Reception, Reading, and Book Signing with Abbie Gascho Landis: "Immersion: Diving into the Stories of Science"

Thursday, April 27, 2017 - 6:00pm to 8:00pm

Abbie Gascho Landis, winner of the 2015 CDS Documentary Essay Prize for Writing, will give a talk, “Immersion: Diving into the Stories of Science,” and read from her newly published book Immersion: The Science and Mystery of Freshwater Mussels. She will be signing books both before and after her reading.

Thursday, April 27: reception at 6, talk at 7
Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University

The CDS Documentary Essay Prize honors the best in documentary photography and writing in alternating years: one year, photos; one year, writing. The focus is on current or recently completed work from a long-term project. The 2015 prize competition was awarded in writing.

In Abbie Gascho Landis’s winning essay, "Immersion: Our Native Mussels and Bodies of Freshwater,” the writer and veterinarian snorkels in creeks, explores large rivers, visits laboratories, and interviews biologists in order to document "these remarkable animals." In her essay, Landis weaves personal experience into her investigation of native mussels and their freshwater habitats as one way of looking at water issues in the Deep South and elsewhere in the United States. To read more about Abbie Gascho Landis' prizewinning essay, click here. An excerpt from her winning essay is below:

[Mussels] have been called naiads, after Greek mythology’s freshwater nymphs, each linked inextricably to a particular stream or river. Some mussels are widespread, while some exist only in a single river system and some—like the Tar River spinymussel—live in only a few creek sites. Mussels evolved with their river’s flow and geology, requiring particular river bottom habitat. Their need for host fish links them to vulnerable fish diversity.

Human-driven changes to creeks and rivers often disrupt water flow and quality, destroy the creek bed, and alter fish populations. When a waterway changes, mussels are the first to know. They may die outright, or be unable to reproduce. Like the check engine light on a dashboard, mussels indicate when there’s a problem with how their river is running. . . .

By now I have become a freshwater mussel groupie. I fawn over photographs. . . . I stalk them from a distance, writing their names in my notebooks: fatmucket, pistolgrip, heelsplitter, shinyrayed pocketbook, spectaclecase, pigtoe, snufflebox. I pore over their bios. Posters of mussels hang in our bedroom.

Abbie Gascho Landis writes a blog,, and is a veterinarian at the Cobleskill Veterinary Clinic in Cobleskill, New York. Landis has received an Arthur DeLong Writing Award and was a finalist for the Constance Rooke Creative Nonfiction Award in 2013. She has a bachelor’s degree in English and biology from Goshen College and a doctorate in veterinary medicine from Ohio State University.

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Center for Documentary Studies
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CDS Front Desk
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Reception, Reading, and Book Signing with Abbie Gascho Landis: "Immersion: Diving into the Stories of Science"