Evolution in a toxic world

How life responds to chemical threats

Bio

DSCN0244I am an independent toxicologist and writer, a member of the Ronin Institute , a sometimes college instructor, and adjunct faculty in the Department of Environmental 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. If there had been a field of evolutionary-toxicology back when I was in school, that’s what I would have become. Instead, I’ve written about it here: Evolution in a Toxic World, Book although this book is, admittedly a tough read. My first fully authored book and written mostly for managers and toxicologists and other in the field. One day I would love to write this kind of a book for a more general readership. That book led to the next, called Unnatural Selection this was my first intended for a more general (science-interested) readership. The next book Natural Defense: enlisting bugs and germs to save our food and medicine  is a sort of “what can we do about this,” book. How we can preserve antibiotic efficacy and reduce pesticide use with new technologies that are better informed by ecology.

I am excited to be working now on a book about killer fungus to be published by W.W. Norton Press.  What they are; how they affect us; and what we can do to reduce their impact.

Past projects: Motherhood the Elephant in the Laboratory and Blog; ; 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!

6 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.

    1. Hello! I wanted to comment on your post regarding toxoplasmosis. I first read parts of it in the Montague Reporter, I found it very fascinating and I wanted to pass on a personal experience. I had toxoplasmosis and as a result I am one of the unlucky few who developed eye inflammation in the retinal area, causing partial blindness in one eye. I was told by a retina specialist that there was little to be done, and that there wasn’t a known way to prevent it from effecting my other eye. Fear of completely loosing my vision compelled me to search for a way to rid myself of this parasite, and I stumbled across Bio-Magnetic Pair Therapy. I learned that, through the use of muscle testing and magnet pairs, this treatment aims to depolarize areas of the body that are unbalanced due to various pathogens and toxins, thereby restoring proper pH balance. Evidently, this changes the environment from a pathogen-friendly one to one it cannot survive in, and is effective in treating viral, bacterial, parasitic and fungal infections, as well as helping to clear out environmental toxins. My treatment was quite successful and I wanted to share this relatively unknown therapy with someone who studies how such pathogens and toxins affect us. Cheers!

  3. Hi, I just read Is Evolution Evolving? Loved it and it raised a question.
    Checked out this site and found I’d enjoyed a number of your articles in the past. Thank you! Here’s the question: If giving a chemical, such as a pesticide, to a test animal can influence up to three generations, isn’t it worth our while to think about this in regards to pharmaceuticals? Here’s one example (maybe not the best, but one that occurs to me): If someone is taking an SSRI for years, that’s reducing their breakdown of serotonin. The body responds by genetically signaling for less serotonin production — ie the gene is turned down. Is it then conceivable that the offspring of that person will have reduced serotonin production?
    Thanks, Tom Ballard, Seattle

    1. Hi Tom, thank you for reading. Interesting question. I’m sure you’ve already found this but the following review asks (I think) a similar question. Their conclusion was more research needed…https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5015265/ But your question makes me wonder about chronic medication and potential epigenetic impacts. Why not? There is also I suppose the question of more subtle impacts of exposures to drugs and other chemicals which interact with receptors during pregnancy and the potential to alter the number of receptors expressed in the developing fetus. I think there is quite a bit of work on that (like impacts of estrogenic exposures and androgens.)

      1. Hi Emily, Thank you so much for responding. I’ll check the link. I don’t know if they’ve done this in humans yet but one study I found said mice on SSRIs make 60% fewer serotonin receptors (a trainwreck waiting to happen to humans, I’m afraid).
        I think and write a lot about how pharmaceuticals disrupt normal physiological function and how so little is known of the downstream implications of this. Reading your article was like a mind explosion of another level of disruption. My head is bursting with questions.
        Statins increase the number of LDL receptors. They are not recommended for pregnant women because of rare reports of congenital anomalies and overall lack of studies.
        Then the proton pump inhibitors, which pregnant women are more likely to be taking.
        Anyway, thanks so much and keep up the good work.
        Tom

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