Welcome to Love of Place. Most of my work celebrates our connection to the natural world.

My new eco science fiction Knocking on Heaven's Door is just released. A number of early reviewers have been enthusiastic, including the website Geeks of Doom, which makes me smile. Not many people know me as a geek of doom! But I am happy to embrace the complexity of my personality.

I'm also so pleased that Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World has been awarded the 2016 John Burroughs Medal for Distinguished Nature Writing, as well as the 2014 WILLA Award for Creative Nonfiction from Women Writing the West.

My historical fantasy Teresa of the New World won the 2015 Arizona Authors Association Award for best Children's Literature and was a finalist for the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards.

These are nice landmarks in a writer's life. I would be writing regardless--but, still, whew. It's good to have some encouragement.

Feel free to contact me at http://www.sharmanaptrussell.com or through my author Facebook page, Sharman Apt Russell.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Toothpick grasshopper.

Thirty years ago, my midwife was seven months pregnant when I was nine months pregnant, and not that long ago I was talking to her son, who has just gotten his PhD in molecular biology at New Mexico State University. He is working on a microbial vaccine for chili plants, trying to induce an immune reaction for a better defense against blight disease. He asked what I was writing about these days, and I said citizen science, and he asked what I had learned, and I said, “Well, I now know why I didn’t become a scientist,” and he burst out laughing.

“Yes!” he agreed. “Everyone thinks it’s so glamorous and romantic.” I was laughing, too, “But there’s so much detail work!” I complained. “You have to quantify everything. You have to measure everything!” We bad-mouthed the tedious aspects of science, gathering data, inputting data, and the caution required—trying to say something simple about a complex world--but it was just family talking about family: you can make fun of your grandmother because she’s your grandmother.

I told my midwife’s son about tiger beetles, the little I’ve learned, and he told me about the microbe Phytophthora capsici and related species. He had heard about some of my favorite citizen science projects, and he personally logs on to InnoCentive, the online site where “creative minds solve some of the world's most important problems for cash awards up to $1 million.” Those problems range from new ways to get energy from algae to better material for surgical gloves. I’m intrigued anew by this mixing up of science and citizen science and the entrepreneurial spirit. I’m reminded again: the power of citizen science is not going to be kept in a tidy box. The potential of citizen science will still surprise us.

Today, the typical citizen scientist in America is white, well-educated, and middle-class. More outreach needs to be done. Even so, the field of citizen science is inherently democratic, offering opportunities for almost everyone in almost every scientific discipline. You can be an auto mechanic designing medical equipment or a third grader in Deming, New Mexico filling out her observation of a robin. You can be the first to transcribe a papyrus from the City of Sharp-nosed Fish or find a new species of fly in your backyard. You can transform yourself in a variety of ways. Become an expert in bryophytes. Experience Zen-like moments in the office and in the field. You can do public good—add to scientific knowledge, monitor changes in the environment, promote better social policy—even as you roam your private paradise, whatever and wherever that is, collecting treasure and bringing it home: crumbling seed pods, feathers in your hair, clouds in your pocket.

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