Hi. Thanks for visiting. My name is Mike Shanahan.
The blog will focus on the environment — particularly climate change and biodiversity loss — and how we communicate about these issues.
I got interested in these subjects before I went to university and then spent a few years working in rainforests in Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo) and on a volcanic island off Papua New Guinea for my doctorate at the University of Leeds. I was there to study the ecologically super-important fig trees (Ficus species) and the animals that eat their figs and disperse their seeds — hence the title of this blog (a banyan is a kind of fig tree).
After I left Leeds, I worked on environmental and human rights projects in Asia and Latin America for the Environmental Justice Foundation — this included work on pesticide poisoning in Cambodia, bear farming in Vietnam and mangrove deforestation in Ecuador. I then spent a couple of years as the news editor at SciDev.Net, and nearly eight years as the press officer for the International Institute for Environment and Development. I’m now a freelance writer and editor.
I have written for The Economist, Nature, The Ecologist, Newsweek, Scientific American, Mongabay, Ensia, BBC Earth, Atlas Obscura and New Scientist, and have illustrated a biology book called Extraordinary Animals.
In 2016 , my own book came out. Published in the UK as Ladders to Heaven and in North America as Gods, Wasps and Stranglers, it is about how fig trees have shaped our world, influenced diverse cultures and can help us restore life to degraded rainforests. You can read a summary and advance praise here.