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Science & Environment

I have been fascinated by the workings of the physical world ever since I can remember. All children ask “why” a lot, but I wanted to know “how” as well. My earliest memories of learning the wonders of nature center on trips to a Michigan marsh with my grandparents, navigating what seemed to me magical channels in the tall cattails, in a duckboat poled by my grandfather, standing in the stern like boatmen of old. The only sounds were the wind, the water, the birds, and my grandfather’s occasional quiet comments. To others he may have seemed a dour and taciturn Scotsman, but to me he was a shaman, sharing his intimate knowledge of nature with someone of his own blood and spirit.

It was from my grandfather that I learned why the Great Blue Heron was called “shite-poke”. So much for dour. (If you don’t understand, write me and I’ll explain.) And I’ve since realized how much amusement my grandparents must have derived from giving me my first boat, a nearly-square double-ended craft called “the bunty”, which I paddled in circles endlessly. They gave me the gift of being on the water in my own craft, under my own power, yet they knew I wasn’t going anywhere unknown or unsafe. It was good for us all. I have loved being on the water, in boats, and on the marsh ever since.

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Soon after I got to double digits in years I joined our local Junior Audubon Club, resurrected just in time for me by the near-mythical Roger Tory Peterson. I learned a great deal from our club’s field trips, but the memory of one trip in particular remains indelible. Have you ever been dive-bombed by birds defending their nests? Large, loud birds, who could rip off a piece of your scalp? I was, at a tern rookery on Lake St. Clair, in Michigan. It was a bit scary, but mostly it was exhilarating – and it was life-changing. It shaped and forever altered the way I looked at life around us. Birds became individuals, as did other creatures. We continue to learn how much they are.

Since those childhood experiences I’ve gone on to get undergraduate and graduate degrees in science, experienced nature in many places around the world, tried to capture in photographs the essence of some of those times, and taught environmental studies and physical science at the university level. In recent years my studies have focused on the effects of humans on the environment and the reciprocal effects of the altered environment upon humans. I continue to read science journals to stay current, but mostly I just try and remain open to the magic of the world around me.

Below are some of my related work experiences.

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Co-author, with Varda Burstyn, of “Toxic World, Troubled Minds”, on the effects of toxics in the environment on the health and behavior of children, in No Child Left Different, Sharna Olfman, editor. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 2006.

Science researcher for:

  • “A World Fit for Children”, Varda Burstyn, in Child Honoring: How to Turn this World Around, Raffi Cavoukian and Sharna Olfman, editors. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 2006.
  • “Techno-Environmental Assaults on Childhood in America”, Varda Burstyn and Gary Sampson, in Childhood Lost: How American Culture is Failing Our Kids, Sharna Olfman, editor. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 2005.
  • The fact-based novel Water Inc. (“A spectacular eco-thriller”: Orion Magazine), Varda Burstyn. London/New York: Verso, 2005.
  • Double Blind, a novel currently in development by Varda Burstyn – a follow-on to Water Inc. about persistent organic pollutants (POPS), the chemical industry, money, power, death, and politics.

Land Use Planning Advisor, township of Bolton-Ouest, Quebec, 2000-03.

Adjunct Professor of Geography, Rose State College, Midwest City, Oklahoma, 1992 – 95.

  • Developed and taught courses in Economic, Physical, and Human Geography;
  • Taught one course per semester.

Legislative Lobbyist for the Oklahoma Audubon Council, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 1992 – 94.

  • Coordinated the efforts of twenty-one Audubon chapters throughout the state on environmental issues, which included land use, toxic waste disposal and recycling;
  • Wrote and briefed issue summaries for legislators; wrote and published a monthly newsletter for the Council during the legislative sessions.

Regional Environmentalist, Transportation Planner and Federal Aid Engineer for the Oregon State Department of Transportation, Salem and Bend, Oregon, 1973 – 79.

  • Directed environmental studies and study teams for major transportation projects;
  • Wrote and edited environmental impact statements;
  • Conducted public meetings; wrote reports; and assisted local governments with financial, land use and transportation planning.

Author of “The Environmental Responsibilities of Public Officials” accepted for publication in the American Public Works Association (APWA) Review, December, 1976.

Adjunct Professor, Environmental Studies, Central Oregon Community College, Bend, Oregon, 1974 – 77.

  • Created and taught undergraduate courses in environmental studies; taught one course per semester;
  • Gave seminars to civil engineers and employees of local governments on land use controls and environmental regulations.

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“Never use a long word when a short one will do…
Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word
if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.”

George Orwell

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