Lynda V. Mapes is a reporter at the Seattle Times, where she specializes in coverage of the environment. Over the course of her career she has won numerous awards, including the international 2019 and 2012 Kavli gold award for science journalism from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest professional science association. She has written five books, including Elwha, a River Reborn about the largest dam removal project ever in history and the effort to revive a wilderness watershed in Washington’s Olympic National Park, and its once legendary salmon runs. In 2013-14 Lynda was awarded a 9-month Knight fellowship in Science Journalism at MIT. In 2014-15, she was a Bullard Fellow at the Harvard Forest, exploring the human and natural history of a single, 100-year old oak to write Witness Tree, published by the University of Washington Press in 2019. Her forthcoming book on the southern resident orca whales’ struggle to survive will be published by the Mountaineers Books in spring of 2021. In addition to her staff position as lead environment reporter at the Seattle Times, Lynda is an associate of the Harvard Forest of Harvard University, in Petersham, MA. She was recognized by NOAA Fisheries in 2016 with the prestigious Dr. Nancy Foster Habitat Conservation Award for her reporting on fish and habitat. She lives in Seattle.
In what ways does nature inspire or inform your work?
Nature is at the heart of every story I write, long or short. Plants and animals and forces of nature I think say things more purely, and with more immediacy than people; we don’t struggle with judgment in the same way with their witness. In this way, animals, plants, and ecosystems are the most vivid sources by which to probe and communicate the state of our shared world.
What does it mean to you to be part of a thriving ecosystem?
To me a thriving ecosystem is one that is alive and functions independently and abundantly, free of human input or influence. Such an ecosystem can be utilized by plants and animals of every sort, including humans, for sustenance and inspiration. Such an ecosystem is present in all of its cycles of renewal, senescence and decay and is driven by its own cycles and laws. To be part of a thriving ecosystem is to know it intimately, to appreciate its genius and respect its teachings. This is knowledge that is earned through observation, study, and questing for the stories heard only through intimacy and with patience.
Lynda’s photograph taken under NOAA permit 21345, courtesy Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times