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, please request that your library or bookstore order it for you.


In Canada, please visit, call, or email your local independent bookseller, or order on-line from Indigo.


In the U.S., support local bookstores by ordering from Bookstore.org


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


“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


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 you missed it.

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

Word Vancouver 2020

Exploring the Multiverse: Poetry Science and the Environment. The event is over, but there is a YouTube recording (LQ reads at 31:10) .

Publicity Contact

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