Suddenly every science had a fierce interest in the work. Large schools and small nations had to own rippers. Biologists retrieved microscopic samples of air and soil, each sample contaminated with bacteria and odd spores. Every species was new, but all shared the ingredients of earth-life: DNA coded for the same few amino acids that built families of proteins that were not too unlike those found inside people and crabgrass.One of this year's Hugo-nominated novellas, "A Billion Eves" by Robert Reed, is based on the premise that a machine ("ripper") that can transport people (and objects) to parallel Earths has been developed. Pioneers - both volunteers and kidnapees - settle these other Earths that diverged from our own at vastly different points over the last few billion years. The result is human habitable worlds that are almost, but not quite, like our own. One young woman is willing to ask what effect we - and our livestock, food crops and pests - might have on these alien Earths.
Reed has a background in biology and it clearly shows in his fiction. It's not surprising to me that his favorite course was population biology (a field that combines genetics, evolution and ecology), as he explained in a 2003 interview with Science Fiction Weekly :
I took a few graduate courses in biology, and my favorite class, probably in my scholastic life, was called Population Biology. The professor was a gung-ho chap with a curious, relentless mind. When I walked into his class, my knowledge of natural selection was limited to a string of memorized facts and loosely related ideas. He showed me an Evolution that never sleeps—a relentless scythe tirelessly cutting its way through every population, every lineage. Then, afterwards, on my own, I read Dawkins' The Selfish Gene. With the help of those two apes, I created a rugged little toolbox that I can apply to my world-building business.