Telling the Stories of Wild Things in the Age of Humans

Aug 8, 2016

Credit woodley wonderworks / CC BY 2.0

Growing up, Sarah Zielinski wanted to be a marine biologist. Six weeks at sea – and miserably sea-sick – as an undergraduate in Sea Education Association's  SEA Semester program made her think otherwise. After college, she got a job at the National Science Foundation and learned another important lesson: there are a lot of things you can do with a science degree. She found her niche in science writing.

Over the past decade, Zielinski has covered a broad swath of science, from astronomy to geology, but animals are her true love. Her blog, Wild Things, spans discoveries about the weird and the wonderful in the animal kingdom, to the ways humans are impacting life in even the farthest reaches of the planet, and even examples of humans and animals adapting to life together in unexpected ways.

Of everything she's ever written, Zielinski says her favorite story was one she co-wrote with a close friend - a researcher studying chicken communication. 

"You know that 'cluck, cluck, cluck' sound that they're famous for? That's actually the sound they make when they're warning of a land predator," explains Zielinski, with a mostly straight face. "If something is flying at them, they make a very different sound."

Zielinski has written and edited for Slate, Scientific American, Smithsonian, Science, Discover, Science News, and Science News for Students - an online publication for 9-14 year olds. The last, while certainly the least well known, is particularly near and dear to Zielinski's heart.

"They are the ones who are inheriting the planet from us," says Zielinski. "It is very important that they know what's happening and the problems that they're going to have to tackle when they reach adulthood. But also, that age range, that's when kids are really just deciding what they want to do with their lives."