Zoology alumna inducted into Colorado Authors’ Hall of Fame

Mary Young and dog backpacking in the mountains
Mary Young and her dog, Jesse, backpacking

Mary Taylor Young, an award-winning nature writer and graduate of Colorado State University, is being inducted into the Colorado Authors’ Hall of Fame.

Young, who graduated from CSU’s zoology program in 1977, and returned to speak at Spring 2016 commencement, has been writing for more than 30 years and has published 18 books. Her work combines her scientific knowledge with a talent for writing to explore the beauty of the landscape, heritage, and natural communities of Colorado and the American West.

Her books include a historical and photographic look at Rocky Mountain National Park’s first 100 years, which won the 2015 Best Nonfiction Book Award from the Colorado Authors League. It is the official centennial history of Rocky Mountain National Park, which turned 100 in 2015. She also has published several Colorado wildlife guides, Land of Grass and Sky: A Naturalist’s Prairie Journey, and even a coloring book for adults.

Young credits her success to the strong scientific foundation she built with her zoology degree, which has allowed her to effectively translate science for general audiences.

“I use my degree in my work every single day,” she said. “I was given a great education at CSU. It grounded me absolutely in scientific method and equipped me with the foundational skills I needed to communicate with researchers and biologists who are doing state-of-the-art work.”

Mary Young portrait through a stone arch
Mary Young at Chaco Canyon, Pueblo Bonito

Biologist turned writer

Young said she has been fortunate to build and grow her career, noting that it’s not easy to be a full-time writer. She credits her success to her science education.

“I’ve been successful because I have unique credentials,” she said. “Because I’m a scientist, I can understand the technical side of nature. I interview biologists and researchers regularly, and I have to understand what they’re doing and why and translate it for the general public in a way that makes them care.”

The goal of her work is not only to translate science but to get people to care by connecting them with the compelling beauty of the American West.

“I try to write in a way that touches hearts and minds,” she said. “Ultimately all these efforts for wildlife and conservation will fail if the public does not care.”

The Colorado Authors’ Hall of Fame

Young is among 21 authors who are the first to be inducted into the Colorado Authors’ Hall of Fame. The group includes John Fielder, Stephen King, and Madeleine Albright, among others.

According to the Colorado Authors Hall of Fame, the award “was created to honor and promote the work of outstanding published authors from all genres and generations who have a vibrant connection to Colorado, to ensure their legacies won’t be lost.”

Authors from pioneers to politicians as well as educators to entrepreneurs were inducted into the hall of fame during a gala event on Sept. 14 in Denver.