Articles: Environment and Nature

Contact Kristin Ohlson for readings, talks, writing projects, etc.

A Soil Nerd Walks into a Room of Futurists…

Over 97,000 people convened in Dubai this December for the twenty-eighth Congress of Parties (COP)—the United Nations’ annual conference on climate change. A much smaller segment of the world’s eyes were on Dubai for a gathering which preceded the COP by a few days and involved at least a handful of the same people: the Dubai Future Forum, billed as “the world’s largest gathering of futurists.”

More Than Dirt

Science is showing how healthy soil can help save the planet—and how we can all help improve what lies beneath our feet.

A Tale of Two Cities

It’s generally thought that religion contributed to political and social unification in ancient times, but research in southern Mexico indicates that wasn’t always the case.

Everything Worth Knowing About ... Microbiomes

Invisible worlds, ultimate partners. A crescendo of evidence points to the central role of microorganisms — bacteria, viruses, fungi and algae — in the health of oceans, forests, soils, plants, humans and other animals. 

Dirt First

Rick Haney, gangly and garrulous, paces in front of a congregation of government conservationists, working the room for laughs before he gets to the hard data. The U.S. Department of Agriculture soil scientist points to an aerial photograph of research plots outside his facility in Temple, Texas. “Our drones took this shot,” he says, then shakes his head. “Kidding. We don’t have any drones.”

Science in America's National Parks

A century ago, Congress created the national park system — and ended up preserving some of the best research sites in the world.

How to Teach Your Cows a New Trick: Weeding

Jon Bansen’s Jerseys gaze with such mild disinterest at visitors to his Monmouth, Oregon, dairy farm that it’s hard to believe they can cause trouble.

Figuring Out The Lake

Research by geologist Gerald Matisoff and colleagues assists efforts to improve water quality in Lake Erie.

The Bug Whisperer

Mark Sturges doesn’t advertise and clients have to find him by word of mouth, but find him they do. He’s become a master of an agricultural art as old as agriculture itself: basic compost.

Healing Herbs

Herbs were our first wonder drugs, and they remain powerful medicine to this day. Here are health-promoting plants to know now.

The Cooperation Instinct

In a dog-eat-dog world, people still cooperate, collaborate, and help each other out. Our species’ urge to work together has remained an evolutionary paradox, seemingly at odds with Darwinian theory—until now.

Bamyan Valley

Two Montana do-gooders teach villagers in a remote Afghan valley to ski, make ski equipment, and profit from ecotourism.

Making the Best of Invasive Species

Garlic mustard and Asian carp can wreak havoc on their ecosystems, but do they have a future on your dinner plate?

Herby Ohio

A man with a mission, with the help of a few friends, turns a 2,000–acre patchwork of forest into a home for herbs—herbs different than the smoking kind raised by neighbors.

Can Archaeology Save the Environment?

Archaeologists are in the unique position of studying the relationship between humans and their environments over millennia. Consequently, a number of them believe their work should inform current environmental debates.

Afghanistan's Shangri-La

The Wakhan is Afghanistan’s Shangri-La, far from the guns and bombs that plague much of the country - an area so starkly beautiful that people in the cities sigh with longing when they hear its name.

Horse Haven

Mingling with the 500 mustangs on Dayton Hyde’s 11,000-acre Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary in South Dakota.