2014 Mary Byrd Davis Residency

We are delighted to announce the winner of the 2014

Mary Byrd Davis Nature Writing Residency:

Joan Maloof of Quantico, Maryland


Joan Maloof
Photo by Jamie Philips


Forests that have never been disturbed by humans are rare places; so rare that most people on the planet will never see one. Many people do not even realize that undisturbed forests still exist. In the eastern United States the research done by Mary Byrd Davis brought attention to the continued presence of these unique and rare old-growth forest remnants. Through Davis’s research we learned that less than 1% of the great eastern forest remained. These remaining old-growth forests are nature’s classrooms – – the control plots that show us how the planet responds when we do not intervene. These forests have lessons to teach about biodiversity and resilience, and also about beauty and possibilities – Joan Maloof

Joan Maloof is a scientist, a writer, and the Founder and Director of the Old-Growth Forest Network, a non-profit organization creating a network of forests across the US that will remain forever unlogged and open to the public. Her book, Teaching the Trees: Lessons from the Forest (University of Georgia Press, 2005), won an Honorable Mention from the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment. Her second book, Among the Ancients: Adventures in the Eastern Old-Growth Forests, (Ruka Press, 2011) was an Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist.

I was thrilled to learn of the Mary Byrd Davis Writer’s Residency. Davis edited the only forest ecology book that focused specifically on the eastern old-growth forests (Eastern Old-Growth Forests: Prospects for Discovery and Recovery, 1996). In the years since that book was published we have discovered even more about the importance of ancient trees. Just this year scientists learned that tree growth accelerates with age, and a large tree may put on weight equivalent to an entire small tree in a single year. This discovery suggests that the world’s oldest trees play an important role in combating climate change because of the vast amounts of carbon they sequester. It is exactly those sorts of new discoveries that I plan to share in a new book. 

Maloof’s essay, “Rachel Carson’s Daughter” won the Senior Prize in a 2012 international essay competition that had entries from nineteen countries. Maloof studied Plant Science at the University of Delaware (BS), Environmental Science at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (MS), and Ecology at the University of Maryland College Park (PhD). She has published numerous research articles in journals such as: Ecology, the American Journal of Botany, Plant Species Biology, the International Journal of Environmental Studies, and Environmental Philosophy. Maloof is a Professor Emeritus at Salisbury University in Maryland.

My vision is to create a small book, accessible to even non-scientists, which would share the latest scientific knowledge about ancient forests. The working title is Loving the Science: of Eastern Growth Forests.   Many forestry school graduates have no understanding of the importance of these forests, and this book, as a supplemental text, would fill that gap and likely result in more forests being preserved. It is an ideal follow-up to my first two books.

We are so pleased to award this residency to Joan. Thank you to everyone who applied and who aided in publicizing this award.

Congratulations again to our finalists:

Chelsea Biondolillo for On Vultures

Kenneth Brower for Sea Rise: A Memoir of Low Islands

Susan Griffen for Sustainability and the Soul

Christopher Shaw for The Source

Finances permitting, we will be offering a second MB Davis Residency in 2015 – if you would like to contribute to the fund and support writers with urgent messages like Joan’s and our finalists, please contact us at info{at}bordeneuveretreat.com.