I have traveled by open boat 600 miles north of the Arctic Circle in search of the sites of three giant iron meteorites and once spent weeks living in a tent on the Antarctic plateau to document the work of scientists in that icy place. I've suited up as an analogue astronaut during a stint at the Mars Desert Research Station and allowed myself to be stationed in habitats at Biosphere 2 in order to write poetry. I've tracked down the identity and history of the young Ohio farm boy who inadvertently killed the last known wild Passenger Pigeon and I have worked in archives and libraries around the world.
All of this was in pursuit of stories, and stories form the backbone of my two research-driven nonfiction books, The Fallen Sky: An Intimate History of Shooting Stars (Tarcher/Penguin 2009), and Hope Is the Thing with Feathers: A Personal Chronicle of Vanished Birds (Tarcher/Penguin 2000), both of which were published to wide acclaim. Story could also be said to be at the heart of my three collections of poetry and lyric essays: Held as Earth; Bodies, of the Holocene; and The Underneath. As an anthologist, I've sought to bring the voices of others to new audiences, co-editing The Sonoran Desert: A Literary Field Guide, and, most recently, Beyond Earth's Edge: The Poetry of Spaceflight, which has been featured or reviewed in such venues as “Planetary Radio,” Scientific American and “The Open Mind” on PBS.
My new book --Still as Bright: A Backyard Journey through the Natural and Human History of the Moon--is forthcoming in 2024 from Pegasus Books in New York. The final chapter of the book will be based on my experiences in March 2023 leading an all-artist analog lunar mission at SAM, the Space Analog for the Moon and Mars at Biosphere 2.
Articles, poems and essays about space and astronomy are recent or forthcoming in Discover, Astronomy, Sky & Telescope, The Space Review, SkyNews and the Los Angeles Times, to which I contribute op-eds. My work has been featured or reviewed in many venues, including NPR's “All Things Considered,” USA Today, People, Science, The New Yorker, Nature and Michio Kaku’s “Science Fantastic.”
I have won fellowships and awards from multiple establishments, including the Whiting Foundation, the National Science Foundation and the Rachel Carson Center in Munich. Other awards include the John Burroughs Prize for Best Natural History Essay, the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award, the Glasgow Prize for an Emerging Writer, a UCLA Institute of Environment and Sustainability Journalism Fellowship and the New American Press Poetry Prize.
I have taught at Kansas State University, Utah State University (where I founded and edited Isotope: A Journal of Literary Nature and Science Writing) and at the University of Arizona, where, before retiring, I taught creative writing, the history of science fiction, and science communication. Former students have gone on to publish books with Little, Brown; William Morrow; Orbit; Broadway; Georgia and other presses. Through the Carson Scholars Program I have helped mentor nearly 100 young scientists to speak and write with accuracy and passion, work that has been recognized by a Graduate and Professional Student Council Mentor of the Year Award.
When not at the keyboard, these days I can often be found "hiking" the surface of the Moon through the eyepiece of my 10-inch telescope for my ongoing book project about the hunk of rock that circles this place we call home.