Who We Are
A resident of Florida since the early 1980s, Jeff VanderMeer is best-known for his NYT-bestselling Southern Reach trilogy, which has been translated into over 35 languages. The first novel, Annihilation—set in a transformed St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge—won the Nebula Award and Shirley Jackson Award, and was made into a movie by Paramount in 2018. His most recent novel, Hummingbird Salamander (MCD/FSG) interrogates the foundations of our modern world in an environmental context and is his most urgent call to action to date. Called “the weird Thoreau” by The New Yorker, VanderMeer frequently speaks about issues related to climate change and storytelling. His nonfiction about wildlife and nature has appeared in Orion Magazine, Esquire, and the Los Angeles Times, among others. VanderMeer has been profiled by the New York Times, Audubon Magazine, and the Guardian, in large part for his environmentalism and his exploration of the nonhuman world in his fiction. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with his wife Ann, cat Neo, and a yard full of native plants. In 2022, his Current Affairs article “The Annihilation of Florida” analyzed the ways that toll roads and development have cascading effects over time and documented the fight by local residents in Central and Northwest Florida to save some of Florida’s last wild places. “Ever since growing up in Fiji, I’ve been surrounded in nature and over time I’m come to be astonished and very protective of Florida’s amazing biodiversity,” VanderMeer says. “In being part of the SSBG, I hope to turn that love into positive action for the future.”
CD Davidson-Hiers is a native Floridian who grew up on a 40-acre horse farm in North Florida. Her nonfiction has appeared in the Nation, The Bitter Southerner, Flamingo Magazine, WFSU Radio, Tallahassee Democrat, and USAToday, among others. Currently, Davidson-Hiers spearheads the Education Writers Association’s membership outreach while providing training, resources, and professional recognition for its members. She has also worked for the Florida Center for Government Transparency and the Florida Phoenix, serving as the 2021-22 VP of programs for the Florida chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. She graduated summa cum laude from Florida State University, with degrees in Creative Writing and French, and is currently working on a nonfiction master’s degree. Davidson-Hiers’ reporting on the US Covid-19 vaccine rollout received recognition from NPR, The Washington Post, Soledad O’Brien, and other national news outlets. Davidson-Hiers founded and heads up the Florida Student News Watch, which she describes as “a network of Florida environmental journalism that emboldens and trains college-age writers to engage with the important issues facing Florida.” “Florida’s always been my home and as it faces more and more challenges, I want to be there, trying to be part of the solution,” Davidson-Hiers says. ”I think our nonprofit can do that, and in a way that’s imaginative and unique.”
Kati Schardl is a North Florida native, born on the Gulf Coast in Panama City and raised in the rural splendor of Marianna. She grew up roaming the woods of Jackson County and exploring its caves, paddling its creeks and rivers, camping with her Girl Scout troop and in general living a pretty idyllic tomboy outdoor life. After finishing a degree in social work at Florida State University, Schardl found she was one of thousands of such graduates looking for a job and turned to her father's profession of journalism, signing on at the independent alternative daily newspaper the Florida Flambeau. There she found her people and her calling. Schardl followed that a stint in the capital bureau of the St. Petersburg Times before landing an entertainment writer/features editor position—her dream job—that she held at the Tallahassee Democrat for close to 20 years. Currently an editor in the Florida Senate bill drafting office, Schardl has through the years continued to nurture and expand her connection to the natural world. Schardl has served as a volunteer ranger at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and leading amateur botany expeditions in the Apalachicola National Forest, following in the footsteps of her beloved mentor, Eleanor Dietrich. "Wild places act as my refuge and as charging stations where I can top up the batteries of my psyche and my heart,” Schardl says. “In wild places, I can suspend time and be utterly in the moment and utterly connected, which feeds my spiritual practice as a Buddhist. Wild places are essential components of my identity as a human and they are essential to my survival as a compassionate being on this fragile planet."