Mention dolphins, And most SI staffers will think immediately of Miami quarterback Dan Marino and his teammates. Mention dolphins to staff writer Shannon Brownlee, and she will tell you about the lively mating habits of Steno bredanensis or what all the clicks and whistles uttered by the Hawaiian spinner mean.
Brownlee, 32, has studied these merry mammals up close: The subject of her master's thesis in marine biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz was dolphin behavior and communication. Her interest in things oceanic comes naturally. Brownlee, a Honolulu native ("tears come to my eyes whenever I hear the theme from Hawaii Five-O" she says), spent much of her childhood in, on or under the water—body-surfing, sailing, scuba diving or just plain swimming.
In the summer of '82, Brownlee went to work for the Providence Journal-Bulletin as a science reporter on a fellowship from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Having grown up in an artistic household—her father, Edward, is a sculptor—she had always sketched, and she talked the Journal-Bulletin editors into letting her illustrate stories. That fall, Brownlee came to New York as a reporter for Discover magazine. She had planned to attend art school at the same time to eventually become a science illustrator. But soon she was writing stories on such topics as earthquakes, fruit flies and the birth of lemon sharks, which she observed firsthand, and she decided to make writing her field.
Since joining our staff last fall, Brownlee has written about Olympic speed skaters, the technical aspects of winter sports and wrestler John Smith. In this issue she examines the effects on women athletes of having babies (page 56). "Unlike what many people used to think, for a lot of women having a baby doesn't have an adverse effect on their physical prowess." says Brownlee.
Speaking of physical prowess, while in high school Brownlee was a Honolulu all-star soccer left wing. The highlight of her soccer career came when her team went on a three-game road trip to Tahiti. Brown-lee's crew was trounced three times. Which goes to show that not everything in her life has gone swimmingly.