In The Accidental Reef and Other Ecological Odysseys in the Great Lakes, Lynne Heasley illuminates an underwater world that, despite a ferocious industrial history, remains wondrous and worthy of care. From its first scene in a benighted Great Lakes river, where lake sturgeon thrash and spawn, this powerful book takes readers on journeys through the Great Lakes, alongside fish and fishers, scuba divers and scientists, toxic pollutants and threatened communities, oil pipelines and invasive species, Indigenous peoples and federal agencies. With dazzling illustrations from Glenn Wolff, the book helps us know the Great Lakes in new ways and grapple with the legacies and alternative futures that come from their abundance of natural wealth. Suffused with curiosity, empathy, and wit, The Accidental Reef will not fail to astonish and inspire.
Lynne Heasley is professor in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at Western Michigan University, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She is the author of A Thousand Pieces of Paradise: Landscape and Property in the Kickapoo Valley and coeditor of Border Flows: A Century of the Canadian-American Water Relationship.
"Have you ever wondered what it is like to live under water? How noisy it is? What other aquatic life exists down there? Lynne Heasley explores how sturgeon are thriving in a polluted St. Clair River, how a husband and wife team have an intimate relationship with the river and its inhabitants [...] how important the international boundary has been for protecting the Great Lakes. Professor Heasley presents her story in unique ways. The beautiful illustrations throughout the book add an aura of mystery."
– Horst Schmidt, president, Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition, and chair, Statewide Public Advisory Council for Michigan's Areas of Concern Program
"In The Accidental Reef, Lynne Heasley has done something extraordinary: she has woven together threads from fisheries ecology, environmental humanities, and literary nonfiction into a multifaceted tapestry illuminating the Great Lakes. Heasley explores the ways that biological dramas collide with ecological, historical, and cultural transformations. Her arguments are intelligent, surprising, and provocative, and her writing is lyrical, offering us new insights on the watery creatures that make their homes in the Great Lakes."
– Nancy Langston, distinguished professor of environmental history, Michigan Technological University, and author of Climate Ghosts: Migratory Species in the Anthropocene
"Lynne Heasley combines difficult science, reportage, historical and literary sensibilities with a crystalline style that is not afraid to confront state of the art research with the occasional lyrical flourish, and even sometimes with a bit of humor. A unique book, one of the most readable regional environmental books I have encountered."
– Keith Taylor, author of Let Them Be Left and The Bird-while
"Magnificent. Beautifully illustrated and written. Lynne Heasley's essays branch out to past and present, to the complex Great Lakes environmental web that binds the creatures of the water and we humans together. Her writing style is both soundly science based and also brilliantly literary. It's a pleasure to be in the presence of a mind that can so adeptly traverse science and history while also maintaining an erudite style and adroit essay structure that keeps my attention. Plus, it's a big statement about Michigan water intelligence."
– Anne-Marie Ooman, author of As Long as I Know You: The Mom Book, 2021 winner of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Sue William Silverman Prize for Creative Nonfiction
"This amazing book folds history, science, art, commerce, literature, research, and human impact on the lakes into a new portrait of the freshwater seas and life below the surface that most of us seldom see or fully appreciate. The book's brilliant inter-connected essays begin with the importance of a little known reef in the St. Clair River that was created by coal burning boats who dumped their clinkers overboard near Algonac [...] All of this is delivered in almost magical prose filled with humor, spellbinding descriptions, great observations, and stunning facts."
– Michigan in Books
"Uber-attuned to landscapes both inner and outer, The Accidental Reef gives life and voice to a marginalized body of water. In this immersive hybrid, Lynne Heasley nets all perspectives, even slipping beneath the surface of the Great Lakes to illuminate the myriad relationships that comprise a watershed."
– Chris Dombrowski, author of Body of Water: A Sage, a Seeker, and the World's Most Alluring Fish
"Science and art are human attempts to understand and describe the world around us. In The Accidental Reef, Lynne Heasley has used science, history, and literary arts to create a sense of wonder for an obscure reef in the St. Clair River and the Great Lakes. Heasley leads a reader to see, know, and understand these freshwater seas from different perspectives – ones that are essential to developing a stewardship ethic."
– John H. Hartig, visiting scholar, Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, University of Windsor, and author of Waterfront Porch: Reclaiming Detroit's Industrial Waterfront as a Gathering Place for All
"Lynne Heasley's The Accidental Reef offers a fresh perspective on the state of the Great Lakes. Based on thorough research and carried by lush writing, it is one of the best Great Lakes books of our era."
– Dave Dempsey, author of Great Lakes for Sale: From Whitecaps to Bottlecaps and On the Brink: The Great Lakes in the 21st Century