On May 18, 1980, the world watched in awe as Mount St. Helens erupted, killing 57 people and causing hundreds of square miles of destruction. Everyone thought it would take ages for life to return to the mountain, but scientists who visited soon after were stunned to find plants sprouting up through the ash and animals skittering around downed trees.
Ecologists have since spent decades studying life’s resilience in the face of seemingly total devastation. Through their work, the eruption of Mount St. Helens has become known as the greatest natural experiment in Pacific Northwest history. In this talk, Eric Wagner takes you on a journey through the blast zone. He explores not just the surprising ways plants and animals survived the eruption, but also the complex roles that people have played, all while showing how fascinating Mount St. Helens still is 40 years after the blast.
Eric Wagner (he/him) is a writer and biologist. He holds a PhD in biology from the University of Washington, where he studied penguins. He is the author of three books, including After the Blast: The Ecological Recovery of Mount St. Helens. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Orion, and High Country News, among many other places.
Wagner lives in Seattle.
- May 4, 2023
- Westport Timberland Library
About Speakers Bureau Events
Speakers Bureau talks are free public presentations on history, politics, music, philosophy, and everything in between. Humanities Washington’s Speakers Bureau roster is made up of professors, artists, activists, historians, performers, journalists, and others—all chosen not only for their expertise, but their ability to inspire discussion with people of all ages and backgrounds. All talks are free and open to the public, and each lasts about an hour. They are hosted by a wide range of organizations throughout Washington State.