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Science
Audubon Magazine

Audubon Magazine

Fall 2020

Audubon is the official magazine of the National Audubon Society. Get Audubon Magazine digital magazine subscription today for news coverage of the natural world. We help our readers appreciate, understand, and protect the environment with a particular focus on birds, other wildlife and their habitats

Country:
United States
Language:
English
Publisher:
National Audubon Society
Frequency:
Bimonthly
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4 Issues

in this issue

3 min.
bird from home

The COVID-19 pandemic has provided wildlife photographers with the opportunity to view nature through a new lens—one aimed intensively at their own homes. We asked three professionals across the country to document the birdlife around them during their stay-at-home orders. For each, creating intimate portraits of their animal neighbors became more than a simple assignment: It spurred a new appreciation for, and deeper understanding of, the world right outside their door. —The Editors MORGAN HEIM My email used to be the first thing I checked in the morning. Now it’s my window. My house in Astoria, Oregon, has become a multi-tiered blind through which to spy on my avian neighbors. I’ve developed strategies for opening windows, created little viewing stations, and refined the exact way to tiptoe up to the window when I…

2 min.
under pressure

AS THIS ISSUE WENT TO PRESS, wildfires raged across California—new ones igniting even as firefighters raced to contain others. Some 1.5 million acres had already burned, and the toll on communities ablaze while grappling with COVID-19 was incalculable. Wildlife, too, faced consequences unknown. Biologists had just finished surveying the California population of federally threatened Marbled Murrelets when lightning touched off fires near Santa Cruz—fires that then tore through the old-growth forest where the seabirds fly to lay a single egg each spring. Whether enough tree canopy will be spared, or whether it will recover in time, to support the vulnerable birds next breeding season is an open question. That’s also the question at the heart of “Trial by Fire” (page 20), this issue’s cover story. Scientists in Australia have been doggedlyworking to…

2 min.
revealing the past to create the future

IT’S AN EVENTFUL TIME IN America. And because Audubon has been a part of America’s fabric for 115 years, the same goes for Audubon. Over the past months, we’ve committed to making Audubon an antiracist institution—a commitment built on years of learning and action. Our presence in hundreds of communities across America means we also share the responsibility to help correct centuries of racial injustice by changing our internal and external practices. And that includes a reassessment of our own history and that of our namesake, John James Audubon. We’re not alone among conservation organizations in taking these steps. A Washington Post article detailed the Sierra Club’s extraordinarily candid grappling with the racist legacy of icon John Muir and other founders. Others are following suit—especially examining the racist and inequitable foundation…

2 min.
inbox

Unruly Rheas In the late 1990s seven Greater Rheas—flightless, five-foottall birds native to South America—escaped from a farm and fled into the German countryside. Originally a fascinating oddity, now hundreds of the ratites roam freely—much to the frustration of farmers, who say the feral birds devour their crops. Journalist Sami Emory tagged along for a Rhea-counting survey, then explored the uncertain future of these unlikely residents for a digital feature. Read more at audubon.org/rheas. RE: Summer 2020 My compliments to Zoë Schlanger, Justin Cook, and Katie Peek for producing one of the finest scientific articles that I have ever read (“A New Plastic Wave”). The piece clearly lays out the source of the “nurdles” explosion, and it brilliantly leads the reader through the developments that have brought about this new peril to…

4 min.
a historic moment

IN 1986 BIRDERS IN WESTERN North Carolina formed an Audubon chapter named after Elisha Mitchell, a 19th-century conservationist. The East Coast’s highest peak also bears his name. Decades later, on a Friday this June, chapter president Nancy Casey opened an email from a member and learned that Mitchell was also a slaveholder. Quick research further revealed he wrote a book defending the disgraceful institution. Fourteen hours and many frenzied calls later, she announced the chapter would change its name. “This isn’t about erasing history,” says Casey, now leader of Blue Ridge Audubon. “This is about understanding that these types of things can hurt people today.” The decision came amid a new wave of reckoning with the white supremacy, systemic racism, and colonialism that shaped this nation’s past and persists today. Sparked by…

4 min.
sound and fury

ON PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP’S first full day in office, over breakfast with the heads of Fortune 500 companies, he made a bold pledge: He would help businesses like theirs by eliminating 75 percent of government regulations. “We’re going to be cutting regulation massively,” he told them. The goal may have been more talking point than firm target, but Trump’s government began pursuing it immediately. The next day he issued orders to speed approvals for the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines. Two months later, the EPA began dismantling two signature Obamaera climate policies: fuel-economy standards for cars and the Clean Power Plan for power plants. In all, the administration has moved to loosen or kill around 100 environmental rules, including bans on offshore drilling, the sale of bottled water at…