After the Blast
The Ecological Recovery of Mount St. Helens
- PUBLISHED: May 2022
- SUBJECT LISTING: Nature and Environment, Pacific Northwest / Natural History
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 264 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 20 color illus., 2 b&w illus., 1 map
- ISBN: 9780295750712
On May 18, 1980, people all over the world watched with awe and horror as Mount St. Helens erupted. Fifty-seven people were killed and hundreds of square miles of what had been lush forests and wild rivers were to all appearances destroyed.
Ecologists thought they would have to wait years, or even decades, for life to return to the mountain, but when forest scientist Jerry Franklin helicoptered into the blast area a couple of weeks after the eruption, he found small plants bursting through the ash and animals skittering over the ground. Stunned, he realized he and his colleagues had been thinking of the volcano in completely the wrong way. Rather than being a dead zone, the mountain was very much alive.
Mount St. Helens has been surprising ecologists ever since, and in After the Blast Eric Wagner takes readers on a fascinating journey through the blast area and beyond. From fireweed to elk, the plants and animals Franklin saw would not just change how ecologists approached the eruption and its landscape, but also prompt them to think in new ways about how life responds in the face of seemingly total devastation.
Authors & Contributors
Eric Wagner, who earned a PhD in biology from the University of Washington, writes regularly about animals and the environment. He is author of Penguins in the Desert and coauthor of Once and Future River: Reclaiming the Duwamish. He climbs Mount St. Helens annually.
This is a superb look at scientists and science at work.- Publishers Weekly
Author Eric Wagner takes a lively, enthusiastic look at the post-eruption landscape.- The Oregonian
It is a wonderful story that combines ecology, sociology, and anthropology to paint a picture of nature that can give us a feeling of hope.- In Defense of Plants
Like the seeds of lupine, Mount St. Helens is fortunate that such a writer landed on its soil, turning desolation into fertile ground.- Natural History Magazine
The book is richly illustrated, supporting Wagner's evocative description of both the site and the procedures of the scientists he followed, a true window into the world of field science.- Choice
Readers interested in the Pacific Northwest and historical ecology have much to glean from this carefully rendered portrait of an exceptional research community and iconic place.- Oregon Historical Quarterly
Wagner has told an excellent story of nature in response to an extreme event and the resilience of ecosystems. There is a perfect blend of describing core ecological theories, the individuals conducting the research, and the passion many ecologists share for understanding natural systems. The book also has an inherent positivity, showing that life finds a way through the destruction of a volcanic eruption, that it makes for an enjoyable read beyond the ecological details.- Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America
Thoroughly reported, well structured, and gracefully written—this account of scientists doing fascinating research on the ecology of Mount St. Helens is pretty much perfect.- Steve Olson, author of Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens
After the Blast is the story of the greatest ecological experiment in Northwest history, told with beauty and verve by one of our best biology writers. Eric Wagner gives us a terrific read, equally gripping for its social and natural history. I recommend it in the highest terms.- Robert Michael Pyle, author of Wintergreen and Magdalena Mountain
Unleashes a pyroclastic flow of wonder and surprise as it tracks the astonishing transformation of Mount. St. Helens's ecosystems. After the Blast is an impassioned ode to the scientific method and the irrepressible resilience of the natural world.- Ben Goldfarb, author of Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter