Hugh Powell grew up on a variety of Air Force bases and never learned to stay put for very long. His father, a fighter pilot, and mother, a proper English woman with a taste for fizzy drinks, raised him and his siblings to sleep four to a tent and survive long, wet hikes in Wales on little more than lemon-flavored candies. His father also made sure that by the time they were 12, the kids could distinguish a redhead duck from a canvasback from a half-mile away.
After college in Montgomery, Ala., Powell put those childhood birding skills to use in field work across the southeastern U.S., Ohio, Panama, and Montana. He studied forest fires, insects, and woodpeckers for his master’s degree (2000), edited a journal of ornithology, and then completed the science writing program at the University of California, Santa Cruz. After deadlines, he surfed the rocky coastline north of town, sharing the water with sea lions, pigeon guillemots, and the occasional gray whale.
In July 2005, Powell holed up in Woods Hole, writing for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) Web sites about coastal oceanography and ocean instruments, and filling up on clam chowder.
He also kicked off WHOI's practice of filing daily stories from two oceanographic meetings, the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union and AGU's Ocean Sciences Meeting.
In 2006, he briefly freelanced from a perch on the West Coast. In fall 2007 he wrote five articles for Oceanus about the growing debate over Ocean Iron Fertilization. In winter 2007 he headed for the penguins and perpetual daylight of Ross Island, Antarctica, on Expedition 3 of WHOI's Live from the Poles. Now a staff writer at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York, he continues to blog about science, the ocean, and birding at surf.bird.scribble, the Gist, and Round Robin. He continues to write for WHOI because they keep doing such interesting research.
(photo by Hugh Powell)