Sewanee professor wins national award for chronicling life in a Tennessee forest

Sewanee professor wins national award for chronicling life in a Tennessee forest

September 7th, 2013 by Kevin Hardy in Local Regional News

Book award winner David Haskell makes observations in the square meter of Cumberland Plateau forest that is the subject of his book. Photo courtesy of Sewanee: The University of the South

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The Forest Unseen by Sewanee professor David Haskell.

A professor at Sewanee: The University of the South has won a national award, and $20,000 cash, for his book chronicling life within one square meter of a Tennessee forest.

The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering and Institute of Medicine gave one of its 2013 communication awards to David Haskell "for his exquisite portrait of nature's universe, drawn from one tiny patch of forest," according to a news release from the academies.

Haskell, a biology professor at Sewanee, spent much of a year watching and cataloging a tiny plot of forest in Shakerag Hollow in the college's Cumberland Plateau campus.

"The winners are excellent examples of science communication that can inform and engage the public," said May Berenbaum, chairwoman of the award selection committee and professor of entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Haskell said Friday that he's humbled by the reception of his book, which goes beyond just technical science and includes a contemplative dimension, asking about the meaning and ethics of the science discussed.

By focusing only on one square meter of land, he said, he was able to explore species like snails and worms that exist beyond the human perspective.

And such a micro study is a different way of experiencing the world, he said, especially given the global connectedness of the world today.

"If motion is all we have, we're missing something," Haskell said. "We need to know where we're from. What are the stories of the land that we stand on and live embedded within?"