My amazing peripatetic 2013

It began in May with a long trip back East.

NickThe trip was sandwiched between a shoot and the edit for an Oregon Field Guide piece with ace videographer Nick Fisher. 2013 was the 40th anniversary of Oregon’s landmark law protecting farmland. The famed Senate Bill 100 has prevented Oregon from being transformed into the same sea of suburbs you see in every other state.

OR farmland aerialInstead, Oregon is a place of small cities, punctuated by farmland and forests. Senate Bill 100 is why Oregon is a foodie mecca, and why Intel’s Oregon campus is a “sticky” location. The story of SB100 is also the backbone of my book’s first chapter, set in Oregon.  In between those TV stints, I joined a dozen more science and environment journalists on Cape Cod

MBLat the Marine Biological Lab in Woods Hole.


measuring CO2

We were Logan Science fellows, about to get a taste of hands-on science. I arrived with one key assumption: that the job of scientist comes with a lot of boredom, because of all the testing and re-testing before suppositions can become theories.

To gather data for a handful of ongoing experiments, we trekked up to the venerable Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

lakeThere are now dozens of experimental forests, including the Andrews Forest in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, but at Hubbard Brook, scientists have been measuring the same things for decades.

Erin waterWe spent two days measuring CO2,

sampling water,

and sampling more water.                    Erin water

and – my favorite – listening to bird calls. See the birdhouse?

NH green

soil pit

Digging soil pits was fun, too.


The hiking tested my legs more than the number-crunching tested my math skills back at MBL. We learned to do – and redo – experiments on our samples.


Finally, we presented our findings as PowerPoints, just as real scientists do. What I learned: far from being bored, scientists work on many different things at the same time.

scientist journo

So, it turns out that a love of variety is another way scientists are like journalists, along with skepticism, open-mindedness, curiosity, critical thinking, creativity, persistence, passion for the work, ethics, and a commitment to accuracy in pursuit of truth – or as close to truth as we can get with the first draft of history.

atlantis dock

The Logan was unlike any other fellowship I’ve ever done. We even got on the R/V Atlantis’ deck before it left on a three-year voyage.


The research vessel is owned by MBL’s sister marine center in town, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

bound for astoria

Note the Atlantis’ destination.

A few months later, I was staying on high ground (relatively speaking) near Astoria, during a month-long writing residency on Washington state’s Long Beach Peninsula.

willapa bay

alvin topLocals were buzzing about Atlantis’ mission: mapping the Cascadia subduction zone fault, with help from the Atlantis’ jazzed-up deep sea submersible, the famous Alvin.

The undersea fault line runs 700 miles from California to British Columbia, and it’s considered overdue for a “megathrust.”


The fault last slipped in 1700, producing a magnitude 9 earthquake and a huge tsunami that took out houses on Japan’s coast. Likely epicenter: the mid-Oregon coast. I’m glad Alvin is looking out for me.

MBLNeedless to say, our time at MBL will turn up in My Vanishing Hometowns.


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