“Michelle Nijhuis has written a book that is both a beautiful, wise history and a measured call to action.” — Florence Williams

Michelle Nijhuis is the author of Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction, a history of the modern conservation movement that was named one of the best books of 2021 by The Chicago Tribune, Smithsonian Magazine, Booklist, and other publications.

Michelle writes about conservation and climate change for publications including National Geographic, The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic. She’s a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books and a longtime contributing editor of High Country News, an independent magazine that produces some of the finest journalism in the American West.

Her work has won several national honors, including two AAAS/Kavli Science Journalism Awards and inclusion in four Best American anthologies, and it’s been generously supported by the Alicia Patterson Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, and the Food and Environment Reporting Network.

Michelle is also the co-editor of The Science Writers’ Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Pitch, Publish and Prosper in the Digital Age, and the author of The Science Writers’ Essay Handbook: How to Craft Compelling True Stories in Any Medium.

After fifteen years of living off the electrical grid in rural Colorado, Michelle and her family now live in White Salmon, Washington. (And if you’re wondering about her last name, it rhymes with “my house.”)

Michelle's Featured Titles

Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction

W. W. Norton & Company |
Environmentalism

Winner of the Sierra Club’s 2021 Rachel Carson Award
One of Chicago Tribune‘s Ten Best Books of 2021

“At once thoughtful and thought-provoking,” Beloved Beasts tells the story of the modern conservation movement through the lives and ideas of the people who built it, making “a crucial addition to the literature of our troubled time” (Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction).
In the late nineteenth century, humans came at long last to a devastating realization: their rapidly industrializing and globalizing societies were driving scores of animal species to extinction. In Beloved Beasts, acclaimed science journalist Michelle Nijhuis traces the history of the movement to protect and conserve other forms of life. From early battles to save charismatic species such as the American bison and bald eagle to today’s global effort to defend life on a larger scale, Nijhuis’s “spirited and engaging” account documents “the changes of heart that changed history” (Dan Cryer, Boston Globe).
With “urgency, passion, and wit” (Michael Berry, Christian Science Monitor), she describes the vital role of scientists and activists such as Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson, reveals the origins of vital organizations like the Audubon Society and the World Wildlife Fund, explores current efforts to protect species such as the whooping crane and the black rhinoceros, and confronts the darker side of modern conservation, long shadowed by racism and colonialism.
As the destruction of other species continues and the effects of climate change wreak havoc on our world, Beloved Beasts charts the ways conservation is becoming a movement for the protection of all species including our own.
15 illustrations

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Finding Hope in Conservation History

This talk about the history of the modern conservation movement features stories about some of its most memorable characters. Through these characters, I discuss the accomplishments and oversights of the movement over the past century and consider what today’s conservationists can learn from both, emphasizing the importance of community-led and Indigenous-led stewardship to the future of conservation. This talk can be presented with or without slides and at various lengths ranging from 20 minutes to an hour; it can also be tailored to different levels of audience expertise and to a variety of ages including high school students, undergraduate and graduate students, and adults.

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The Most Important Conservationist You've Never Heard Of

This talk focuses on the work of Elinor Ostrom, the Nobel Prize-winning economist who showed that the “tragedy of the commons”—the human tendency to battle each other for resources until the resources are exhausted—is not inevitable. Ostrom’s work, which is rarely discussed within the conservation movement, is a powerful corrective to the assumption that humans are solely a destructive force with no positive role to play in conservation. I discuss the persistence of this pessimistic view and offer counterexamples from Ostrom’s work, arguing that today’s conservationists have an opportunity to build a broader, community-led movement that works on behalf of all species. Can be presented with or without slides and at various lengths ranging from 20 to 45 minutes; it can also be tailored to different levels of audience expertise and to a variety of ages.

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How to Talk about Conservation So People Will Listen

This is a talk appropriate for committed conservationists — students, volunteers, or professionals — who want to communicate with broader audiences. Through an examination of the narratives at work in environmental classics such as Silent Spring and A Sand County Almanac, I show how conservationists can use old and new environmental narratives in their public-facing work, boosting its power and helping them reach new audiences. This can be presented as a 30-60 minute talk or in a longer workshop format that includes roleplays, writing exercises, and practical tips.

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Translating Your Science for the Rest of Us

This talk is designed for scientists who want to communicate their research to the general public. Drawing on my experience as a science journalist and editor, I discuss the strategies and technologies that researchers can use to reach broader audiences, emphasizing that communication with non-specialists is not about “dumbing down” one’s work but about striking up conversations with equals of different interests and backgrounds. I provide practical advice on “translating” research into plain language and presenting it in a way that will hold the attention of general audiences. I also talk about best practices for dealing with disinformation and other occasional hazards of working with the public. This can be presented as a 30-60 minute talk or in a longer workshop format that includes role-plays and writing exercises. Can be tailored to students or professionals and to various experience levels and interests.

Michelle’s Events Link

Michelle’s Writing Link

Beloved Beasts Link

The Science Writers’ Essay Handbook Link

High Country News Link

Honors, Awards & Recognition

Won several national honors, including two AAAS/Kavli Science Journalism Awards
Beloved Beasts named one of the Best Books of 2021 by The Chicago Tribune, Smithsonian Magazine, Booklist and more
Winner of the Sierra Club’s 2021 Rachel Carson Award

Media Kit

By clicking the link below you will be directed to a Google Docs Folder
where you can download author photos and cover images.

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