Protecting wild animals and preserving the environment are two ideals so seemingly compatible as to be almost inseparable. But in fact, between animal welfare and conservation science there exists a space of underexamined and unresolved tension: wildness itself. When is it right to capture or feed wild animals for the good of their species? How do we balance the rights of introduced species with those already established within an ecosystem? Can hunting be ecological? Are any animals truly wild on a planet that humans have so thoroughly changed? No clear guidelines yet exist to help us resolve such questions.

Transporting readers into the field with scientists tackling these profound challenges, Emma Marris tells the affecting and inspiring stories of animals around the globe--from Peruvian monkeys to Australian bilbies, rare Hawai'ian birds to majestic Oregon wolves. And she offers a companionable tour of the philosophical ideas that may steer our search for sustainability and justice in the non-human world. Revealing just how intertwined animal life and human life really are, Wild Souls will change the way we think about nature-and our place within it.


A paradigm shift is roiling the environmental world. For decades people have unquestioningly accepted the idea that our goal is to preserve nature in its pristine, pre-human state. But many scientists have come to see this as an outdated dream that thwarts bold new plans to save the environment and prevents us from having a fuller relationship with nature. Humans have changed the landscapes they inhabit since prehistory, and climate change means even the remotest places now bear the fingerprints of humanity. Emma Marris argues convincingly that it is time to look forward and create the “rambunctious garden,” a hybrid of wild nature and human management.

In this optimistic book, readers meet leading scientists and environmentalists; visit imaginary Edens, designer ecosystems, and Pleistocene parks. Marris describes innovative conservation approaches, including rewilding, assisted migration, and the embrace of so-called novel ecosystems.

Rambunctious Garden is short on gloom and long on interesting theories and fascinating narratives, all of which bring home the idea that we must give up our romantic notions of pristine wilderness and replace them with the concept of a global, half-wild rambunctious garden planet, tended by us.



This is a book of academic but approachable essays edited by Peter Kareiva, Michelle Marvier, and Brian Silliman. The focus is on the complexities of “following the data” in a field with lots of deeply held values. My own chapter focuses on the media treatment of the return of wolves to Yellowstone. Some studies that found a strong connection between reintroduction and elk numbers and behaviors and on through to tree growth. These studies received lots of media attention. But the studies that didn’t find a clear and strong connection were mostly ignored. In the end, a good story in which wolves save an iconic park is much more appealing than a message of “its complicated and requires more study”

Other essays cover issues from the science behind “planetary tipping points” and the environmental impacts of genetically modified foods. Read more about the volume here.


It was a privilege to be invited to contribute to this project on emerging ecosystems whose components are influenced by human factors. What began as a fascinating workshop with ecologists, philosophers and sociologists has turned into this unusually readable academic book. Here’s the summary from Wiley:  “In this first comprehensive volume to look at the ecological, social, cultural, ethical and policy dimensions of novel ecosystems, the authors argue these altered systems are overdue for careful analysis and that we need to figure out how to intervene in them responsibly. This book brings together researchers from a range of disciplines together with practitioners and policy makers to explore the questions surrounding novel ecosystems. It includes chapters on key concepts and methodologies for deciding when and how to intervene in systems, as well as a rich collection of case studies and perspective pieces. It will be a valuable resource for researchers, managers and policy makers interested in the question of how humanity manages and restores ecosystems in a rapidly changing world.”


I contributed a chapter about writing books to this really fun and–if I don’t say so myself–indispensable guide to the freelance life. The other authors are all my friends of many years; we’ve been in a kind of email club for sharing resources, comparing notes and telling stories. Here’s the blurb the book team put together:

“With over 300 years of hard-won experience, the Writers of SciLance know how to prosper in the evolving world of popular science writing. They want you to succeed too. Whether you’re new to the field or a seasoned veteran, these award-winning pros will help you to polish skills, improve business smarts, and create community in what is a rewarding but often solitary field.

As a close-knit community of 35 science writers, The Writers of SciLance have worked as staffers and freelancers for newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations, and web sites; as public information officers; and as corporate, university, and non-profit organization writers. Their articles on nearly every science topic imaginable have appeared in National Geographic, Discover Magazine, Smithsonian, the New York Times, The Washington Post, and scores of other outlets. They have won prestigious journalism awards, written best-selling books, and contributed to leading anthologies. SciLancers

have taught science writing at Johns Hopkins, Stanford and in workshops throughout Canada and the United States, and been awarded Scripps, MIT-Knight, and Alicia Patterson Foundation journalism fellowships. They live in communities big and small scattered across North America, with partners, children, dogs, cats and even a parrot.”

