In ecology, the term edge effects refers to phenomena at the boundary between two different habitats, such as woodland/meadow or pond/shore. I first learned about edge effects in work for the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, a meeting place of sand dunes, wetlands, prairie, forest, oak savanna, and Lake Michigan beach. More than a thousand plant species at IDNL range from orchids and prickly pear cactus to bearberry of the Arctic tundra.
Magic flourishes and sparks fly at the boundaries. How many folktales begin with a little old couple who live in a cottage by the edge of the forest or sea? How many human conflicts erupt at cultural borderlands? Some years back I explored edge effects between nomadic and settler cultures, where systems based on kinship clash with systems based on territory.
In my writing about polio eradication, the main story begins in the 1980s on the boundary between a private service organization (Rotary) and multinational agencies (World Health Organization, UNICEF). They took years to learn to work together and trust each other. Now polio eradication efforts in parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria focus on the boundary between modern epidemiology and some of the world’s most traditional cultures.
My historical fiction-in-progress is set on an eastern Mediterranean island on the border of Europe and Asia in the late fifteenth century, the cusp of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Edge effects among Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Jews, and Muslims create a breeding ground for tensions galore.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.