About Ethan Shaw

I grew up in the U.S. Midwest, in Wisconsin. Its expressions of wildness made a lasting impression: the wooded ravines of the urbanized Lake Michigan coast, the Central Forest’s castellated mounds and snapping turtles and whip-poor-wills, the wolf tracks and kettle lakes of the North Woods—and the summer thunderheads and January blizzards, too.

Thanks to long summer family camping trips, my orientation was always westerly as well: to the Great Plains, the Yellowstone Plateau, the Bighorns and Tetons and Wind Rivers. After studying Wildlife Ecology & Natural Resources in college, I moved West and deepened my explorations of its big spaces. My home territory now is Northeast Oregon, nestled within the Columbia Plateau domain of the Blue-Wallowa Mountains and Hells Canyon, right at the doorstep of both the Rockies and the “sagebrush sea” of the Great Basin.
These places I’ve mentioned are only among the most cherished of many formative landscapes that build a sacred geography for me. Others include the palm hammocks and mangrove labyrinths of the Greater Everglades, the maritime ice and old-growth timber of the Olympic Mountains, the unfathomable sunlit, cloud-shadowed spaces of southern Utah.

I’m an independent naturalist/researcher whose interests include landscape ecology, geomorphology, ecosystem classification, wildlife movement, and historical ecology: fixations, really, which see me bushwhacking, scrambling, and scribbling as much as possible. Current projects include surveying/monitoring the snowfields of the Wallowas and a guidebook to the Blue Mountain Province’s terrain and ecological geography.

The backcountry’s my regular hangout, but I’m just as inspired by the land- and skyscapes—and the ecological realities—right outside my door. And, heck, I also like a good pub (ideally for a Green Bay Packers game), pedal-steel guitars and Malian music and the Rolling Stones, and eating unholy amounts of pasta, which hopefully I’m burning off in the mountains.

My Life Motto

Thoreau wrote somewhere about being a “self-appointed inspector of snow-storms and rain-storms,” and I feel like that’s the kind of job (or at least side-hustle) I’m working toward.
I’m trying to work my roots into this soil, make peace with the ruling spirit of this place, and see what happens.
Luis Alberto Urrea

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