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Under the Influence

Emily Monosson, 1987-88 Executive Branch Fellow at the Environmental Protection Agency, wants the public to understand how our use of chemicals impacts the environment and evolution. Her work on a chapter in a previous book ignited her passion for investigating “our chemical influence on the world.” Thus was born her latest oeuvre, “Unnatural Selection: How we are changing life gene by gene.”

I want to make the notion of rapid or contemporary evolution more accessible to everyone. By doing so, I hope people will look at how we use chemicals a little differently.

Emily Monosson


Emily Monosson in Glacier National Park. | Ben Letcher

Antibiotics, pesticides, and herbicides exert powerful selective pressure on organisms such as bacteria, insects, and weeds. Monosson focuses on the “winners” – those organisms that have the capacity to evolve rapidly in response to chemical exposures. “I hope my mother, who is not a scientist, will read it,” she said.

Monosson’s fellowship experience continues to play a role in her career. “The fellowship gave me the opportunity to ask questions and explore topics that I thought were interesting and relevant – precisely what I do now. Also, I interviewed fellow alumna Judy Weis for the pollution chapter,” she said. “Whenever I am stuck needing connections or suggestions for science or policy contacts, the fellows are a great resource!”