Hoyt, Erich

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Hoyt, Erich


Born September 28, 1950, in Akron, OH; son of Robert Emmett (a writer and television producer) and Betty Jane (an editor and public relations representative; maiden name, Shutrump) Hoyt; married Sarah Elizabeth Wedden (a developmental psychologist and lecturer); children: Moses Erich, Magdalen Marisa, Jasmine Elizabeth, Max Jeffrey Emmet. Education: Attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Hobbies and other interests: Composing and playing music, baseball, family excursions.


Home and office—The Gannetry, 29A Dirleton Ave., North Berwick EH39 4BE, Scotland. E-mail—[email protected].


Writer, whale researcher, and lecturer. Photographer in Toronto, Ontario, and Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, 1968-70; farmer near Nelson, British Columbia, 1970-73; documentary filmmaker in Vancouver, British Columbia, 1973-75; journalist and photographer, 1975-86; Defenders of Wildlife, Washington, DC, field correspondent, 1985-2002. Helped found Rochdale College, Toronto. Senior research associate, Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, 1999—; codirector, Far East Russia Orca Project, 1999—; project officer, Worldwide Fund for Nature, 1987-88, 1990-91; member of board of conservation programs; consultant to governments, businesses, museums, and other groups. Owner and operator of a record store in Victoria, British Columbia, 1969-70; film score composer, 1973-78. Visiting lecturer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1986-87; James Thurber Writer-in-Residence and lecturer, Ohio State University, 1992, 2000; visiting lecturer at colleges, universities, museums, and to environmental and conservation groups.


International Science Writers Association, Writers Guild, Writers League of America, Society of Authors, American Society of Journalists and Authors, National Association of Science Writers, Authors and Artists for Conservation (founding member), Society for Marine Mammalogy, European Cetacean Society, Society for Economic Botany, Xerces Society.

Awards, Honors

Francis H. Kortright Award, 1982, for article in Equinox; Environment Canada Award, 1985; Vannevar Bush fellow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1985-86; BBC Wildlife Writing Award second prize, 1988; Outdoor Writers of Canada first-place award, 1994, for article in Equinox; Animal Rights Writing Award for best book, 1994; New York Public Library Twenty-five Books to Remember designee, 1996; Science in Society Book Award finalist, Canadian Science Writers Association, 1997, for The Earth Dwellers: Adventures in the Land of Ants; Outdoor Communications Awards, 2000, for Seasons of the Whale and Insect Lives; Outstanding Book of the Year, general nonfiction category, American Society of Journalists and Authors, 2002, for Creatures of the Deep: In Search of the Sea's "Monsters" and the World They Live In.



The Whale Called Killer, Dutton (New York, NY), 1981, revised edition published as Orca: The Whale Called Killer, Firefly Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1984, second revised edition, 1990.

The Whale Watchers Handbook, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1984.

Whales of Canada, Firefly Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1988.

Conserving the Wild Relatives of Crops, illustrated by Susannah Brown, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and Worldwide Fund for Nature (Gland, Switzerland), 1988, second revised edition, Addison-Wesley Iberoamericana, 1992.

Seasons of the Whale: Riding the Currents of the North Atlantic, Chelsea Green Publishers (Post Mills, VT), 1990.

Extinction A-Z, Enslow Publishers (Hillside, NJ), 1991.

Meeting the Whales, illustrated by Pieter Folkens, Camden House (Camden East, Ontario, Canada), 1991.

Riding with the Dolphins, illustrated by Pieter Folkens, Camden House (Camden East, Ontario, Canada), 1992.

The Earth Dwellers: Adventures in the Land of Ants, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1996.

(Author and editor, with Mark Carwardine) Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1998.

(Editor, with Ted Schultz) Insect Lives: Stories of Mystery and Romance from a Hidden World, Wiley (New York, NY), 1999.

Creatures of the Deep: In Search of the Sea's "Monsters" and the World They Live In, Firefly Books (Buffalo, NY), 2001.

Coauthor of Cries and Whistles (radio play), broadcast by Canadian Broadcasting Corp., 1981; author of investigational articles and reports. Contributing editor to Equinox, 1982—; contributor to Biosfera (Spanish-language encyclopedia), 1993-98; contributor to periodicals, including National Wildlife, Oceans, London Guardian, Reader's Digest, Defenders, Pacific Discovery, National Geographic, and Canadian Geographic.

Author's works have been translated into Spanish, Danish, Italian, French, Portuguese, Chinese, German, and Japanese.

Work in Progress

A children's book on saving the great whales; a conservation handbook on marine protected areas for whales and dolphins.


