Eric Sanderson

2007 Fellow

Eric Sanderson, an ecologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society in the Bronx, built Manahatta, a digital model of primeval Manhattan. To reconstruct Manhattan Island as it was, he assembled environmental and historical data—including maps, surveys, diaries, and farm reports—to layer in the 54 distinct ecosystems that existed on the island, with all their accompanying flora and fauna. Imagine a virtual time machine that would allow you to see and hear the island’s wild nature, from chestnut oak forests to sandy beaches, before it was transformed by man’s increasing footprint.

The project’s purpose is to foster an appreciation for the remnants of the natural world, even in this most urban of jungles, and then to work harder to preserve them, here and across the globe. The project was completed in 2009, the 400th anniversary of Hudson’s arrival.