caroline eaton tracey

caroline.e.tracey at gmail dot com

The Tiny Bird that Could Save an Ecosystem
High Country News, 1 July 2024

“Imagine you’re a phalarope — a female Wilson’s phalarope, to be precise, Phalaropus tricolor. Your tiny, fragile body fits in the palm of a human hand and weighs little more than a double-A battery. You have long, dark legs, a white belly and blue-gray wings that lighten into a ruddy color at your neck. Your face is mostly white, with a dark cap and a black mask leading to a slender, pointed beak.

Your appearance makes you unusual among birds: Female phalaropes are larger and more colorful than their male counterparts. You look good, and you know it; you choose your mates, competing aggressively with other females, and you practice polyandry, taking multiple partners.

You’re exceptional in another way, too: You’re the only bird species that migrates across the entire Western Hemisphere, stopping primarily at inland salt lakes — “freakish habitats,” as ornithologist Margaret Rubega put it.

In spring, you nest in the prairies surrounding Saskatchewan’s Chaplin Lake. Then, you fly south to the U.S. Great Basin, seeking out places like Utah’s Great Salt Lake, Oregon’s Lake Abert and California’s Mono Lake to chow down on flies and their larvae to double your weight before migration. You might be best known for your unusual hunting technique: Sometimes you spin around in the water, shoveling it backwards with your lobed feet to force any fly larvae suspended in the lake up to the surface.

Once you’ve bulked up and molted, you fly south to South America for the austral summer.

But what if you flew to one of your salt lakes, and it wasn’t there?”

reporting on the Arizona border wall, november 2022 (photo: Eliseu Cavalcante)

with Ellen Waterston and guest judge Raquel Gutiérrez at the 2022 Waterston Desert Writing Prize awards ceremony
Caroline Eaton Tracey writes about the environment, migration, and the arts in the US Southwest, Mexico, and their borderlands. She speaks and works in English, Spanish, and Russian. Her first book, SALT LAKES, will be published by W.W. Norton.

Caroline’s reporting appears in the New Yorker, n+1, New York Review of Books, High Country News, and elsewhere, as well as in Spanish in Mexico’s Nexos

In 2022 she was awarded the Waterston Prize for Desert Writing and in 2023 she received Columbia University’s Ira A. Lipman Fellowship in Journalism and Human and Civil Rights and a Silvers Foundation Work-in-Progress grant.

Caroline holds a PhD in Geography from the University of California, Berkeley. She lives with her wife, Mexican architect and sculptor Mariana GJP, between Tucson, Arizona and Mexico City.

She is represented by Bridget Matzie of Aevitas Creative Management.
Caroline Eaton Tracey escribe sobre el medioambiente, la migración, el arte y la literatura en México, el Suroeste de Estados Unidos y su frontera. Habla ingles, español y ruso. Su primer libro, SALT LAKES, será publicado bajo el sello de la editorial W.W. Norton.

Sus artículos aparecen en The New Yorker, n+1, New York Review of Books y High Country News entre otros lugares. En español escribe frecuentemente para la revista Nexos.

En 2022 ganó el Premio Waterston por Escritura del Desierto y en 2023 recibió la beca Ira A. Lipman de periodismo de derechos humanos y civiles de Columbia University y una beca de la Fundación Silvers.

Caroline es Doctora en Geografía de la Universidad de California–Berkeley. Vive con su esposa, la arquitecta y escultora mexicana Mariana GJP, entre Tucson, Arizona y la Ciudad de México.

La representa Bridget Matzie de la agencia literaria Aevitas Creative Management.