—whether as an environmental journalist; as a former instructor of biology, geography, meteorology and oceanography; or just as an occasionally loudmouth acquaintance—know I care deeply about the terrestrial and marine environment.
My dissertation project is another step in a long journey that vaguely began four decades ago with a fascination with exploration. I cannot remember all the details. I remember reading about explorers even before I began elementary school. I have—or I hope my parents still have—an LP (or album, that vinyl precursor of the CD and MP3) that dramatized some key moments in human exploration of the Earth. (If they have it, it ‘s probably next to the Alvin and the Chipmunks album that my parents can lose without fear of as much as a grimace from me.) Even after I quit listening to the album, I continued to check out dozens of volumes on explorers and exploration from my neighborhood’s branch of the Shreve Memorial Library.
I began to take more concrete steps on the journey that brought me to my dissertation project in 1980. In May 1980, I—then a biology student at Louisiana State University in Shreveport—took the first of a series of field courses and expeditions to study the natural world that fascinated me. This first field course, to Mexico, was as memorable for the culture shock I experienced as much as it was for the landscapes—ranging from the desert of the interior, the tropical rainforest of the south, and the ancient ruins of Teotihuacan.
This blog commemorates some of my research travels. The photo used as a header for this blog was taken on a research trip to the Blanca Massif area of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of Southern Colorado in 1984. The photo that accompanies this post was taken on an oceanographic expedition to study plastic pollution in the North Atlantic Ocean in 2010.
I took another concrete step on the journey bringing me to this dissertation project in 1980—I got involved with the Tensas Conservancy Coalition. I was recruited by the dynamic Skipper Dickson to join the group, which was fighting to save the Singer Tract, one of the largest expanses of unprotected bottomland hardwood forests remaining in the Mississippi River Valley. Despite the Reagan administration’s attempts to kill funding for a planned national wildlife refuge, we gathered 30,000 letters from across the nation—and across the political spectrum, mind you—who supported our goal to “Save the Tensas.”
That effort has encouraged me to never give up on saving the environment no matter how bleak the circumstances. And right now, circumstances look pretty bleak for the sea.