I am a Canadian journalist, author and playwright. I am fascinated with the intersection of science, art and society. My second book, Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis, was an international best seller that won the U.S.-based Grantham Prize for excellence in environmental journalism in 2010. With help, I turned it into a one-woman play in 2014 and I’ve been performing it ever since in Canada and other countries. It’s an odd creature: A non-fiction play performed by a non-actor. Go figure. It was nominated for a Dora award in Toronto for outstanding Indie play.
I’m partway through writing another play, tentatively called Cocktails. It’s about a complicated mother-daughter relationship. That old story. In 2018, I published my fifth book, The Spinning Magnet, about the Earth’s magnetic field. I’ve become fascinated with physics through the research for that book.
Being a journalist, I also write freelance magazine and newspaper articles and occasionally make radio documentaries for CBC. I have done work for the New York Times science section, CBC’s Quirks & Quarks, National Geographic, The Guardian, Maclean’s magazine, GQ India and Canadian Geographic Magazine. If you want to see my latest journalism, go to my Authory page. It has a selection of the latest.
I love to give talks, as long as they are conversations with an audience. Some of the topics: Climate change, Ocean change, Cancer, John Franklin’s expedition, Evolution, Charles Darwin, Neonic pesticides, the Earth’s magnetic field
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My first degree is in Latin literature and English literature from Trinity College at the University of Toronto. My second, a bachelor of applied arts in journalism, is from Ryerson University in Toronto. I have an honorary Doctor of Sacred Letters from Trinity College, U of Toronto and an honorary Doctor of Laws from the U of Regina.
I started my career as a journalist at Canada’s The Financial Post where I covered the real estate market, the Robert Campeau and Reichmann business interests, and the Canadian banking industry. I won two awards for my coverage of the collapse of the Campeau empire.
After three years at The Post, I moved to Canada’s National Newspaper, The Globe and Mail, to write about social trends and statistics. Eventually, I became the national Calgary correspondent for The Globe and then, back in Toronto after six years, a feature writer on earth sciences. I won four major national and international awards during my stint the.
I left daily journalism in 2004 after 17 years to focus on writing popular science books and magazine articles and, eventually, plays.
I won the 2008 Atkinson Fellowship in Journalism, a $100,000 prize, to conduct a new course of study on the intersection of neuroscience and education. And in 2010, won the U.S.-based Grantham Prize for my second book, Sea Sick, worth US$75,000. The Grantham Prize is awarded to journalists for their coverage of broadly significant environmental issues. Read the press release here. In 2013, I did a writing residency in Marfa, Texas, a gift of the Lannan Foundation, where I did most of the writing of Malignant Metaphor: Confronting Cancer Myths: A Memoir. That book won the $10,000 Lane Anderson Award for best Canadian science book written for adults in 2015.
17 thoughts on “About”
I am just starting your new book, Spinning Magnet. So excited to read it! I was listening in the preface to hear which scientists fact checked it, and didn’t hear that information. Can you point me to where I can find out who fact checked this marvelous book? I am so excited to learn more about magnetic fields and the universe.
Hi Alanna, Glad you’ve done well. Worked with that summer at Wascana Park.
Just read your NYT article about the United States having two feet. Thank you it was an enjoyable read. I have a question. In your article you said the USA adopted the metric system in 1893. Why 127 years later are we mucking about with feet, inches, yards, furlongs, rods, onces (two kinds), and grains (mostly gun people) ? Thank you in advance.
Mike Gallagher firstname.lastname@example.org
Just saw/heard you speak at the MAS event in Auckland NZ. Thank you sooo much. Keep up the great work. Loved it!
Thanks for this, Gerard!
I saw your article Canadian Geographic For the love of Pronghorn. I saw one in Wainwright Alberta on the military base. which is north of their usual areas. I also was able to take a picture. Thought you would be interested.
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Thanks for this, Tilak. The sentence you mention on page 3 is in the introduction. If you can make it to chapter 11, you’ll get the full story!
Where do I find a new paperback copy of your book, Sea Sick, because I would like to offer it for sale on my website, http://www.BeachNecessities.com ? Amazon only has used versions of which I bought one as I just learned about it today.
Thanks for your comments on the Undark piece. I appreciate your getting in touch. I believe I said (as you do) that no link has been found between previous reversals and mass extinctions, but was making the point that life on the Earth today is already compromised by human activities and that adding the effects of a reversal could cause more trouble than in the past.
Alanna I was troubled by your statement in an article on Undark about mass extinctions tied to magnetic field reversals. In fact, no such link has ever been established (and I know, I’ve looked for them). The closest we’ve come is an extinction about 550 Ma that was linked NOT to a single reversal, but an overall hyperactive magnetic field (see Meert et al., 2016 “Rapid changes of magnetic Field polarity in the late Ediacaran: Linking the Cambrian evolutionary radiation and increased UV-B radiation”, Gondwana Research v. 34). The nature of the magnetic field during a reversal seems to be structured in a way that the higher harmonics provide some protection against UVB although space vehicles might be adversely affected by the diminished magnetosphere. It’s a fascinating science, but i caution trying to link mass extinctions with a single reversal since no such link has ever been demonstrated.
Just finish reading Where did all the fish go? Something that most Canadians do not know is salt was declared a tier one toxin in 2001. To date it is still unregulated. It was put into the same level as lead and mercury. For the past 12 years I have being trying to change that. Salt is also killing fish at greater numbers then ever before. I can share all my many years of research with TRCA, U Of Waterloo and Landscape Ontario
Greetings from Hobart, Tasmania, Alanna! – just want you to know I don’t forget you and that I was thrilled to find you on our Books and Arts Program, Radio National, today! Solidarity with you over the years and heart felt thanks for the play. Our conversation on the way to the airport was fundamental in consolidating Lynchpin and to all we’ve explored since then; to in the symphony ex Oceano being written in response to all that you talk about, and for the Forests of the Seas animation. I’ve updated the Lynchpin Blog today to bring news of the play. All the very best to you.
Thanks for writing and telling me your story, Joe. Glad the book was some help. My daughter is doing well. John had a new tumour and is now part of a clinical trial of two immunotherapies. He’s also doing well.
I read your book malignant metaphor with gusto. I was diagnosed in 2015 with stage three polyploid melanoma. I have had 3 nodules removed from my back over the course of 16 months, and lymph nodes removed from my left armpit. My cancer has spread to my lung and I am due for another surgery. I have also seen a naturopath and taken a few supplements but am very sceptical of their suggestions. I’ve often wondered how your daughter and brother in law have faired since there treatments, especially his vitamin C infusions. Thank you for writing from your perspective. It had a very calming effect for me as I live with an incurable cancer.