Erich Hoyt's groundbreaking 1984 work, The Whale Watcher's Handbook, helped turn whale watching into an international phenomenon, inspiring cruises and a new consciousness about that endangered species. A nature and science writer as well as a scientific researcher, Hoyt is best known for his works on whales, but he has always written widely on dolphins and insects. With over three hundred scientific and popular articles, and over a dozen books to his credit, Hoyt is internationally recognized as a specialist in marine conservation, helping to organize international conferences on managing whale watching as well as studying the orca whale in Russian waters. Hoyt spent years observing various whale species off the west coast of Canada and elsewhere and then documented his experiences in several books, including The Whale Called Killer, Seasons of the Whale: Riding the Currents of the North Atlantic, Meeting the Whales, and Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises. Hoyt is also the author of a popular book on ants that covers not only the intimate details of life among several ant species but also the quirks of the scientists who study these successful insects, as well as an award-winning volume on deep sea animals titled Creatures of the Deep: In Search of the Sea's "Monsters" and the World They Live In. Hoyt has managed to accomplish all of this without a formal university degree. As he remarked in an interview posted on ASK Archive 2003, "my education was the 'university of the sea.'"

"I am always searching for fresh stories," Hoyt once commented. "I know that they are everywhere and some of the best are underfoot. The search for the story is the key for both scientific research and for writing. And there are a million riveting stories in the stars, on the beaches, in the tropical rain forests, in the deep sea, in the rocks, in the magical flow of electrons and the binary code through a computer's processor, and in the amulets we call words. I hope through my writing and research that I can continue discovering the world—and recreating what I discover for others. I also want to use my writing and scientific work in some service to the Earth. At some level, I see my writing—whether about whales, dolphins, ants, or trees—as giving voice to life that cannot speak on its own behalf."

Early to Sea

The son of journalists who moved frequently throughout the United States and Canada, Hoyt grew up with a fascination for the outdoors. He also wrote music, some of which he composed to score documentaries and dramatic films; an interest in writing poetry and plays surfaced when he was in his mid-teens. By 1968 he had immigrated to Canada, working as a photographer and also running a record store and trying his hand at farming for a time. In 1973, at the age of twenty-two, Hoyt joined an expedition to film killer whales, or orcas, off the west coast of Canada. "I knew there was a great untold story here," he said, "and it hooked me on wanting to write for a living." Over a period of seven summers, Hoyt observed the same pods of orcas again and again, learning to identify individuals and watching as the animals went about their daily lives.

The Whale Called Killer—revised as Orca: The Whale Called Killer—Hoyt's first full-length book, condensed his seven years of study into an account of killer whale behavior both on general and specific levels. Quill & Quire correspondent Sarah Reid deemed The Whale Called Killer "an extremely pleasant surprise." The reviewer added: "We are given insights into the life and behaviour of the killer whale that confirm that it is one of the earth's most fascinating and unnecessarily maligned species." Describing Hoyt's book as "a superb account" of the waterbound mammals, a Publishers Weekly contributor praised The Whale Called Killer as "one of the best nature books of the year."

Focus on Ocean-going Mammals

Hoyt has since broadened his whale-watching to include numerous species, including humpback, right, and blue whales as well as various dolphins. The Whale Watcher's Handbook was one of the first books to identify and explore a passion that soon began to rival even bird watching in its worldwide growth, according to the author. In Seasons of the Whale Hoyt delves into the biology and sociology of Atlantic whales while making a strong case for preservation of the marine environment in which these animals live. School Library Journal reviewer Katherine Fitch maintained that Hoyt's prescription for whale preservation "is clear" and that his writing is "truly poignant and moving." For Anthony Sattin, writing in the London Sunday Times, Hoyt's book brings home to readers the fact that "whales deserve our sympathy, not fear." Noting that Hoyt's book informs readers that over ninety percent of the whale population of the Atlantic has been destroyed since Columbus made his famous voyage, Sattin went on to remark that the author "gives us a unique insight into the survivors" by describing a year in the lives of various blue, right, and humpback whales from their mating areas in the Caribbean to their summer feeding spots near Newfoundland and New England.

Hoyt provides further insights to cetacean life in volumes such as Meeting the Whales and Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises, the latter published in England as Whales and Dolphins: The Ultimate Guide to Marine Mammals. Described as "Attractive enough for browsing and informative enough for research" by Booklist contributor Carolyn Phelan, Hoyt's 1998 work Meeting the Whales serves as a field-guide to nineteen varieties of the giant mammals. In Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises Hoyt and coauthor Mark Carwardine divide their work into three sections. The first serves as a general introduction to each species: their origins, modern reduction of population, and conservation measures. The facts presented in this section "come alive," according to Sattin, again writing in the London Sunday Times, through personal anecdotes. Other sections help readers identify whales, porpoises, and dolphins, and also serve as a guide to whale-watching around the world. Overall, Sattin found Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises to be a "practical guide."