See more about the book, plus tons of great freelancing and writing advice at


THE GOOD GARDENER? Nature, Humanity, and the Garden illuminates both the  foundations and after-effects of humanity’s deep-rooted impulse to manipulate the natural environment and create garden spaces of diverse kinds. Gardens range from subsistence plots to sites of philosophical speculation, refuge, and self-expression. Gardens may serve as projections of personal or national identity. They may result from individual or collective enterprises. They may shape the fabric of the dwelling house or city. They may be real or imagined, literary constructs or visions of paradise rendered in paint. Some result from a delicate negotiation between creator and medium. Others, in turn, readily reveal the underlying paradox of every garden’s creation: the garden, so often viewed as a kinder, gentler, ‘second nature,’ results from violence done to what was once wilderness.

Designed as a companion volume to EARTH PERFECT? Nature, Utopia, and the Garden, this richly illustrated collection of provocative essays is edited by Annette Giesecke, Professor of Classics at the University of Delaware, and Naomi Jacobs, Professor of English at the University of Maine. Contributors to this wide-ranging volume include photographer Margaret Morton, landscape ethicist Rick Darke, philosopher David Cooper, environmental journalist Emma Marris, architectural theorist Nathaniel Coleman, and food historian William Rubel.


From John Muir to David Brower, from the creation of Yellowstone National Park to the Endangered Species Act, environmentalism in America has always had close to its core a preservationist ideal. Generations have been inspired by its ethos—to encircle nature with our protection, to keep it apart, pristine, walled against the march of human development. But we have to face the facts. Accelerating climate change, rapid urbanization, agricultural and industrial devastation, metastasizing fire regimes, and other quickening anthropogenic forces all attest to the same truth: the earth is now spinning through the age of humans. After Preservation takes stock of the ways we have tried to both preserve and exploit nature to ask a direct but profound question: what is the role of preservationism in an era of seemingly unstoppable human development, in what some have called the Anthropocene?

Ben A. Minteer and Stephen J. Pyne bring together a stunning consortium of voices comprised of renowned scientists, historians, philosophers, environmental writers, activists, policy makers, and land managers to negotiate the incredible challenges that environmentalism faces. Some call for a new, post-preservationist model, one that is far more pragmatic, interventionist, and human-centered. Others push forcefully back, arguing for a more chastened and restrained vision of human action on the earth. Some try to establish a middle ground, while others ruminate more deeply on the meaning and value of wilderness. Some write on species lost, others on species saved, and yet others discuss the enduring practical challenges of managing our land, water, and air.

From spirited optimism to careful prudence to critical skepticism, the resulting range of approaches offers an inspiring contribution to the landscape of modern environmentalism, one driven by serious, sustained engagements with the critical problems we must solve if we—and the wild garden we may now keep—are going to survive the era we have ushered in.

Contributors include: Chelsea K. Batavia, F. Stuart (Terry) Chapin III, Norman L. Christensen, Jamie Rappaport Clark, William Wallace Covington, Erle C. Ellis, Mark Fiege, Dave Foreman, Harry W. Greene, Emma Marris, Michelle Marvier, Bill McKibben, J. R. McNeill, Curt Meine, Ben A. Minteer, Michael Paul Nelson, Bryan Norton, Stephen J. Pyne, Andrew C. Revkin, Holmes Rolston III, Amy Seidl, Jack Ward Thomas, Diane J. Vosick, John A. Vucetich, Hazel Wong, and Donald Worster.

Academic Papers

"Ecosystem integrity is neither real nor valuable"

Conservation Science and Practice. (2021). With Yasha Rohwer

"Clarifying compassionate conservation with hypotheticals: response to Wallach et al. 2018"

Conservation Biology. (2019). With Yasha Rohwer

"Editing Nature: A call for global integrated deliberation to safeguard gene-editing of wild species"

Science. 10.1126/science.aat4612 With Natalie Kofler et. al. (2018)

"An Analysis of Potential Ethical Justifications for Mammoth De-extinction And a Call for Empirical Research."

Ethics, Policy & Environment. (2018) With Yasha Rohwer

"Renaming restoration: conceptualizing and justifying the activity as a restoration of lost moral value rather than a return to a previous state."

Restoration Ecology 24.5 (2016): 674-679. With Yasha Rohwer

"Is there a prima facie duty to preserve genetic integrity in conservation biology?""

Target article in Ethics, Policy & Environment, 18(3). 2015. With Yasha Rohwer