Kirsten Rowell & Josh Tewksbury

The first human endeavor

THEMES: Definitions, Childhood & Family  |  WORKSHOP: Natural History & Society


Kirsten Rowell

Kirsten Rowell is a research scientist at University of Washington. Her research reaches across disciplines (geology, ecology, and conservation biology), and she uses ancient skeletal remains to tell untold stories of fish and clams that have lived through large-scale human alterations to their habitats. The Sonoran Desert, Collorado River Corridor, and the Sea of Cortez is where Kirsten has spent the majority of her time being an avid observer of things – from emerging caddisflies, blooming saguaros, to the sounds of the feeding fish and shifting beach sands. Her newest natural history endeavor is raising two inquisitive children.



Josh Tewksbury

Josh grew up on farms, went to a high-school with a 3,000 acre campus composed mostly of oak trees, and spent his undergraduate career learning natural history at Prescott College, focusing on butterflies, plants and birds. Studies of birds sustained him through graduate school in Montana, and his inability to stop looking at plants (in particular, chili peppers) led him through a couple of post-docs and on to the University of Washington. He has been there since, working primarily on interactions between plants, animals, and their environment. He is an ecologist, a naturalist, and a conservation biologist; co-founder and board member of the Natural History Network, co-director of the Ecology of Bird Loss Project, and founder and chair of the natural history section at the Ecological Society of America. His research centers on the study of mechanism, process and context, and has spanned studies of fragmentation, connectivity, climate change, food security, and the consequences of lost mutualisms.




Kirsten Rowell: One of his first words was really a sound, and it was the sound of a humming bird. [Humming bird sound.] And he would point and go [humming bird sound].

Josh Tewksbury: That was his first real word was that sound.

Kirsten Rowell: And the first word for Simone was the dogs. Which was: woof, woof, woof. And that's what she does now. She likes to go through a series of animal sounds and shake her head and say, "No, that's not what that is." That's her game that she likes to interact with people.

Josh Tewksbury: It's as if natural history is not only the oldest human endeavor, it's almost the first. It's the first thing you're doing is to try and find out who your community is.