Bird sex and bar stools

Long ago and far away I was a field assistant studying bobolinks for one of my Cornell professors, Tom Gavin, as an undergraduate intern. I went out each morning into dew-drenched meadows at Cornell’s Biological Field Station at Shackelton Point on Oneida Lake, and watched tiny birds that had migrated thousands of miles from their winter home in South America to nest in upstate New … Continue reading Bird sex and bar stools

Wild things

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, a law that promised to preserve America’s largest wild places in an “untrammeled” state untouched by people. But back in 1964, no one anticipated the Anthropocene of the 21st century – a period in which humans affect every corner of the Earth. Today, global climate change and invasive species from foreign lands (and waters) are … Continue reading Wild things

Beaches and biodiversity

It’s August, and for me, that means beach time. Sun, sand and waves feel great, but it’s also about shorebirds, sea turtles and seashells. In other words, biodiversity. Part of the exhilaration I feel on my summer vacation comes from the wildlife I encounter while there. So it seems particularly fitting that Ensia published my article on environmental DNA (eDNA) this month.  In it, I … Continue reading Beaches and biodiversity

Tigers and turtles

Few creatures are more charismatic than tigers.  Big, beautiful, and powerfully ferocious, tigers embody traits that captivate people immediately — whether we like to admit it or not.  That attraction has become their ruin.  As writer Sharon Guynup and photographer Steve Winter chronicle in their book Tigers Forever, the skyrocketing market for tiger parts in China has fast-tracked their demise.  Fewer than 3,200 tigers now remain … Continue reading Tigers and turtles

Leopards in Iran? Who knew?

I’ve always loved the big cats. As a kid, I covered my bedroom wall with posters of lions and tigers and pumas (never bears – although bears are great too). I ordered the posters along with my paperbacks through (I think) Scholastic Achievement Books. Every month at school we’d get a chance to buy something new, and it was one indulgence my mother never protested. … Continue reading Leopards in Iran? Who knew?

Hooray for hatchlings: baby sea turtles make it to the sea

Summer may be over, but its sea turtles live on.  At least loggerhead turtles on North Carolina’s Ocracoke Island do.   Loggerheads are a threatened species in the southeastern United States, but the National Park Service reported a record number of sea turtle nests this summer on Ocracoke Island (which is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore).  I was lucky enough to see one … Continue reading Hooray for hatchlings: baby sea turtles make it to the sea