On a shelf in my closet sits a brown felt fedora, a lovely old-fashioned hat, that I pop on occasionally at this time of year for a walk in the rain with the dogs. Just above it on another shelf is a nice crisp Panama, also in fedora style, that I bought this summer in Jackson Hole. It replaces my beat-up cowboy straw for protection against summer sun. And of course there are ball caps on the pegs in the corridor, useful for workaday protection and variously advertising the Good Hay Company (of Bozeman), Livingston Outfitting (of Cody), the 2012 Masters golf tournament (a gift from my pal Whiserpin' Jack), and other meritorious entities. These are some of my physical hats.
I also wear a few metaphorical ones: Diseases Guy, Yellowstone Guy, Science Journalism Guy, Tree of Life Guy, et cetera. Those are the invisible hats I put on, one or the other, sometimes changing in quick succession, when I go out to lecture, or do a several-day visit at a university, or stay home to write. It's been a somewhat hectic season of hat-changing for me so far this autumn--because I'm dividing my time among three different efforts: lecturing in support of my new book on Yellowstone (see the Home page about that), lecturing also occasionally on emerging infectious diseases (such as Ebola and Zika) and the ideas I presented in "Spillover" (2012), and staying home to work on my book-in-progress, on the idea of the Tree of Life.
On September 18, for intance, I was in Boston, delivering one of two keynote talks to begin an inaugural symposium for the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories at Boston University. It was a flattering and somewhat daunting invitation; my fellow keynoter that afternoon was Dr. Tony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, within the NIH, a highly respected disease scientist and administrator who, among other things, gives counsel to Barack Obama on what to think about Zika or Ebola. When invited, I had essentially answered: "Are you crazy? What in the world can I