Could Nanotechnology Spark Another ‘Silent Spring’?

A Biologist Investigates How the Booming Demand for Microscopic Materials Could Threaten Fragile Ecosystems

Nothing can compare to the first night in a rainforest. In Honduras, in 2007, I hung my hammock beneath a lavish tree canopy, closed my eyes, and let insect chirps, rustling leaves, and the flow of a nearby river lull me to sleep.

I was 19, part of a humanitarian group backpacking through the region. We were there to sample bat blood and swab geckos’ cheeks, among other tasks, so that we could find ways to bolster the jungle’s biodiversity and attract more ecotourism to the region. The magic of …