My work dwells in the history of natural history. As a writer and historian, I tell stories about science, the environment, and nonhuman characters. I am currently a Visiting Scholar in the Department of History at Dartmouth College, was a member of Dartmouth’s Society of Fellows from 2019–2022, and received my Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2019.
My book, Curious Species: How Animals Made Natural History, came out with Yale University Press in November 2023. (You can find it here and here or at a local bookstore near you; see here for the audiobook.) Part history, part modern voyage tale, and part personal narrative, it shows how creatures like corals, rattlesnakes, fish, and raccoons shaped the birth of natural history—with lingering consequences for our environmental crisis today.
I’ve written about rattlesnakes and motherhood for Slate, eighteenth-century animals for Natural History, and fish bellies, museums, and slavery for Nautilus. Some of my scholarly publications include an article about rattlesnakes and scientific ignorance in the William and Mary Quarterly; an essay in Commonplace: The Journal of Early American Life on the travails of reenacting eighteenth-century fish taxidermy; an article in The New England Quarterly about a 1755 earthquake that shook Boston; and an essay on flattened scientific specimens and modes of observation, published in the book The Philosophy Chamber: Art and Science in Harvard’s Teaching Cabinet, 1766–1820.
I am also the curator of a Mellon-funded digital exhibition titled The Kitchen in the Cabinet: Histories of Food and Science, which uncovers historical connections between food and natural science through the stories of food artifacts that have stood the test of time by being preserved in scientific collections. A companion essay to the website appears in the volume Natural Things in Early Modern Worlds. The project stems from my work as an affiliate researcher with the Stanford-based Natural Things | Ad Fontes Naturae research group, a global natural history project in the digital humanities. My research has been supported by the American Historical Association, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the American Antiquarian Society, the Smithsonian Institution, the Culture and Animals Foundation, the NC State University Libraries, the William L. Clements Library, the Boston Athenaeum, the Lewis Walpole Library, the Linda Hall Library, the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, the Center for American Political Studies, the Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine, and other institutions.
I received my A.M. in History from Harvard and my B.A. in American Studies, with a concentration in nature writing, from Yale University. Once upon a time, I was a science editor for a global health laboratory at Caltech and penned stories on firefly sex, flavor perception, and terraforming Mars while working as a writer and editor at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. I live outside of Raleigh, North Carolina with my husband, daughter, calico cat, some guard lizards, and the occasional palmetto bug.
Photo credit: William Robles