Who I am:
I'm a geographer.
Sometimes I tell people I'm a botanist, or ecologist,
or just a field scientist. Sometimes I tell people I'm a
Sovietologist. Often they have their own ideas.
I'm interested in plant geography, landscape ecology,
and the nature of northern areas: plants and what
explains their distribution throughout northern lands,
especially rare or disjunct ones.
Also anything and everything about the USSR. I'm a
specialist in the nature; geography; and culture of the
former USSR. That type of person used to be called a
"Sovietologist" (esp. when they were trying to decipher
the workings of the Soviet system to determine what they
were really up to), or a "Soviet geographer" (esp. when
documenting how things are there), back when there was a
USSR. But now it's really difficult to tell people
that... "Yeah, I'm a geographer of the former USSR,
mostly Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, but the rest of the
place too, and a little of the former Warsaw Pact
countries and..." Anyway, it's been a while since I made
any money with that.
Also interested in the 20th century history of
conservation, protected nature areas (why, how, and where
to make them), the geography of mountains, island
biogeography, and the general geographical makeup of all
northern lands (Canada, Scandinavia, Alaska, etc.)
I am, furthermore, obsessed with large lakes and their influence
on their surroundings (including me). This is actually, I
think, the strongest force on me (Lake Superior), like a
huge unseen star that nobody can see (at least in Alaska)
making a planet move erratically.
There's a small list of "additional interests" below,
to which I refer you. There are other things,
too, and many secrets.
What I do:
once-current CV page here, doubtless now old,
irrelevant, and inaccurate; much like myself and thus
accurate after all.
Right now (2011; inevitably I'll neglect to update
this and will be somewhere else when you read this), I
work for the US Forest Service, doing a lot of fire
ecology-related remote sensing, image processing, lidar,
and GIS stuff plus some fieldwork. It's in Idaho,
weirdly, which is a sort of torture since where I need to
be is the Lake Superior country, or at least the boreal
forest somewhere. But I go where I have to
scrape enough money to survive.
Previously I have worked for the US National Park
Service doing vegetation site studies in Yukon-Charley
National Preserve, for the USDA NRCS in the same part of
Alaska doing vegetation ecology on a rather ill-fated
soil survey project (and also a bit on a much more
'together' project on Kodiak Island), for the
World Wildlife Fund's Bering Sea-Kamchatka program in
Anchorage, digging up Bering Sea regional conservation
and geographical data for WWF - my job title was 'program
officer', but that doesn't make much sense, so feel free
to say I was a 'conservation geographer'. I was an
ecologist for the US National Park Service at Denali
National Park and before that at Glacier Bay
National Park for a couple years, minus some travels
and a little time in Athens, GA.
I was a long ago graduate student at Geography,
University of Georgia,
USA. My doctoral work was on the landscape conservation
and natural areas connectivity in the Carpathian
Mountains, Ukraine (Central Europe); read about
that here. I admit, that I did all the fun part of
that project but didn't finish the dissertation after I ran out of money...
My graduate and later undergraduate research was in
phytogeography (the distribution of plants and the
history and ecology behind it) and the geography and
conservation of the USSR, Canada, and other northern
Why I do it:
Because it takes me to interesting lands, in beautiful
surroundings, where I frequently - but not always - enjoy
pleasant weather, good food, interesting people, and
strange experiences. I am not very rich, as they say, 'in
the money department' from all of this, though!
Where I am from, how I
got here, and where I am going:
I am from Michigan! I am proud to say I lived
my first years in Lake County, which was in the 1970s
(maybe now too) the poorest county in Lower Michigan
(Keweenaw, in the UP, was a little poorer at the time, now it's sadly filling out with rich retired yuppies). So the first
part of my life I spent wandering the woods, collecting
mushrooms and berries, trying to catch salamanders and
frogs, getting pinched by ants and fearing blue racers,
and looking at flowers and trees. Later I lived in
Ludington, where I got into bicycles, rockets, cameras,
and some other stuff. Still later, in my juvenile
delinquent years' (most of the 1980s), I lived the much
less understandable Grand Rapids.
