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Reporter on a Global Beat

Colin Woodard, A91, has circled the globe to write his first book, Ocean's End: Travels Through Endangered Seas. Over a year and half he chronicled the ecological collapse of the Black Sea and the Grand Banks off the coast of Newfoundland, the formation of a 7000-square-mile swath of the Gulf of Mexico known as the Dead Zone, and the effects of U.S. atomic testing on Central Pacific Islanders. He has seen the dramatic consequences of pollution on the coral reefs of Belize and of warming trends on Antarctica's ice shelves.

Woodard is at home in these disparate corners of the earth, even though journalism is a profession he more or less fell into. He grew up in Strong, Maine, a small town (pop. 1000) not only hours from the ocean, but also an hour's drive from the nearest haircut. In Tufts, Woodard found a "convenient mix of a campus with lots of trees and access to a major city." He enjoyed working as news editor of the Tufts Daily, but never gave much thought to journalism. "I flirted with biology and English first, then Soviet studies and ended up with history." When he flew to Budapest in September of 1989 on a study abroad program, he added to his liberal arts background the "incredibly lucky" experience of witnessing history in the making. "We watched communism collapse around us," he recalls.

That semester was a new beginning. On a Tufts Young Scholar's Grant, Woodard studied in Romania that summer of 1990. After graduation, he lived in Budapest for four years, traveling and writing for mainstream publications such as the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Christian Science Monitor, and other publications. In 1995 he returned to the U.S. to earn a master's in international relations at the University of Chicago, where he won the Morton Kaplan Prize for the best-written master's thesis. He then moved to Zagreb, Croatia, and covered the Balkans and the Bosnian peace process for the Monitor.

His first environmental reporting dealt with the Danube and how it conveyed pollution to the Black Sea. Headlines, he recalls, carried reports of a "shocking environmental catastrophe . . . the rapid destruction of an entire sea." And later, in Maine, he heard the news that the Grand Banks, one of the world's most productive fisheries, had been closed for lack of cod. In early 1997, back in Maine, he began to see connections. "I figured these events were related in some way. I started researching to satisfy my curiosity, and the answer I found was that scientists were horrified by what was happening. I started reporting proj-ects on the ocean and conceiving an idea for a book.

With his first chapter on the Black Sea, Woodard approached Jill Grinberg, J92, a book agent, for advice. Grinberg ultimately took on the job herself. "Somewhere along the line she got hooked on the idea herself. It's a wonderful match-she's an excellent agent." Another Tufts link is Karl Schatz, A92, former photo editor at the Daily and longtime friend, who took Woodard's author photo and is now picture editor at Time.com.

Ocean's End begins, as did Woodard's own journey, on the Black Sea, whose "near total destruction provides a cautionary tale of what can happen when marine environments are treated with reckless abandon," he writes. "There is no question: the ocean is in serious trouble," adds Woodard. "It is a global entity with problems that are global in nature; we can only conserve marine ecosystems as ecosystems. Effective solutions will require cooperation on a scale that we're not accustomed to doing and don't do well. . . . We must work together or the symptoms in the book will be just the beginning of much larger problems to come." --L.F.

   

 

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