by Lisa Cadigan
How do I tell someone else’s stories? This is the question that rhythmically bounced around my head as I jogged through my neighborhood in search of inspiration. Moments before, I had hung up the phone after an hour-long conversation with Dr. Michael Hutchins, a conservation biologist whose impressive leadership roles have most recently included Executive Director/CEO of The Wildlife Society (TWS) from 2005-2012, and Director/William Conway Chair of Conservation and Science for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) from 1990 to 2005. Michael and I met in 1999, when I was a green twenty-something who had just joined the AZA staff as editor and designer of their membership publications. We reconnected a few months ago through a common Facebook friend, and began to toss around the idea of teaming up to share the adventure stories Dr. Hutchins has experienced over the course of such an impressive career.
I was a little nervous to make the phone call for our first scheduled “interview.” I had read some pieces Michael recently contributed to National Geographic, and frankly, I was feeling a little intimidated. But I made the call, and opened the conversation by humbly stating that anything I could write on his behalf would have to be for a layperson audience. Michael was warm and enthusiastic about sharing his stories. A seasoned traveler to more than 35 countries, there are many adventures to share, and in sharing them we hope to inspire people to become invested in, connected with, and responsible for the world around them; to identify what the seemingly contrasting languages of science and art have in common so that we can present the world through a new lens, and maybe understand it a little better in the process.
I originally thought we might accomplish this union of art and science through the extensive photography Michael has collected during his travels. Although I am excited to share those images with you, after spending a lovely hour on the phone with him, I think the “art” will simply come from the telling of the stories themselves. Michael has given me a tremendous gift by trusting me with his stories, and I am treating the responsibility of sharing them with great reverence. I anticipate that these wonderful tales are bound to take on a life of their own: Michael’s precious memories colored by my words, and then interpreted again by you, the reader. We both hope that sharing the stories will inspire people to connect with nature and with each other a little better. We both hope that as soon as you are done reading, you will turn off your computer and take a walk outside to notice, appreciate, and strive to understand the miracles of science and art that surround us all the time.