I spent a few summers in Vandalia, Missouri in the
I went to college first in Grand Rapids (ITT Technical
Institute, which was actually a fairly OK technical
education in industrial controls and so forth despite
their sleazy for-profit "student loan harvesting" motive
and predatory advertising) and nearby Allendale (Grand
Valley State) before transferring to Central Michigan
University in Mount Pleasant. Then I went to Western
Michigan University in Kalamazoo for a master's degree
and University of Georgia for doctoral study (which I got
as far as candidacy for, but fled the politics, poverty,
heat, and other bullshit of to go to Alaska to get a real
During the CMU, WMU, and UGA years I started spending
a lot of time in the USSR and 'former USSR' (which I
refer to as the USSR). I went first during spring break
1991... to my mind at least, vastly more profound,
exciting, fun, and carefree than any lame trip to some
student vacation slum of Florida or Mexico. Over the
years I spent most of my time in Minsk (Belarus), the
Lake Baikal area and Orel (Russia), northwest Russia, and
the Crimea and Lviv (Ukraine), with less time in the
Baltics (especially Kaunas (Lithuania), Voronezh and
Moscow (Russia), and the republic of Georgia.
Back to Athens, Georgia and then away from Athens - to
Alaska. I had the chance to work seasonally for the Park
Service in Alaska in 2002. I guess I make that sound like
they contacted me and asked - they didn't, at least not
until I contacted them and applied for a job first. After
so many years of college and graduate school I started to
wonder if I was going to be employable... this feeling
was enhanced as I began to notice around me the
increasingly unrealistic ideas and expectations expressed
by fellow graduate students (and faculty) regarding
conservation, etc. as I had experienced it in my time in
the USSR where I had extensive contact with actual
botanists, conservationists, ecologists, geographers, and
other doing the work I wanted also to do, as well as the
decreasing amount of actual experience new faculty had in
the fields they professed to professor. It seemed that
grant record and general ass-kissing as graduate students
was what counted, not actual experience solving problems
and creating knowledge within the real-world constraints
that future scientists would likely experience. In short,
i didn't think they had enough grounding in reality. I
began to wonder if I would also appear to know little of
the actual field i claimed to be an expert in when it
came time to try and do so. So to see. I applied for a
seasonal biotech job at Glacier Bay and haven't looked
back (much) since.
In fact, I've left Alaska for good since then - three
times now, most recently in 2010, and even moved back to
the UP for good once (I made it for 6 months to the day
before I had to go back to Alaska again to make a modest
living). I suspect I'll be back.
I have a great Cat (Cat ought always be capitalized is I remember) named Mr. Q (Q is the whole
surname), who I adoped from the Orphanage in July 2011, and one named Fran who joined us, semi-retiring from his career as Barn Cat, later that summer. I
lost my best friend, the perfect Cat Mr. Whiskers, in
February 2011. He'd love Mr. Q and Fran. There are a few photos of
My Cats and I have two little estates of land - each
closer to ghost towns than anywhere else and well off the
'grid': 14 acres in the pinelands near Lake Superior at
Vermillion, Michigan, and 20 acres of high boreal forest
at Eureka, Alaska. There are wolves, coyotes, foxes,
deer, bobcats, and moose at Vermillion, and the same
(minus deer and replace bobcats with lynx) at Eureka.
Blueberries at Vermillion, and lingonberries at
Original thought, autonomy, effort with purpose,
civility, individuality (even eccentricity!), creativity,
curiosity (maybe not a value - not sure), thoughtfulness,
quiet, solitude. (All of these also the attributes of
cats, by the way). Also
good bargains. Levity, irreverence,
iconoclasm - also good. But see disclaimer by Ovid,
Shimano or Suntour: Suntour.
County sherif or police-dog: police-dog.
Ed Abbey or Annie Dillard: Ed Abbey.
Digicam or 35mm: 35mm.
DIY or store-bought: DIY.
Budweiser or Hamm's: Hamm's.
Safety of the modern world or Hide in cave: Hide in
Typewriter or komputer: Typewriter.
Marlin or SKS: SKS.
Record player or i-tube phone device-omputer: Record
Dinner party or beer fire: Beer fire
Television or book: Book.
Politically sensitive yuppie or Crazed fanatic: Crazed
Fizzy mineral water or unfizzy: fizzy.
New or used: Used.
Masking tape or band-aid: Masking tape.
Business suit or naked: Naked.
Book or 'tablet komputer': go to hell.
PBR or Bud Lite: Hamm's.
$6 wine or $30 wine: $6 wine.
Lada or lexus: Lada.
Facebook or twizzler: Neither.
Photographia - see pictures here.
bicycles - best ca. 1978-1983
Further interests can be discerned from the CV, the
research, the links, etc. Last resort-ask me in