As a former national park ranger, outdoor instructor, and museum educator, I have over 30 years of speaking experience. I have given talks to elementary school children, Elderhostel participants, and teachers. I have given presentations while canoeing in canyon country, walking through downtown Boston, and in formal classroom settings.
Below is a list of upcoming walks and talks, as well as descriptions of some of the walks and talks I have developed. I hope they encourage people to look more carefully at the natural and cultural world around them and to reconsider places they may have taken for granted.
Upcoming Walks and Talks
arch 28, 2020 – Architectural Bestiary Walk with Atlas Obscura and Airbnb – 10 A.M. – I will be leading my 1.5-mile-long tour of downtown’s carved and terra cotta animals.Cancelled. April 4, 2020 – Stories in Stone – Field Trip Society – 2:00 P.M. – I will be leading my 1.5-mile-tour of downtown building stone. Perhaps my most popular walk.Cancelled. April 5, 2020 – Denny Regrade walk with Atlas Obscura and Airbnb -10:00 A.M. – noon – I will be leading my two-mile-tour of the regrade district.Cancelled. April 5, 2020 – Elliott Bay Bookstore – 3:00 P.M. – I will be chatting with John Farnsworth about his new book Nature Beyond Solitude: Notes from the Field.Cancelled.
- May 2, 2020 – Architectural Bestiary Tour Walk with Atlas Obscura and Airbnb – 10 A.M. – I will be leading my 1.5-mile-long tour of downtown’s carved and terra cotta animals.
- May 16, 2020 – International District & Jackson/Dearborn Regrades – Field Trip Society – 1:00 P.M. – I will be leading my 1.5-mile-tour of these lesser known regrades.
- May 20, 2020 – Maritime History of Puget Sound – MOHAI – History Cafe – I will be speaking about the 12,000 years of boating history in Puget Sound from canoe culture to the Mosquito Fleet to ferries. More info to come.
- June 6, 2020 – Stories in Stone – Field Trip Society – 2:00 P.M. – I will be leading my 1.5-mile-tour of downtown building stone. Perhaps my most popular walk. Not open yet. Thought some might like to save the date. More info to come.
Too High and Too Steep: Reshaping the Seattle Landscape – Since settlers first arrived in Seattle, the city’s citizens have altered the landscape with an unrivaled zeal. We have regraded hills, reengineered tideflats, and replumbed lakes to provide better locations for business and easier ways to move through the challenging topography. Weaving together geology and social history, I highlight the unprecedented Denny Regrades (from 1897-1930) as a way to provide a foundation for understanding Seattle and how its topography shaped its destiny. This talk is based on my award winning book, Too High and Too Steep.
Puget Sound: A Maritime Highway – From canoes to the mosquito fleet to our modern day ferry system, boats have been a principal means of travel around Puget Sound. In a landscape dominated by forest and sea, water was often the best way to get from point A to point B. In this talk, which is based on research for my next book about human and natural history in Puget Sound, I explore the 13,000-year history transportion in this extraordinary waterway to illustrate how landscape has a central influence on the residents of a place and how they live their lives.
The Ship Canal and Locks: Why it took 63 years to build them – Few engineering projects have shaped Seattle as much as the construction of the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks and Ship Canal. Nor do many have as many false starts, political shenanigans, and chaotic history. In this talk based on my co-authored history of the canal and locks, Waterway (which was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award), I share the far-reaching social, economic, and environmental impacts of the canal’s construction and operation.
Stories in Stone – Most people do not think of looking for geology from the sidewalks of a major city, but for the intrepid geologist any good rock can tell a fascinating story. All one has to do is look at building stone to find a range of rocks equal to any assembled by plate tectonics. Furthermore, building stones provide the foundation for constructing stories about cultural as well as natural history. In this talk, based on my book, Stories in Stone (which was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award), I explore building stone from around the country, ranging from rock used by the Romans to build the Colosseum to a gas station made of petrified wood to a granite quarry that lead to the first commercial railroad in the United States. (I can tailor this program specifically to Seattle.)
Here’s a link to talk I did for HistoryLink at its annual HistoryLunch.
Each of the talks consists of a 35-45 minute Powerpoint presentation. I can provide either a thumb drive or laptop to plug into your system.
- Downtown Rock Hound – Most people do not think of looking for geology from the sidewalks of Seattle, but for the intrepid geologist any good rock can tell a fascinating story. All one has to do is look at building stone in downtown Seattle to find a range of rocks equal to any assembled by plate tectonics. Furthermore, building stones provide the foundation for constructing stories about cultural as well as natural history. On this 1.5-mile long walk, we will explore stone ranging from 3.5-billion years old to 120,000 years old, fossils as large as a cinnamon roll, and rock used by the Romans to build the Colosseum. We will discuss history, geology, and architecture to give you a new way to appreciate the urban wilds of Seattle.
“If you’d asked me two years ago if I’d be more excited about a type of rock than a type face, I would have laughed. However, the Stories in Stone tour changed that for me! As the Tours Director of the Seattle Architecture Foundation, we frequently partner with subject matter experts, and David B. Williams knows his rocks! I was captivated by his breadth of knowledge and his presentation: he really makes geology come to life. The lower level of the façade of the Exchange Building is clad in Morton Gneiss (a rock more than 3.5 billion years old). Previously, when I tried to humanize the scale of the building, I’d always draw attention to the demure, eye-level, quintessential Art Deco building sign. Now, it’s all about the material! Stories in Stone really opened my eyes to the way stone contributes to the over-all impact of a building. His tour is a fabulous urban adventure and you’ll see Seattle in an entirely new light.”
~ Roberta Miner
Seattle Architecture Foundation
- The Protean Shoreline – More so than most cities, Seattle has shaped itself to suit its needs. Seattle has removed hills, filled tide flats, and created a completely new downtown shoreline. On this 1.5-mile-long walk we’ll explore the last vestiges of the former downtown bluffs, trace the island where Seattle was founded, and examine how the subterranean fill still affects the modern landscape.
“David Williams is an adept and entertaining guide. His inner-city naturalist walks provided participants a rare and thoughtful view into the oft-overlooked processes of urban ecology, from wide vistas across the Puget Sound to microscopic investigation of the stones beneath our feet. I would definitely recommend him to anyone who wants to see cities in a different light.”
Climate Challenge Programs Coordinator
North Cascades Institute
Past Walks and Talks
4th Annual Denny Lecture Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI), Pacific Northwest Historians Guild (Keynote), Highline Historical Society, Shannon & Wilson, Inc., Washington Business and Professional Women’s Club (Campus Chapter), Washington State Ridesharing Organization (Keynote), Tucson Festival of Books, Structural Engineers Association of Washington (Keynote), Construction Specifications Institute (Seattle Chapter), Road Scholar (aka Elderhostel), Centralia College Lyceum Lecture Series, Seattle Architectural Foundation, Architectural Heritage Center, Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door, North Cascades Institute, Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, Seattle Audubon Society, Washington Ornithological Society, Northwest Geological Society, StoneFest, Bellevue Rock Club, Portland State University, American Society of Plastic Surgeons, The Rainier Club, Colorado College Alumni Association, University of Chicago Alumni Association, Elderhostel, Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Site, Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks, Washington Native Plant Society, University of Washington Program on the Environment, Northwest Sustainability Conference, Sierra Club Cascade Chapter, Homewaters Project, Horizon House, Ida Culver House, Institutes for Journalism & Natural Resources, Cowlitz County Historical Museum, Northwest Perennial Alliance, Wenatchee River Institute, North Seattle Lapidary and Gem Club, Endless Opportunities-Jewish Family Service, Jefferson Land Trust Geology Group