Hoyt, Erich 1950-

views updated

HOYT, Erich 1950-

PERSONAL: Born September 28, 1950, in Akron, OH; son of Robert Emmet (a writer and television producer) and Betty Jane (an editor and public relations representative; maiden name, Shutrump) Hoyt; married Sarah Elizabeth Wedden (a research scientist in developmental biology), March 4, 1989; children: Moses Erich, Magdalen Marisa, Jasmine Elizabeth, Max Jeffrey Emmet. Ethnicity: "Mixed." Education: Attended high school in Prairie du Chien, WI. Politics: "Freethinker." Hobbies and other interests: Composing and playing music, baseball, gardening, "beachcombing with children."

ADDRESSES: Home and office—29A Dirleton Ave., North Berwick EH39 4BE, Scotland; fax: +44 1620 895 257. E-mail[email protected].

CAREER: Writer, whale researcher, and lecturer. Photographer in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, 1968-70; owner and operator of a record store in Victoria, 1969-70; farmer near Nelson, British Columbia, 1970-72; documentary filmmaker in Vancouver, British Columbia, 1973-75; film score composer in Vancouver, 1973-78; journalist and photographer, 1975-1986; senior research associate with Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society in the United Kingdom; Far East Orca Project, codirector, 1999—. Member of the board of conservation organizations and consultant to governments, museums and business groups. Defenders of Wildlife, Washington, DC, field correspondent, 1985-2002. Helped start Superschool (Rochdale College), Toronto, Ontario, 1968-69. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, visiting lecturer, 1986-87; Ohio State University, James Thurber Writer-in-Residence and lecturer, 1992, 2000. Visiting lecturer at colleges, universities, museums, and to other groups, 1984—.

MEMBER: American Society of Journalists and Authors, Writers Guild, Society of Authors, Association of British Science Writers, Authors and Artists for Conservation (founding member), Society for Marine Mammalogy (charter member), European Cetacean Society, International Science Writers Association.

AWARDS, HONORS: Klüh Prize for Innovation in Science; Francis H. Kortright Award, 1982, for article in Equinox; Environmental Canada Award, 1985; Vannevar Bush fellowship, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1985-86; British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Wildlife Writing second-place award, 1988; Outdoor Writers of Canada first-place award, 1994, for article in Equinox; Twenty-five books to Remember selection, New York Public Library, 1996; Science in Society Book Award finalist, Canadian Science Writers Association, 1997, for Earth Dwellers; Outdoor Communications Awards Best Book selection, 2000; Outstanding Book of the Year (general nonfiction), 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 (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1990.

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

Conserving the Wild Relatives of Crops, illustrated by Susannah Brown, International Board for Plant Genetic Resources (Rome, Italy), 1988, revised edition, 1992.

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

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

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

(With Mark Carwardine, and editor), Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises, Time-Life Books (New York, NY), 1998.

(Coeditor) 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 (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2001.

Marine Protected Areas for Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises: A World Handbook for Cetacean Habitat Conservation, Earthscan (Sterling, VA), 2005.

Coauthor of Cries and Whistles (radio play), first broadcast by Canadian Broadcasting Corp., 1981. Contributing editor to Equinox, 1982-97. Contributor to periodicals, including National Wildlife, Oceans, Defenders, Sunday Times (London, England), Pacific Discovery, National Geographic, Guardian (London, England), Kagaku Asahi (Tokyo, Japan), Reader's Digest, and Canadian Geographic. Author's works have been translated into fifteen languages in twenty-five countries.

WORK IN PROGRESS: A children's book on saving whales and dolphins.

SIDELIGHTS: Erich Hoyt is a nature and science writer, as well as a scientific researcher who is best known for his work on whales. 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 and Seasons of the Whale: Riding the Currents of the North Atlantic. 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. "I believe books on science and the natural world, if well presented, have the power to unlock our sense of wonder," Hoyt once stated. "The story is the key. 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. I hope through my writing that I can continue discovering the world—and recreating what I discover for others."

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 has been used to score documentaries and dramatic films. In 1973, at the age of twenty-two, he joined an expedition to film killer whales (orcas) off the west coast of Canada. The experience, he explained, "hooked me on wanting to write for a living." Over a period of several summers, Hoyt observed the same pod of orcas again and again, learning to identify individuals and watching as the animals went about their daily lives.

The Whale Called Killer, Hoyt's first full-length book, condensed his seven years of study into an account of killer whale behavior that illuminated the lives of the whales as well as the experiences of Hoyt and his colleagues. "Hoyt's passionate sense of kinship with Orca makes his account effective as both science and literature," wrote a reviewer for Discover. "He has chronicled his adventures and discoveries with grace, insight, wit and a comprehensiveness that might satisfy even Herman Melville." Also describing the book as "a superb account," a Publishers Weekly reviewer considered it "one of the best nature books of the year."

Hoyt later broadened his whale watching to include numerous species, including humpback, right, and blue whales. Seasons of the Whale and The Whale Watcher's Handbook introduce the biology and social behavior of the world's whales while making a strong case for preservation of the marine environment in which the animals live. A School Library Journal reviewer maintained that Hoyt's prescription for whale preservation "is clear" and that his writing is "truly poignant and moving." The Whale Watcher's Handbook was one of the first books to identify and explore a passion that has begun to rival even bird watching in its worldwide growth. A decade after publication, British author-zoolologist Mark Carwardine awarded Hoyt's book top spot on his list of ten All-Time Naturalists' Classics in the BBC Wildlife Magazine.

