Evolution in a toxic world

How life responds to chemical threats


DSCN0244I am an independent toxicologist and writer, a member of the Ronin Institute , a sometimes college instructor, and adjunct faculty in the Department of Natural Resource and Conservation at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

As an environmental toxicologist I am intrigued by the interactions of chemicals both naturally occurring and synthetic with life. How our bodies react whether to lead, mercury, and oxygen or to organochlorines, plasticizers and manufactured nanomaterials. How is it that oxygen is highly toxic yet essential, and why do so many chemicals seem to interact with estrogen receptors – receptors once thought to be highly specific? And then there are the aryl hydrocarbon receptors, first identified through their affinity for chemicals like polyaromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins and pcbs. Receptors that are ubiquitous throughout the body, yet their role in life and their  origin remains unknown.

Evolution. Adaptation. A need for chemical defense.  Could an exploration of evolutionary processes shed some light on these mysteries?

My newest book, Natural Defense: enlisting bugs and germs to save our food and medicine  (Island Press, Spring 2017), is about how we can preserve antibiotic efficacy and reduce pesticide use with new technologies that are better informed by ecology.

Past projects: Unnatural Selection (now in paperback!); Motherhood the Elephant in the Laboratory, Book and Blog; Evolution in a Toxic World, Book; The Neighborhood Toxicologist, Blog. I have also published in Aeon, Undark, and The Scientist.

When not doing this stuff, I’m either hiking, sewing, gardening and trying to learn how to play the mandolin!


2 thoughts on “Bio

  1. Hi there,

    I just came across your blog and I really wanted to share it with my audience. It’s a limited one though, averaging 90 people daily, but I hold a lot of affection for them and I think they could also learn lots with this blog. If you have an interest in popping in and have a read, please by all means, let me know of your opinion. It’s always good to learn from those who’ve been doing scientific writing for many years now. As you might have noticed already, English is not my first language though, and sometimes it can be tricky to generate something to the levels of acceptance of some linguists, but hey, I do my best and I’d be really happy if you could just share your opinion on my blog with me. It has been kicking some very interesting articles since August 2010. Cheers, and keep up with the incredible work. Ivan Lafayette (www.thetoxicologisttoday.blogspot.com)

  2. Hi Ivan, thanks for getting in touch. You’ve got a nice blog there too. Will look forward to reading your posts! In my older blog (theneighborhoodtoxicologist.blogspot.com) I covered more of the conventional toxic questions…much like you are doing in your blog thetoxicologisttoday.blogspot.com.

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