From the Ocean's Depths to Insects

The deepest part of the world's oceans are plumbed by Hoyt in his 2001 work, Creatures of the Deep: In Search of the Sea's "Monsters" and the World They Live In. Beginning his story with the diving bell used by Macedonian king Alexander the Great in the third century B.C., he follows the science of deep-sea exploration to its state at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The author is "as engagingly descriptive as he is instructive," noted Booklist contributor Donna Seaman. According to a Publishers Weekly reviewer, "startling facts abound" in Hoyt's descriptions of such creatures as vampire squid and marine spiders, and the author's "enthusiasm for his subject shows on every page." Paul Allen, writing in Geographical, praised Hoyt's work for separating "monster fact from fiction." Allen also felt that "some of Hoyt's engaging narrative makes uncomfortable reading," citing as an example the fact that ten million sharks were killed by men for every human that was eaten by a shark in 1995. For Allen, such a statistic begs the question: "'Who is the real monster?'" Pam Johnson, writing in School Library Journal, also felt that the interesting layout of the book, together with its color photographs "offer opportune ways of catching the attention of reluctant readers." While deep-sea experts might find Hoyt's text less "rigorous" than they would prefer, Quarterly Review of Biology contributor Paul Snelgrove was quick to add that "for everyone else, the images and easy narrative style" combine to make Creatures of the Deep "a very attractive . . . book that will intrigue those who peruse it."

In the late 1980s Hoyt turned his attention to far smaller creatures. After having observed ant behavior in the rain forests of Paraguay and Costa Rica, he joined Harvard University scientist E. O. Wilson on several study trips in search of new ant species and behavioral and evolutionary secrets. The Earth Dwellers: Adventures in the Land of Ants documents minute details of ant life as well as the methods of the human scientists who study ants. To quote Carol Kaesuk Yoon in the New York Times Book Review, Hoyt, "an amused and admiring student, captures wonderfully the lighthearted joys of human endeavors like tearing apart an ant-filled log or going from trap to trap to see what the day's catch holds. . . . But the real stars here are the ants. Mr. Hoyt wants us not just to know about them but to appreciate them." In the New York Times, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt declared that The Earth Dwellers "remains a good introduction to a remarkable subject." Los Angeles Times Book Review contributor Roger Lewin—himself a highly regarded nature writer—commended the book for its "power of evocation." Lewin concluded: "Hoyt's skill in taking the reader into the ants' world is admirable.... 'The Earth Dwellers' is an unexpected and enchanting view of another creature's world." Yoon, too, observed: "Whether you end up caring about ants or not, it is difficult not to see them in a new light." Further praise for Hoyt's work came from a contributor for Publishers Weekly, who called The Earth Dwellers an "informative and entertaining account," while Jay D. Evans noted in the Quarterly Review of Biology that Hoyt "provides exquisite accounts of the life histories of several tropical and subtropical ants," as well as an "inspirational peek at the personalities and motives of several important" ant biologists.

Hoyt moves from ants to other insects in his editorship of Insect Lives: Stories of Mystery and Romance from a Hidden World, which contains essays reflecting the varied interpretations writers have made regarding insect behavior throughout history. From Aristotle to nineteenth-century biologist Charles Darwin to E. O. Wilson, Insect Lives "is well suited for browsing" and covers "a wide variety of topics and writing styles," according to Library Journal contributor William H. Wiese. Noting that "the lowly insect inspires some elevated writing, cartoons, and satire," Gilbert Taylor added in Booklist that Insect Lives will inspire readers to view their personal observations of the insects around them in a new light. Gilbert concluded that the book is an "eclectic collection with surprises in every excerpt." Similarly, Albert D. Carlson, writing in the Quarterly Review of Biology, felt that the "volume is a potpourri of fascinating excerpts written by some of the finest insect biologists and naturalists spanning many centuries."

If you enjoy the works of Erich Hoyt

If you enjoy the works of Erich Hoyt, you might want to check out the following books:

William Broad, The Universe Below: Discovering the Secrets of the Deep Sea, 1997.

Rachel Carson, The Sea around Us, 1951.

Richard Ellis , The Search for the Giant Squid, 1999.

Hoyt once commented: "To really get inside an idea or subject, I live with it for months, sometimes years, before writing anything. It helps me to play with the material, to rephrase it in many forms, to keep returning to it in new ways. While I was living some seven summers with three family groups (or pods) of killer whales off northern Vancouver Island, I wrote about them, photographed them, made films, and recorded their eerie underwater sounds, which were then incorporated into electronic musical compositions. Orcas are extraordinary creatures, possessing massive complex brains and equally complex social systems; they are also fearsome pack predators with no enemies in the sea. For me, they become a metaphor for humans and our own supreme yet precarious position on the planet. We are all threatened by food and habitat shortages, and global pollution. My future work will be about exploring and expeditions to the forgotten or the undiscovered, whether these are inspired people and places, rare animals, or unlikely ideas."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Akron Beacon Journal, October 25, 1981.