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 scientist E. O. Wilson on several study trips in search of new ant species and bizarre behavior. 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 New York Times, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt declared The Earth Dwellers "a good introduction to a remarkable subject. Hoyt's ant's-eye view of life works spectacularly." 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." Lehmann-Haupt, too, observed: "A few of the ants Mr. Hoyt describes are even as likable as the people."

Insects in general are shown in various new lights in Insect Lives: Stories of Mystery and Romance from a Hidden World, an anthology that Hoyt coedited with Smithsonian entomologist and Whole Earth editor, Ted Schultz. William H. Weise of Library Journal described the volume as "an eclectic assortment" of material on human attitudes toward insects, presented in enjoyable fashion. Scientific American reviewer Philip Morrison, too, enjoyed the book's range of selections, which range from the Bible and Charles Darwin to contemporary cartoons, entomological papers, and even monster movies. "And the result," wrote Morrison, "is mighty good reading."

Hoyt returned to the sea for his subject matter in Creatures of the Deep: In Search of the Sea's "Monsters" and the World They Live In. This book, which a Publishers Weekly reviewer hailed for its abundance of "startling facts" and its author's obvious enthusiasm, chronicles the habits and behaviors of creatures that live in the deepest parts of the ocean, where little or no light can penetrate. Hoyt provides "spectacular" photographs, according to Geographical reviewer Paul Allen, as well as "engaging narrative" about little known deep sea animals, the extraordinary place where they live and the geological conditions that created some of the most bizarre life forms on earth.

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. 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. Killer whales 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."

Hoyt told CA: "I put my journals as well as facts, characters, dialogue, narrative stories, sound pictures, and even a couple dreams in my books in order to create the truest, deepest portrait of nature and the human relationship with nature. I have been fortunate to live a life, largely of my own choosing and resistant to well-worn paths, living where and how I like, somewhat on the fringes of things, observing, keeping journals, continuing to learn and grow on my own terms, and to be able to make a sufficient living with this odd combination of science, craft, perhaps a little art, and a lot of introspection. My future work will be about new explorations, new places, people and ideas, perhaps new writing forms, we'll see.

"The desire to tell a great story that hadn't been written before [was what interested me in writing.] I had experienced the story myself and knew that if I could learn how to write and tell it, that it would make a great book. Originally I thought I would just take a year off from my music to write the book. It ended up taking more than four years to learn how to write and sell the book. By that time, I was hooked on writing and realized that I wanted to do it for a living.

"I always have a lot of thinking and planning, sometimes over several years, to come up with a structure. Then the writing starts: three to ten drafts, putting each into the computer and printing out fresh drafts, always editing in cafes, crafting each version, adding to it till it begins to feel right. Two good pages a day will, with any luck, make a book in less than a year. So I worry about those two pages and the rest will take care of itself.

"I hope my books will get people excited, passionate about the natural world and hopefully to want to do something positive, to make things better. But I am pleased if someone learns something that makes them see the world in a new, fresh way."



Akron Beacon Journal, October 25, 1981.

American Biology Teacher, January, 2002, Phillip Eichman, review of Insect Lives: Stories of Mystery and Romance from a Hidden World, p. 77.

American Scientist, November, 2001, review of Creatures of the Deep: In Search of the Sea's "Monsters" and the World They Live In, p. 550.

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

BBC Wildlife, July, 1995, p. 79; November, 2002, p. 48.

Booklist, September 15, 1984, p. 97; August, 1991, p. 2137; October 15, 1999, Gilbert Taylor, review of Insect Lives, p. 401; December 1, 2001, Donna Seaman, review of Creatures of the Deep, p. 17.

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, p. 1533; February 1, 1996, 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, p. 3.

Montreal Gazette, October 17, 1981.

New Scientist, March 2, 1991, p. 52; December 19, 1998.

New York Times, March 7, 1996, p. C21.

New York Times Book Review, April 21, 1996, p. 30.

Popular Science, November, 2001.

Publishers Weekly, June 26, 1981; January 15, 1996, p. 452; October 1, 2001, review of Creatures of the Deep, p. 53.

Quill & Quire, March, 1982, p. 66; June, 1984, p. 35; August, 1990, p. 23; May, 1991, p. 24.

School Library Journal, April, 1991, p. 156; December, 1991, p. 142; November, 1996, p. 141; February, 2002, Pam Johnson, review of Creatures of the Deep, p. 155.

Science Books and Films, March, 1985, p. 203; July, 1998, p. 154.

Science Teacher, March, 1993, p. 91.

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

Scottish Field, March, 2002, pp. 58-61.

Seattle Times, March 7, 1982.

Sunday Times (London, England), May 10, 1998, Anthony Sattin, reviews of Seasons of the Whale: Riding the Currents of the North Atlantic, and Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises.

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

Westworld, September, 1981.


Firefly Books, http://www.fireflybooks.com/ (September 15, 2003), author biography.*