Thor Hanson was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, where he now lives on an island with his wife and son. He caught his first salmon at age four, and often collected a wide array of temporary summertime pets, from caterpillars and tadpoles to garter snakes, hermit crabs, and tree frogs. His early interest in the natural world steered him towards a career in conservation biology. Hanson received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Redlands, his master’s from the University of Vermont’s Field Naturalist Program, and his doctorate in a joint program through the University of Idaho and the Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza, Costa Rica.
Hanson’s research and conservation activities have taken him around the globe. He has studied Central American trees and songbirds, nest predation in Tanzania, and the grisly feeding habits of African vultures. He served as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Uganda, where he helped establish the mountain gorilla tourism program in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, and he has also helped manage a brown bear tourism project for the U.S. Forest Service in Alaska. He often works at the interface between natural and human systems, and is currently involved in a project assessing the ecological impacts of warfare.
Hanson is a Guggenheim Fellow, a Switzer Environmental Fellow, and an independent conservation biologist based in the San Juan Islands. He has received research grants from the Organization for Tropical Studies, the DeVlieg Foundation, and the National Science Foundation’s IGERT Program, among others. He teaches field courses, reviews for academic journals, consults for conservation groups and government agencies, and is a sought-after public speaker. Hanson's many media appearances have included NPR's Fresh Air, PRI's The World, and The Current on CBC.
His recent book, FEATHERS, won the John Burroughs Medal and was nominated for The Samuel Johnson Prize. It also received the A.A.A./Subaru SB&F Prize for science writing and a Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award, and was a finalist for The Washington State Book Award. His first book, THE IMPENETRABLE FOREST, won the 2008 USA Book News Award for nature writing. He is also a co-editor of the academic volume WARFARE ECOLOGY. Hanson has contributed chapters to WILDERNESS COMES HOME and ONE HAND DOES NOT CATCH A BUFFALO, and his articles and essays have appeared in dozens of popular and scientific publications, including Audubon, BBC Wildlife, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Miami Herald, Bioscience, Conservation Biology, Molecular Ecology, The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, Neotropical Ornithology, The Journal of African Ecology, Biotropica, and The Huffington Post.