I am a marine ecologist at the Biosphere 2 and Institute of the Environment at University of Arizona. I have an exciting new project at Biosphere 2 trying to turn our ocean tank into a living model of the Gulf of California. My other main line of work is helping people and organizations learn to be adaptable by looking at how nature is adaptable. When I need to get out into the field, I do research on the impacts of people on coastal animal populations in the Gulf of California–and I explore the Gulf’s ecological history, and the fascinating people past and present who have lived, worked, researched and journeyed there. I’ve taken a few forays into ecological philosophy, especially focused on the work of Ed “Doc” Ricketts, whose lab was a center of early bohemian intellectual thoughts in the early mid 20th century central California. I have also been getting fired up recently about the idea of reviving the Public Trust Doctrine as a central organizing theme for conservation.
I have recently published two books with the assistance of a Guggenheim Fellowship. The first, Learning from the Octopus is about what we can learn from 3.5 billion years of evolution to become more adaptable to the uncertain risks in our lives (Basic Books, 2012). Here is a short video preview. I have also applied these ideas to developing better ways of teaching. The other, with Anibal Pauchard, called Observation and Ecology: Broadening the Scope of Science to Understand a Complex World (Island Press, 2012) is on how big environmental changes are changing the way we study life sciences; forcing ecologists back into practicing good old fashioned natural history, albeit at huge scales of space and time using all kinds of new technologies like remote sensing, genetics and critter cams, and opening the doors of academia to all kinds of observers of change in the natural world.
When I’m not writing books that will actually get published I’m working on screenplays that likely will never see the big screen (unless, you, dear reader, are interested in producing a movie about a Mexican immigrant girl who becomes a pro bull rider, or a California coast love story with a Volkswagen Thing as the central metaphor), and doing little works of art under the LINOZOIC name (for sale in refurbished cigarette machines by Art-o-mat), not to mention raising two daughters, two dogs, and roughly 7 chickens.
I do dynamic speaking engagements, from lectures to full day workshops, for large groups such as the American Red Cross, business organizations such as the Marketing Science Institute, federal and state agencies, non-profits and academic organizations. For speaking engagements, please contact me at: rafe at email.arizona.edu.