The short version:
Meera Subramanian is an award-winning freelance journalist whose work has been published around the world, and her first book is A River Runs Again: India’s Natural World in Crisis from the Barren Cliffs of Rajasthan to the Farmlands of Karnataka, published in 2015 by PublicAffairs (and as Elemental India: The Natural World at a Time of Crisis and Opportunity by HarperCollins India). Her writing has been anthologized in Best American Science and Nature Writing and multiple editions of Best Women’s Travel Writing. She was a Knight Science Journalism fellow at MIT (2016-17) and a Fulbright-Nehru Senior Research fellow in India (2013-14), and she earned her graduate degree in journalism from New York University. In 2019-2020, she’ll be the Currie C. and Thomas A. Barron Visiting Professor in the Environment and the Humanities at Princeton University.
The not-so-short version:
When pressed to make up a lie about myself, I said I was descended from Romanian gypsies. In truth, my great-great grandfather, on my mother’s side, traveled from Germany to Texas in time to be one of the newly formed Lone Star state’s first cartographers in the mid 1800s. My father made a one-way journey, too, the first in his family to leave India, disembarking his ship in New York Harbor in 1959. So movement beyond native boundaries runs through my blood.
In spite of the one forced fib, I am a nonfiction writer. I seek out stories about home in the personal and planetary sense, writing about the wild world hidden around us and within us, covering everything from the return of peregrine falcons to the near extinction of vultures, from arranged marriages in India to organic chocolate in Grenada. My first book is A River Runs Again: India’s Natural World in Crisis from the Barren Cliffs of Rajasthan to the Farmlands of Karnataka, published in August 2015 by PublicAffairs (and as Elemental India: The Natural World at a Time of Crisis and Opportunity by HarperCollins India). I took multiple reporting and research trips to India, including as a Fulbright-Nehru senior research fellow.
My work has been published in Nature, The New York Times, The NewYorker.com, InsideClimate News, Wall Street Journal, Virginia Quarterly Review, Orion, Undark, High Country News, USA Today, Smithsonian, Audubon, Salon, Bidoun, Discover, Saudi Aramco World, Grist, and others. Internationally, I’ve written for Caravan, India Today, Open, and GEO (India), Africa Geographic (South Africa), Internazionale (Italy), Revue Urbanisme (France), and others. In 2018, I became a contributing editor for Orion magazine.
In 2017-18 I worked on Finding Middle Ground, a series of stories for InsideClimate News about how Americans perceive climate change in their own backyards, whether from a peach orchard, the back of a dogsled, or up a wind turbine. The series was a finalist for the Scripps Howard Award. The year before that I spent in Cambridge, Massachusetts as a Knight Science Journalism fellow at MIT, where I got to be a student again, saturating myself with learning without a deadlined objective in sight. But I also teach, both a creative nonfiction workshop class at the Sewanee School of Letters MFA program in Tennessee and environmental science writing at Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole on Cape Cod. In 2019-2020, I’m honored to serve as the Currie C. and Thomas A. Barron Visiting Professor in the Environment and the Humanities at Princeton University, where I’ll be teaching along with working on a long-term project that’s still taking shape.
I’ve been a long-time member of the Society of Environmental Journalists, formed to “strengthen the quality, reach and viability of journalism across all media to advance public understanding of environmental issues.” The organization has been a bottomless resources for me as a freelancer, and in the fall of 2018, I joined the Board of Directors. If you want to support robust journalism covering energy and the environment, you can donate here.
Since 2007, I have also been part of the editorial team of Killing the Buddha, an award-winning online literary magazine of stories about belief, lost or found, oftentimes both. Believer, Beware: First-Person Dispatches from the Margins of Faith (Beacon Press, July 2009), an anthology featuring the best of Killing the Buddha, includes my piece “Banana Slug Psalm.” in 2018, I became a contributing editor of the gorgeous and thought-provoking Orion magazine.
My writing has been anthologized in the Best American Science and Nature Writing (2015) and multiple editions of the Best Women’s Travel Writing series, published by Travelers’ Tales (The Best Women’s Travel Writing 2011, volume 8, and volume 9), exploring the connection to my Indian relatives, monarch reserves and men in Michoacán, and the mud banks of the Ganges River. Not all at the same time.
I also have a thing for raptors. In 2010 and 2011, I taught environmental journalism in Kenya, as part of a Conservation Media class focusing on birds of prey, for St. Lawrence University undergraduates. Where else could we have trapped a vulture using a freshly-killed-by-lions wildebeest as bait, and then secured a little GPS backpack to follow the vulture’s movements via the Web? Exactly. Visit the blog we did here.
Home has been New Jersey, New Orleans, a ship, a southern music town, and multiple places in the Pacific Northwest, where I spent more than a decade working with environmental nonprofit organizations, sometimes in the city, and sometimes at the end of a dirt road. Then there was a good long stint in New York City, where I earned a master’s in journalism from NYU in Cultural Reporting and Criticism. I now find myself on the shores of Cape Cod, again at the end of a dirt road, looking up. There are birds everywhere.
Residencies, Grants & Fellowships:
Currie C. and Thomas A. Barron Visiting Professor in the Environment and the Humanities at Princeton University — 2019-2020
Institutes for Journalism and Natural Resources Wildfire Workshop — 2018
Knight Science Journalism fellowship at MIT — 2016-2017
Society of Environmental Journalists Diversity fellowship — October 2015
MBL Logan Science Journalism Program fellowship/Alaska Field Experience — May & July 2015
Metcalf Climate Change Adaptation seminar — May 2015
Fulbright-Nehru Senior Researcher fellowship — 2013-2014
Society of Environmental Journalists/Fund for Environmental Journalism — September 2012
Metcalf Institute Science Workshop for Journalists — June 2012
Society of Environmental Journalists 20-20-20 Fellowship — October 2010
Blue Mountain Center — October 2009
Mesa Refuge — September 2007
Institutes for Journalism and Natural Resources (Blue Mountains) — May 2006
Scripps Howard Award (Topic of the Year: Divided America) finalist, for Finding Middle Ground series — 2017
Orion Book Award finalist — 2016
Santa Monica Public Library Green Prize for Sustainable Literature — 2016
Society of Environmental Journalists 11th Annual Awards for Reporting on the Environment: First Place for Outstanding Feature Story — 2012
Staige D. Blackford Prize for Nonfiction — 2012
Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ Board Member 2018-2021)
National Association of Science Writers
South Asian Journalists Association
Association of Writers & Writing Programs