More than 10,000 known caves lie beneath the state of Tennessee according to the Tennessee Cave Survey, a nonprofit organization that catalogues and maps them. In Hidden Nature: Wild Southern Caves, Taylor tells the story of this vast underground wilderness. Besides describing the sheer physical majesty of the region's wild caverns and the concurrent joys and dangers of exploring them, he examines their rich natural history and scientific import, their relationship to clean water and a healthy surface environment, and their uncertain future.
As a long-time caver and the author of three popular books related to caving – Cave Passages (1996), Dark Life (1998), and Caves (2000) – Taylor enjoys (for a journalist) unusual access to their secretive world. He is personally acquainted with many of the region's most accomplished cave explorers and scientists, and they in turn are familiar with his popular writing on caves in books; in magazines such as Audubon, Outside, and Sports Illustrated; and on websites such as those of the Discovery Channel and the PBS science series Nova.
Hidden Nature: Wild Southern Caves is structured as a comprehensive work of well-researched fact that reads like a personal narrative of the author's long attraction to these caves and the people who dare enter their hidden chambers.
Michael Taylor, professor of communication, chairs the Communication and Theatre Department and teaches journalism and innovative media courses. He is the author of several books, including Cave Passages (Scribner, 1996), Dark Life (Scribner, 1998), and Caves: Exploring Hidden Realms (National Geographic Press, 2000). With department members Dr Randy Duncan and David Stoddard, he co-authored a 2015 textbook on nonfiction comics published by Routledge.
Taylor's articles have appeared in Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, Houston Chronicle, Wired, Audubon, Reader's Digest, Outside, and many other print and digital publications. He has worked on documentaries for National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, and the PBS series Nova, as well as a theatrical IMAX film, Journey Into Amazing Caves. He has co-authored several scientific papers related to cave microbiology with scientists from NASA and various universities.