Watermelon Snow

Science, Art, and a Lone Polar Bear

The cover of Watermelon Snow

From the vantage of a schooner full of artists on an adventure in the high Arctic, biologist Lynne Quarmby explains how she became convinced of an urgent need to act on climate change. She recounts how this knowledge - and the fear and panic it elicited - plunged her into unsustainable action, ending in arrests, lawsuits, and a failed electoral campaign on behalf of the Green Party of Canada. Watermelon Snow weaves memoir, microbiology, and artistic antics together with descriptions of a sublime Arctic landscape. At the top of the warming world, Quarmby struggles with burnout and grief while an aerial artist twirls high in the ship's rigging, bearded seals sing mournfully, polar bears prowl, and glaciers crumble into the sea. In a compelling narrative, sorrow and fear are balanced by beauty and wonder. The climate realities are as dark as the Arctic winter, yet this is a book of lightness and generosity. Quarmby's voice, intimate and original, illuminates the science while offering a reminder that much about the human experience is beyond reason. Inspiring and deeply personal, Watermelon Snow is the story of finding life beyond despair.

About the Author

Photo of Lynne Quarmby

Lynne Quarmby grew up near the Cowichan River on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. After a BSc in Marine Biology and an MSc in Oceanography from the University of B.C., Quarmby completed her PhD in genetics and biochemistry at the University of Connecticut. Two years of postdoctoral studies at the University of Texas in Dallas lead to a second postdoc and then a faculty position at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. She returned to Canada in 2000, and is now a professor of cell biology in the Department of Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, B.C. Together with trainees in her laboratory, Quarmby has published over fifty research papers—featuring cilia and snow algae—in scientific journals. In 2015, she shared the Sterling Prize for Controversy with the poet, Stephen Collis. She lives and works on the occupied lands of the Coast Salish people.

Finding Watermelon Snow

Watermelon Snow is available in libraries & bookstores. If you don't find it, most bookstores will special order for you.

Ordering Online

In Canada, order on-line from Indigo.

In the U.S., order on-line while supporting local bookstores at Bookstore.org

In the UK, Europe, Middle East & Africa, order direct from the publisher MQUP via Bookshop


The Audiobook is now available in libraries and wherever you find your audiobooks. Click to sample.


Such is the power of the writing and the sense of an inspirational scientist and writer pushing her words into the world, that few readers will be able to make it to the end of Watermelon Snow without having been at least a little transformed.

Watermelon snow represents one of many feedback loops that are accelerating global heating, and this book is Quarmby’s remarkable response, generating a creative feedback loop to help us all find “life beyond despair.”

A literary and scientific tour de force, right from the incantatory opening poem by Mary Oliver (The Uses of Sorrow) to the final words, “I keep on, embracing the responsibility of being human at this singular moment in the history of the Earth.”

Quarmby writes intelligently in a style that lay readers will find accessible. Her voyage crystallizes her own inner contradictions.

Quarmby writes beautifully, with a particular fondness for colour. At times, she’s an endearingly geeky scientist...

... a moving book, eloquently dancing between the science and emotion that defines life in a warming world...

…Channeling passion and science into a "search for life beyond despair," Watermelon Snow is a powerful book.

… a must read for anyone concerned about the rapid changes taking place in the Arctic as it warms, and implications for the rest of the planet.

Bob McDonald, host of CBC Radio's Quirks and Quarks

… this book is her bravest act yet - exposing a heart of knowing pain; a heart-breaking awareness of our collective unprocessed grief.

Elizabeth May, former Leader, Green Party of Canada

… a powerful expression of how a scientist learns to cope with the realities of climate change.

Krirsten Zickfeld, Distinguished SFU professor of Climate Science, Simon Fraser University, and lead author of the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 Degrees and the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report

…brimming with intelligence, love and sorrow, into the Arctic, and into the heart of the climate change battle. Watermelon Snow is both a love song and a song of grief ... A moving and courageous memoir.

Shaena Lambert, author of Petra, and Oh, My Darling

Alternately lyrical and literal, her exquisitely crafted writing does not comfort us, but it restores us to ourselves.

Keith Maillard, author of Twin Studies


Panel discussion hosted by SFU's Community Engaged Research Initiative.

Weds, April 14 2021, 1 pm Pacific Register for Webinar here

Lecture: University of the Fraser Valley, GreenSPEAK series.

Thurs, March 30 2021, 1 pm Pacific Click here for YouTube video of event

Interview with Sheryl MacKay for North by Northwest, CBC Radio.

The interview aired on February 28 2021. You can hear the conversation here

Interview with Bill McKibben for The New Yorker.

See 'The Climate Crisis Newsletter' December 2, 2020.

Vancouver Maritime Museum Virtual Book Talk

This happened on November 25, 2020. You can watch the video here (talk starts at 5:35).

Gabriola Island Book Launch

This happened Saturday & Sunday, Oct. 31/Nov. 1, on Gabriola Island. It was a fun drop-in literary event with an installation and special guests. We are sorry if you missed it.

Sunday, Sep. 27, 2020, 2:30 pm PST

Word Vancouver 2020

Exploring the Multiverse: Poetry Science and the Environment. Here is the YouTube recording (LQ reads at 31:10) .

Publicity Contact

For publicity requests, contact Ms. Jacqueline Davis, McGill-Queen's University Press.