Vileisis, Ann 1967-

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VILEISIS, Ann 1967-

PERSONAL: Surname is pronounced "Vil-eye-sis;" born March 18, 1967, in Waterbury, CT; daughter of Peter (a demolition contractor) and Janet Fleming (a nurse; maiden name, Taylor) Vileisis; married Tim Palmer (a writer), August 6, 1994. Ethnicity: "Lithuanian/Italian/Irish/German." Education: Yale University, B.A. (cum laude), 1989; Utah State University, M.A., 1992. Hobbies and other interests: Hiking, white-water boating (canoeing, kayaking, rafting), skiing, drawing, cooking.

ADDRESSES: Home—Box 814, Southbury, CT 06488. E-mail—[email protected].

CAREER: Independent scholar and writer, 1995—. Colorado Outward Bound School, Jensen, UT, course director for educational river expeditions in Colorado, Utah, and Alaska, 1990-95. Lecturer at colleges and universities; public speaker. Canyonlands National Park, volunteer, 1989.

MEMBER: American Society for Environmental History.

AWARDS, HONORS: George Perkins Marsh Prize, American Society for Environmental History, and Herbert Feis Award, American Historical Association, both 1999, both for Discovering the Unknown Landscape: A History of America's Wetlands; fellow, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, 1999.


Discovering the Unknown Landscape: A History of America's Wetlands, Island Press (Washington, DC), 1997.

Contributor to books, including The Piracy of America, edited by Judith Scherff, Clarity Press, 1998; Water and Environment since 1945: Global Perspectives, edited by Char Miller, Manley, 2001; and Stories of the Wild, edited by Susan Marsh, Murie Center, 2001. Contributor to periodicals, including Paddler.

WORK IN PROGRESS: A book about "how Americans have lost the knowledge that their food comes from nature."

SIDELIGHTS: Ann Vileisis told CA: "I write books because I am curious and deeply concerned about the natural world. I want to share my sense of both wonder and grief and my compulsion to understand why Americans love nature but also can't seem to help but use it in destructive ways.

"I was first intrigued by environmental history when I studied with William Cronon as an undergraduate at Yale. His writing and teaching inspired me to look for more stories to explain the seemingly paradoxical and troubling situations we now find ourselves in—stories that involve the interplay of culture and nature, people and land. In my research, I like to find unexpected links between art, science, economics, politics, popular culture, and ecological change and try to make sense of them, but my ultimate aim is to find useful insights that might help us all to gain better understanding. I believe that, when people know stories of the land where they live, they often feel inspired to support and work for its conservation.

"After completing a master's degree in history, I took my research on the road when I married environmental writer Tim Palmer and joined him in a nomadic, bohemian lifestyle. He'd already pioneered the discipline of writing in a van, with a dozen books to show for his eleven years of travels and exploration. We have continued to travel depending on our research, mostly in the western United States, though back in 1993, when I was researching Discovering the Unknown Landscape: A History of America's Wetlands, we trekked through the swampy Southeast. While many historians begin and end their work in libraries, travel has enabled me to begin my work on the land, learning what questions to ask by first looking for myself. After this grounding, I gather materials in libraries wherever I go.

"We treasure the simplicity of our van life. We have a desk that doubles as a kitchen table, a bunk, shelves with hundreds of books, boxes of files, two computers, a bike, a guitar, a raft, two pairs of skis, two canoes, and a kayak on top, and all sorts of other things tucked into nooks and corners. It feels cozy, not crowded, and we are always ready for anything. Most important, the solitude and quiet we find permits us to work without interruption and distraction. Time spent outdoors exploring nature balances the long hours at our desk, and the beauty we discover inspires us to continue learning and to share what we learn by writing."



Environment, September, 1998, Karen Bartlett, review of Discovering the Unknown Landscape: A History of America's Wetlands, p. 25.

Library Journal, November 1, 1997, Joan S. Elbers, review of Discovering the Unknown Landscape, p. 114.

Publishers Weekly, September 22, 1997, review of Discovering the Unknown Landscape, p. 61.

Regional Science and Urban Economics, February, 2001, Stephen Polasky, review of Discovering the Unknown Landscape, p. 127.

Sierra, May-June, 1998, Bob Schildgen, review of Discovering the Unknown Landscape, p. 80.

Smithsonian, April, 1998, Joyce Wolkomir and Richard Wolkomir, review of Discovering the Unknown Landscape, p.142.