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Sketches of The Big Melt

I knew Bert More for over 3 decades. Aside from his work for the US government he loved biking and sketching. I’ve seen his work in lots of places and always admired the relaxed style he used to bring life to subjects. I was honored to spend some time with Bert during his last days. He was excited about trying to capture the main characters in my book, The Big Melt. I think he did a pretty darn good job of it. I would like to share these images with you as a tribute to the man and his art.



Marley Jones is the lead protagonist in The Big Melt. He is a skate-boarder as shown here by Bert’s sketch. He is also a teenager, ready to get on with his life – and then all hell breaks loose in the form of a whole slew of climate change impacts. Here he is trying to relearn his favorite form of transport on melting streets.





Ranger Max, one of Marley’s mentors, is sneaking up on a meadow at dusk to watch the famous mating dance of the woodcock. His well planned outing and his wooded park are disrupted by a catastrophic invasion of insects, moving north with the warming climate.





Sam, who along with his father are the main antagonists in The Big Melt, blasts away in this sketch at the competition as drones try to deliver packages to his customers.





Sam also converted his hummer to rolling coal so he can blow exhaust on bikers, walkers and hybrid owners. This has happened to me once and it took a few minutes for the air to clear enough to drive safely.

Anthropocene Fictions – The Novel in a Time of Climate Change

Anthropocene FictionsJust been perusing a scholarly review of Adam Trexler’s Anthropocene Fictions – The Novel in a Time of Climate Change. I wanted to share with you the take-a-ways I came away with. Here are a few key points:

  • The novel has become an essential tool to construct meaning in an age of climate change.
  • The novel expands the reach of climate science, turning abstract predictions into tangible experiences of place, identity, and culture.
  • The novel has been forced to adapt to new boundaries between individual choice, collective action, and larger systems of natural phenomena.
  • Fiction fills the void when unprecedented scientific consensus has failed to lead to action.

I agree with all of these points made by Trexler. In fact, I wrote The Big Melt because I wanted to reach out and engage a wider audience in the fight to reduce greenhouse gases and the warming of our climate.  Fiction has been very important in past cultural shifts such as slavery, human rights, woman rights, and workplace safety. Fiction will be important in helping us understand what the future might be like if we don’t take actions today.  Go to to find out what you can do.


My Spring Walks begin April 11

FLIER_ExploringColumbiaOnFoot2019Each year Columbia Association engages me to lead free, public walks on parts of the 95 miles of nature trails that they maintain. People come to:

  • get outside,
  • explore areas they have not visited before
  • learn more about the past, present and future of these wonderful open spaces, and
  • have fun with others as we walk thru the woods and around the lakes.

Each year I try to add something new to my descriptions of the places we pass. This might be about some old foundations , vine covered graveyards, and historic structures. It could be more about the invasive plants and the native plants that we will encounter. We will certainly try to scare up some sitings of rare and common birds, plants, mammals, and insects. We always see something new, something fun to see and discuss.

On these walks, we often discuss best management practices and CA policies on maintaining the 3000 acres of open space in their care. We discuss how residents can help manage the wonderful natural resources in this area. And of course we talk about the plans for the future of Columbia and how our town is evolving.

This year I am going to lead 5 of the walks and Barbara Kellner will lead 4 of them. Her walks will focus more on the art and architecture of Columbia. Mine will be more about the nature we encounter and the past and future of Columbia. All walks will begin at 10 am on Thursdays. CA has invested in a new voice amplifier to make sure everyone can hear our insights, asides, and stories about this intriguing place many of us call home.

Hope to see you all on the trails.


Ned Tillman is an Earth and Environmental scientist and an award winning author of three books. He has served as the chair of the Howard County Conservancy, The HoCo Sustainability Board, and the HoCo General Plan Task Force. He is also a member of the Horizon Foundation and the Maryland Academy of Science. His books: The Chesapeake Watershed, Saving the Places we Love, and The Big Melt can be obtained from Amazon.



Close but no cigar

The Big Melt was a finalist for the Green Earth Award this year! It was also a finalist for the One Maryland/One Book selection. We are pretty pleased to be ranked so high in these competitions which considered hundreds of books in the process. It’s a completely independent and objective evaluation of the value of the book to readers.

I am also pleased that so many people are reading The Big Melt and to see schools across the country using it to help students visualize how the future might unfold.

I hear that it helps them better plan for the future and stimulates them to take action now.

Thanks again for everyone’s support. I am still on a speaking tour, so let me know of groups who might be interested in hosting a presentation.

Ned Tillman




Spring is busting out all over


Fig 1 – Green bubbles (?) in a vernal pond 032619

Did a lunchtime walk with friends, Alan and Laurie, today and noticed all sorts of things happening.  Do any of you know what these photos are capturing? I found gooey green slimes in a vernal pond, Figure 1.

Scroll down for other images. Keep scrolling for my interpretations of these items.  Please give me any feedback you have.









Fig 2 – Orange stains on beds of clear water creeks

Then there are orange seeps in some of the creeks, Fig 2.










Fig 3 – Soft pointed spears rimming a soft yellow green pad.

Then there are the arrays of red spears protecting the pistachio green pillows on granitic gneiss adjacent to Lake Elkhorn, Figure 3.


Answers: see below:


  1. Sure looks like frog eggs to me. Can you guess the species?
  2. Insoluble ferric oxides from orange iron reducing bacteria.
  3. Moss sending up sporophytes which will release pollen shortly.




Ned is the author of The Chesapeake Watershed, Saving the Places we Love, and The Big Melt.




Educated by Tara Westover

Educated by Tara Westover
I was quite blown away by this book. I was totally engaged when reading this book but found it hard to sleep after reading a chapter or two. My mind kept spinning, trying to image the hardships some people go through in growing up and developing as their own person. I too grew up as a free-range kid, but had none of the challenges that the author faced.
I do recommend it but don’t rush through it, It takes time to process. Extremely valuable to me. I appreciate that she has written about these very personal, family challenges and strongly recommend it to others.

A Late-Winter’s Walk

daffysTomorrow is the first day of Spring. The bright sunshine and brisk air draw me out of my  cave for a walk around Lake Elkhorn here in central Maryland. No kids, and no companion with me today except for the life along the trail. I take many long breaths of the cool air full of essential oils from the trees and soils, trying to rebuild my immune system from the rigors of a book tour.

The crows escorted me all around the lake. I usually don’t notice them, but today they are busy. A couple of red-shoulder hawks call to me from the trees and a couple of buzzards are cleaning up debris at the edge of the forest.

The magic of the day comes from taking a close look at all the brilliant mosses, yellow and green, and surrounded by sporophytes – ready to release their pollen into the gentle breeze. Buds are everywhere on the trees and I enjoy the blooms of the snowdrops and daffodils that have spread out into the buffer along the water’s edge. I notice that the invasive lesser celadine ground cover starting to bloom as well.

There is only a single pair of Canada geese left on the lake and a few scattered ducks (ring-necks, buffleheads, and hooded mergansers). Quite a change from the dozens of waterfowl we had just a few short weeks ago.

Only a few people are out today. I’m hoping that everyone will take the time to walk their favorite trails and once again fall in love with nature. It’s all about taking care of the places we love and we have a long way to go to learn how to live in balance with this amazing and probably unique eco-system, this climate, that we call home.


Ned is the author of The Big Melt.