American Scientist, November, 2001, review of Creatures of the Deep, p. 550.

Appraisal, winter, 1992, pp. 33-34.

BBC Wildlife, July, 1995, Mark Carwardine, review of The Whale Watchers Handbook, p. 79; November, 2002, p. 48.

Booklist, September 15, 1984, review of The Whale Watcher's Handbook, p. 97; August, 1991, Carolyn Phelan, review of Meeting the Whales, p. 2137; October 15, 1999, Gilbert Taylor, review of Insect Lives: Stories of Mystery and Romance from a Hidden World, p. 401; December 1, 2001, Donna Seaman, review of Creatures of the Deep: In Search of the Sea's "Monsters" and the World They Live In, p. 617.

Choice, November, 1981, pp. 399-400; October, 1996, H. N. Cunningham, Jr., review of The Earth Dwellers: Adventures in the Land of Ants, p. 303; April, 2000, R. C. Graves, review of Insect Lives, p. 1491.

Detroit Free Press, November 6, 1981.

Discover, September, 1981.

Geographical, March, 2002, Paul Allen, review of Creatures of the Deep, p. 71.

Globe & Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), January 16, 1982.

Library Journal, August, 1981, Susan Klimley, review of The Whale Called Killer, p. 1533; February 1, 1996, Annette Aiello, review of The Earth Dwellers, p. 92; October 15, 1999, William H. Wiese, review of Insect Lives, p. 102; December, 2001, Mary Nickum, review of Creatures of the Deep, p. 162.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, May 5, 1996, Roger Lewin, review of The Earth Dwellers, p. 3.

Montreal Gazette, October 17, 1981.

Nature, April 25, 1996, Jurgen Heinze, review of The Earth Dwellers, p. 682.

New Scientist, March 2, 1991, Linda Gamlin, review of Seasons of the Whale, p. 52; December 19, 1998, Adrian Barnett, review of The Earth Dwellers.

New York Times, March 7, 1996, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, review of The Earth Dwellers, p. C21.

New York Times Book Review, April 21, 1996, Carol Kaesuk Yoon, review of The Earth Dwellers, p. 30.

Popular Science, November, 2001.

Publishers Weekly, June 26, 1981, review of The Whale Called Killer, p. 54; January 15, 1996, review of The Earth Dwellers, p. 452; October 1, 2001, review of Creatures of the Deep, p. 53.

Quarterly Review of Biology, March, 1997, Jay D. Evans, review of The Earth Dwellers, p. 84; September, 2002, Paul Snelgrove, review of Creatures of the Deep, p. 346; June, 2003, Albert D. Carlson, review of Insect Lives, p. 239.

Quill & Quire, March, 1982, Sarah Reid, review of The Whale Called Killer, p. 66; June, 1984, p. 35; August, 1990, p. 23; May, 1991, p. 24.

RQ, summer, 1993, Stephen M. Richmond, review of Extinction A-Z, p. 561.

San Francisco Chronicle, April 7, 1996, Peter Stack, review of The Earth Dwellers, p. 9.

School Library Journal, April, 1991, Katherine Fitch, review of Seasons of the Whale, p. 156; December, 1991, Kathleen L. Atwood, review of Extinction A-Z, p. 142; November, 1996, Clodagh Lee, review of Earth Dwellers, p. 141; February, 2002, Pam Johnson, review of Creatures of the Deep, p. 155.

Science Books and Films, March, 1985, Tom M. Spight, review of The Whale Watcher's Handbook, p. 203; July, 1998, review of Meeting the Whales, p. 154.

Science Teacher, March, 1993, Girish Govindarajan, review of Extinction A-Z, p. 91.

Scientific American, February, 2000, review of Insect Lives, p. 104.

Seattle Times, March 7, 1982.

Sunday Times, (London, England), May 10, 1998, Anthony Sattin, reviews of Seasons of the Whale and Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises, p.3.

Systems Research and Behavioral Science, November-December, 1997, Melissa Bennett, review of The Earth Dwellers, pp. 431-432.

Voice of Youth Advocates, February, 1992, review of Extinction A-Z, p. 395.

Westworld, September, 1981.

Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI), William Wineke, "Observations from the Deep," p. F3.


American Cetacean Society Web site,http://www.acsonline.org/ (October 24, 2002), "Erich Hoyt."

ASK Archive 2003,http://whale.wheelock.edu/archives/ (December 5, 2003), Lindsay O., interview with Hoyt.

Firefly Books Web site,http://www.fireflybooks.com/ (December 19, 2003).

SoundNet Online,http://www.oceania.org.au/ (December 19, 2003), "Erich Hoyt."*