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Sarah Sweedler

sarah and bowser

I'm a freelance writer based in San Francisco, California. My technical writing work is described under separate cover.

Journalism

I often write articles on California history and restoration, including this piece in Bay Nature magazine which describes how pollen analysis was used at Mountain Lake park to re-create the historic landscape before the great eucalyptus/ivy invasion. It was a cool project -- UC Berkeley scientists analyzed core samples taken from the lake sediment, and the pollen grains provided a chronological map of plant life over the last century.

 

Paddling the Middle Reach: The Russian river's middle reach eludes most travelers, and for good reason: upwards of 95% of the river flows through private land. But grab a kayak and put in at one of the few public access spots and you'll soon see why the Russians tried to lay claim to the Slavianka, or Little Maiden.

This Bay Nature article also focuses on the intersection between nature and urban open space: in the heart of the city atop Mt Sutro, volunteer trail crews removed invasives to discover a century-old rock-retaining wall and a native plant  -- the fairy bell flower -- long thought to have vanished from city limits.

I had the privilege of writing for the new California Academy of Sciences website, for which I authored the desert, ocean, and tropical rainforest biomes (which were called ecosystems when I went to college).

Water issues, in California? Pilarcitos creek was dammed in the 1860s to provide San Francisco's first large-scale water source, and for more than 140 years the water utility has protected the land from logging and development. But all is not well in paradise: Creating those dams flooded valuable habitat, blocked migrating steelhead from spawning grounds, and greatly reduced water flowing downstream for all wildlife.

fort ross book cover
I co-authored Fort Ross and the Sonoma Coast , published by Arcadia in 2004 and now in its third printing. Part of my promotional tour required that I set up at a suburban Costco to pedal the book, with me sandwiched between the very noisy blend-o-matic juice guy and the ladies in hair nets selling frozen pigs-in-a-blanket. I'm hoping this was not my 15 minutes of fame...

 

Grant Writing

I co-authored The Coast of Colonial California Through the Eyes of Russian Mariners: Fresh Perspectives From Naval Documents. Thanks to a generous grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities, I am currently working with an international team of academics to research the archives of Russian institutions such as the St. Petersburg Naval Museum, where we will locate, translate, and publish materials relating to early California history, flora, and fauna. 

If you're puzzled why we would travel to Russia to gather history on Alta California, check out the Fort Ross Interpretive Association website. I serve on the board of directors.

 

Recent KQED Radio stories

Periodically I contribute to KQED-FM, including this somewhat earnest look at the folly of charging bicyclists to cross the Golden Gate bridge.

Keep the wild in wildlife! Feeding the coyote or corvid stresses wildlife in ways you don't necessarily see. In this KQED essay I make the argument that feeding urban animals subsidizes the generalists yet harms the specialists.

I have also written for San Francisco magazine, Diablo Custom Publishing, Bay Area Parent, and more.