On May 18, 1980, people all over the world watched with awe and horror as Mount St. Helens erupted. Fifty-seven people were killed and hundreds of square miles of what had been lush forests and wild rivers were to all appearances destroyed.
Ecologists thought they would have to wait years, or even decades, for life to return to the mountain, but when forest scientist Jerry Franklin helicoptered into the blast area a couple of weeks after the eruption, he found small plants bursting through the ash and animals skittering over the ground. Stunned, he realized he and his colleagues had been thinking of the volcano in completely the wrong way. Rather than being a dead zone, the mountain was very much alive.
Mount St. Helens has been surprising ecologists ever since, and in After the Blast Eric Wagner takes readers on a fascinating journey through the blast area and beyond. From fireweed to elk, the plants and animals Franklin saw would not just change how ecologists approached the eruption and its landscape, but also prompt them to think in new ways about how life responds in the face of seemingly total devastation.
Eric Wagner earned a PhD in biology from the University of Washington, writes regularly about animals and the environment, and is author of Penguins in the Desert and coauthor of Once and Future River: Reclaiming the Duwamish. He climbs Mount St. Helens annually.
"This is a superb look at scientists and science at work."
– Publishers Weekly
"Thoroughly reported, well structured, and gracefully written – this account of scientists doing fascinating research on the ecology of Mount St. Helens is pretty much perfect."
– Steve Olson, author of Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens