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Published by norazilakhalid, 2020-12-02 02:44:23

2020-11-01 Discover

2020-11-01 Discover

IF YOU’VE EVER Q: There are so many animals in the PREVIOUS SPREAD: RISINGTIMBER/SHUTTERSTOCK.
HIT THE BEACHES world; how did you end up focusing THIS PAGE FROM LEFT: KAYLEIGH CHALKOWSKI, COURTESY EBEN GERING; ANDRIY BLOKHIN/SHUTTERSTOCK
OF KEY WEST, on chickens?
BERMUDA OR A: From a practical perspective, they’re easy to
watch. They don’t fly great distances, and they’ll
Q HAWAII LOOKING perform all kinds of interesting behaviors right
FOR A TRANQUIL in front of you. So, we’re able to get data on
+ VACATION, chickens that would be much harder to get if we
YOU MAY HAVE were studying other kinds of organisms. We’re
EXPERIENCED A even able to use geo-referenced photographs of
RUDE AWAKENING. chickens that people post on their social media
BY A ROOSTER, while on vacation to track things like when the
hens have chicks and the prevalence of genetic
A THAT IS. traits like yellow legs.
These tourist-laden seaside towns
are full of feral chickens. They roam the Q: And why feral chickens?
graveyards. They strut the beaches. They A: In biology right now, we have some really
peck at leftovers beneath busy tables on interesting research on evolution that’s done
restaurant patios. Legends about the birds under really artificial conditions, like people
abound, including that one flock arrived on looking at the evolution of bacteria in vials.
the wings of a Pan Am jet and that some And then we have some researchers that go
were bred to have extra toes. But are they deep into the Amazon rainforest, or Papua
good for anything besides waking us up? New Guinea, to look at how organisms are
Eben Gering thinks so. He’s been chasing evolving in these much more complex and
free-roaming fowl around beaches across fluctuating conditions.
the globe for almost a decade. An assistant
professor of biology at Nova Southeastern But I’m fascinated by these feral organisms
University in south because they seem to live in the margins
Florida, Gering is between those two extremes. So, on the one
convinced that these hand, they are subject to a complex environ-
birds hold answers to ment where they’re interacting with lots of
core questions about other organisms. They deal with weather and
gene evolution and competitors and predators and all that compli-
disease resistance. cated stuff that we don’t see in lab settings. But,
Though he tracks on the other hand, they also start from a point
many wild animals that of human influence, because their genomes
hold scientific secrets, have been modified by the domestication
feral chickens are process.
his favorite.
Q: About how many chickens are
Eben Gering uses feral chickens, like this we talking here, that live in these
research subject in Key West, to answer beach towns?
questions about evolution. A: Fun fact: Between August 2012 and
October 2013, the tiny archipelago of
50 DISCOVERMAG A ZINE .COM

FROM TOP: ANDRIY BLOKHIN/SHUTTERSTOCK; VENTU PHOTO Bermuda removed something like 11,500 bring to the U.S. as game birds. I believe these “SOME PEOPLE
chickens. [The government of Bermuda junglefowl introductions were the last time
estimates its current feral chicken population that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tried SEE THE
to be between 20,000 and 25,000 across the to import a terrestrial vertebrate into the wild CHICKENS
territory’s mere 20.5 square miles.] for people to chase around with guns. This AS A WAY TO
practice has fallen out of favor because so MAKE PEOPLE
Q: That’s a lot of chickens. Where on many species that were imported intention- COME VISIT.
Earth did all these birds come from? ally have become invasive. OTHER PEOPLE
A: A lot of them were introduced over time JUST SEE
from trading ships. But there’s this amazing Q: Do the people who live in these THEM AS
story about this person who really wanted areas now get annoyed having so THINGS THAT
to introduce red junglefowl as game birds to many chickens around? POOP ON
the U.S. from India. I think the story is that A: It depends. In Ybor City, Florida, there’s THEIR CARS.”
this person from India held
this huge party, and got all a chicken society and a guy
the birds in this courtyard, who takes care of the birds.
and brought all these airline He knows every individual
agents to convince them they chicken, and which one had
should get a Pan Am jet and babies with which one. He
fill it up with junglefowl to runs all this social media
stuff and sells shirts. If a
In many beachside towns, feral chicken has babies, they have
chickens are considered a a social media update. But
nuisance. At least they’re easier there’s conflict within the
to study than feral cats. local business community.

NOVEMBER 2020 . DISCOVER 51

DON’T FEAR THE FELINES? Some people see the chickens as a way to ILLUSTRATION: JAY SMITH
make people come visit. Other people just
T he parasite Toxoplasma gondii infects many warm-blooded animals, see them as things that poop on their cars.
including humans — and feral chickens. Eben Gering, biologist at
Nova Southeastern University, is interested in how we could study Q: Do people eat them?
the parasite in chickens to learn about its distribution across the globe. A: Well, in Hawaii, they say that the recipe
Recently, he’s taken his work beyond the fowl. for cooking a feral chicken is “put a rock and
the chicken into water and boil it for two
You may know T. gondii better from its effects — both real and imagined days. Then eat the rock.” So, most people
— on humans. It’s the reason pregnant women shouldn’t scoop their cat’s would not want to eat one. They wouldn’t like
litter box. But it’s also been blamed for what some refer to as “crazy cat the flavor or the toughness. But some feral
lady syndrome.” Though evidence on whether the parasite can cause birds fetch a high price in Asian markets;
schizophrenia and psychosis is currently mixed, there’s no evidence that people eat them there. I haven’t been lucky
it ramps up a person’s affection toward cats. Brief flulike symptoms are enough to try it.
more likely.
The Gates Foundation is really interested
In nature, when T. gondii infects an animal — like a mouse — it rewires in chickens as a resource that empowers
their brain to make them less afraid of the smell of cat urine, explains women in parts of Africa. It’s a lot easier for
Gering. This makes them an easier snack, so when a cat eats the women to give each other chickens than, you
infected mouse, the parasite produces millions of spores that end up know, a cow. Then if somebody has a crop
in the cat’s poop. failure, they can kill one of the chickens and
it’s a good source of protein.
Thanks to the worldwide colonization of mice, feral cats, house pets
and their litterbox-scooping human owners, the parasite infects around a Q: What are some benefits of letting
third of all humans, as well as wild animals in just about any ecosystem, these chickens continue to roam in
says Gering. It’s been called the most successful parasite in the world. the U.S.?
A: It’s possible that by studying feral
But despite its abundance, scientists don’t really know how the parasite chickens, we could find microbes that can
affects the behavior of most animals. In a new study, Gering looked be used as probiotics to keep chickens
to hyenas, and found that T. gondii has an effect on their cat-related in agriculture settings healthier without
behavior, too: Infected hyenas get closer to lions. relying on antibiotics. Compared to other
meat sources, chickens have a small carbon
“This shows that this parasite is affecting the behavior of wild footprint. So if we can make poultry farming
animals under natural conditions,” says Gering. “That’s really cool.”
— ANNA FUNK & JEN MONNIER

The parasite Toxoplasma gondii infects warm-blooded animals worldwide, and
reproduces in the digestive systems of cats. It’s transferred between hosts when
a cat eats an infected animal, and when animals — or humans — are exposed to
cat feces.

52 DISCOVERMAG A Z I N E .COM

FROM LEFT: YAKONSTANT/SHUTTERSTOCK; CHERI ALGUIRE/SHUTTERSTOCK more successful and healthier, maybe we A: I usually trap chickens with a spring-loaded The closest living relative
can reduce the carbon footprint of livestock net that’s deployed by manually pulling of the Tyrannosaurus rex
production overall. a very long string after a long period of is none other than Galllus
waiting for birds to step into a corn-baited trap gallus — the chicken.
There also might be a lot we can learn about zone. These animals are very wary of unfamil-
the genetic basis of behavioral variation, iar objects, so I miss most of the shots I take. “THESE ANIMALS
including behavioral disorders, by studying The process resembles Sylvester and Tweety
these tractable animals and how they respond more so than Rocky Balboa. ARE VERY
to dramatic changes in their social environ- WARY OF
ment as they go feral. Q: What do you say to people who UNFAMILIAR
might not be that interested in OBJECTS, SO
Q: Have you come across any totally chickens? Do you have a way of I MISS MOST
unexpected results in your research? winning them over? OF THE SHOTS
A: My favorite finding so far is we caught A: I like to tell people to think about the I TAKE. THE
several chickens in Bermuda that had extra dog and the wolf — same species, but one PROCESS
toes. I learned afterward from some poultry has been domesticated. Same thing with RESEMBLES
breeders there that there are different breeds backyard chickens and the red junglefowl. SYLVESTER AND
that have an extra toe. And some researchers So, which traits are the more wolflike or TWEETY MORE
have looked at what genes affect this trait, junglefowl-like traits, and which traits are SO THAN ROCKY
which is called polydactyly. Turns out this somewhere in between? And where in BALBOA.”
used to be pretty popular in chickens bred the genome is that domestication process
in the Atlantic region but has fallen out of controlled? Just like with wolves and
fashion. So I’ve entertained the idea that these dogs, the junglefowl and the domesticated
feral populations contain some mutations chicken have very different behaviors that
that have been lost as different domesticated relate to genetic variation and variation
breeds went out of fashion. Finding this trait in the brain. I just think chickens are
in the feral chickens was unexpected. a great tool for asking all these really
neat questions. D
Q: I want to know how you catch
feral chickens so you can study Joan Meiners is a freelance writer and ecologist
them. I’m envisioning you training based in Utah. Connect with her on Twitter
like Rocky Balboa to catch the flighty @beecycles.
birds. Accurate?

NOVEMBER 2020 . DISCOVER 53

HISTORY LESSONS

BY ALEX ORLANDO

Cracking the 414s For much of the similarly, what started out as innocuous
American public, fun had some very real consequences.
IN 1983, A GROUP OF YOUNG ADULTS FROM the 1983 Matthew The group eventually was caught by the
MILWAUKEE BECAME FAMOUS FOR HACKING INTO Broderick/Ally FBI for raiding around a dozen govern-
SEVERAL HIGH-PROFILE COMPUTER SYSTEMS, Sheedy film ment and industry systems. Among
INTRODUCING THE COUNTRY TO THE WORLD WarGames (top) these were Memorial Sloan Kettering
OF CYBERCRIME. and the 414s’ Cancer Center and the Los Alamos
antics were their National Laboratory, a nuclear weapons
In the 1983 techno-thriller WarGames, David Lightman, first introductions research site that produced atomic
played by a fresh-faced Matthew Broderick, sits in his to the idea of bombs used during World War II.
bedroom, plunking away on a boxy computer using an “hackers.” At the
8-bit Intel processor. As text flashes across the screen, time, personal While the 414s’ antics didn’t spark
David’s face lights up; he believes he’s hacking into a video game computers like the a nuclear conflict, they did ignite a
company, but the unwitting teenager is actually facing off against Commodore 64 national conversation on computer
a military supercomputer. “Shall we play a game?” the computer (below) were just security — long before cyberwarfare
asks ominously. In the film, the subsequent showdown triggers becoming popular. made headlines and modern-day
a countdown to World War III. hackers like Edward Snowden became
household names. Plus, the media FROM TOP: AA FILM ARCHIVE/ALAMY; ARDA SAVASCIOGULLARI/SHUTTERSTOCK
The same year the film was frenzy fueled by the group alerted U.S.
released, a group of teenagers and legislators that new laws were needed
young adults from Milwaukee were to combat computer crime.
playing a game of their own. Much
like Broderick’s character, these Ultimately, the group would help
suburban tech savants — who dubbed introduce the nation to the pos-
themselves the 414s — hacked into sibilities — and problems, like sloppy
large, networked computer systems security protections — that come with
used by high-profile organizations, computer connectivity. After the group
looking for new games to play. And was exposed, member Neal Patrick was
asked on NBC’s Today show if he had
54 DISCOVERMAGA ZINE .COM any regrets.

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HISTORY LESSONS

Above: Neal Patrick became the face of the 414s, even “I fell in love text on a glass screen. Combined with an acoustically
testifying before Congress. Right: Early modems used with just coupled modem, which transmitted signals through
acoustic couplers to send information over phone lines. trying to a telephone network, the system was able to send and
learn and receive typed messages.
“In hindsight, I really wish that accessing those create with
systems just wasn’t so easy,” he replied. this new Winslow didn’t have a chance to test the computer
technology,” during class. But he stayed after school that night to
WHIZ KIDS Winslow try it out for himself. As soon as his teacher dialed
In the early 1980s, computer culture was having a says. into the network and revved up the math program,
moment. The first IBM personal computer came on Winslow was hooked. “I fell in love with just trying
the scene in 1981, popularizing the term PC. The next to learn and create with this new technology,” he says. FROM LEFT: PATRICK FAMILY; DOUG MCLEAN/SHUTTERSTOCK
year, the Commodore 64 was introduced; it would
later become the best-selling computer model of all Winslow found he wasn’t the only one who
time. By 1983, both tech aficionados and more cau- gravitated to these early computers. In high school,
tious adapters were warming up to the PC’s potential. he joined an Explorer Scout program focused on
That same year, The New York Times went digital with computing and tech, sponsored by IBM, where he
the organization’s first newsroom computer. met most of his fellow would-be hackers. The mem-
bers met right after school in downtown Milwaukee
By today’s standards, however, these simple to program computer code together.
machines still had a long way to go. “One of the
most relevant things here is just how early this was Over time, many of them became friends,
in the technology age,” says Alan J. Borsuk, who was eventually deciding their group needed a name.
a reporter at The Milwaukee Journal at the time and In the 1980s, gangs in Milwaukee would identify
covered the 414s. “It was before there was a popular themselves by the names of the streets they ran, like
concept of the internet or email or anything like that. the 2-7s, who were active on 27th Street — numbers
It was really very rudimentary — just the beginnings that were carved on the picnic tables where the
of things.” hackers sometimes met for dinner. Since their turf
was Milwaukee, the group took its name from the
But for many, these proto-computers were a local area code and became “the 414s.”
portal into previously uncharted territory. Tim
Winslow, who would become a member of the 414s, LET THE GAMES BEGIN
first tapped into their potential as a junior high Over at least a year, the 414s used their home comput-
school student in the mid-1970s. His math teacher ers and telephone modems to connect to major com-
had brought in a primitive computer to test out puter installations across the country. By using basic
some problems. The device, called a teletype, was passwords and login information — which were writ-
essentially a mechanical typewriter that displayed ten in the instruction manuals for various computer
systems and never updated or changed — they were
56 DISCOVERMAG A ZINE .COM able to penetrate these larger networks. For example,
says Winslow, the login and password for one of the
systems were simply that: system and system.

“It was so easy to get logged into them because
people didn’t read their own manuals,” he says.





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HISTORY LESSONS

The gang saw themselves as explorers, Ultimately, and the CBS Morning News. His face was
harnessing their curiosity to learn more the story splashed across the cover of Newsweek.
about how the systems worked. Mostly, of the 414s He even testified on the dangers of
the 414s were looking to get their hands was a computer security before Congress in
on computer games. Throughout 1983, watershed Washington, D.C., where the clicking of
though, the group’s activities grew bolder. moment cameras was so loud that it sometimes
At one point, they hacked into Security that drowned out the people speaking. At
Pacific National Bank in Los Angeles, exposed one point, Patrick was asked when he
which had billions in assets. That spring, the soft first considered the “ethical propriety”
the 414s infiltrated a computer at Los underbelly of what he was doing.
Alamos National Laboratory. of
computer “Once the FBI knocked at my door,”
By June, the jig was up. The 414s’ security. he answered.
exploits were revealed when they hacked
into Memorial Sloan Kettering and Because there were no laws against
accidentally deleted billing records. This hacking at the time, the adult members
tipped off a Memorial Sloan Kettering of the 414s were charged with making
administrator, who then contacted harassing telephone calls. The misde-
the FBI, which tracked the gang back meanor offense came with two years of
to Milwaukee by tracing incoming probation and a $500 fine; the charges
telephone calls. were eventually expunged.

“In order to get more proof, they Yet, nearly four decades later,
actually went outside of our homes and the 414s’ legacy lives on — though
put data-capture pieces [on] our phone perhaps not in the most obvious ways.
lines,” says Winslow. Not long after, several of the Filmmaker Michael Vollmann, director
414s, including Winslow, then 20; Gerald Wondra, of the documentary The 414s: The Original Teenage
21; and 17-year-old Patrick would be greeted by Hackers, says he was originally drawn to the group’s
suit-and-tie-clad FBI agents on their doorsteps. story because it has since been overshadowed by
films like WarGames. “[But] there were a few things
“I had gone to bed a little late the night before; my that came out of it,” he continues. “Like the fact that
mom came down and woke me up,” says Winslow, Neal Patrick went and testified before Congress to
who came upstairs to find the agents sitting at the talk about his experience.” As a result of the gang’s
kitchen table. “They [said], ‘We’d like to talk to you exploits, and the media circus that followed, six
about what you’ve been doing with your computer bills were introduced in the House that dealt with
for the last few months.’ ” different aspects of computer crime.
Morgan Wright, a cybersecurity expert, notes
A HIDDEN LEGACY how far the field has come since. “We’ve come a long
Winslow, Wondra and another member were all way [from] the curiosity of kids that just looked at
charged by the federal government and faced the pos- it and said, ‘Hey, let’s just try passwords,’ ” he says.
sibility of jail time. But because Patrick was a minor, “That was really the only protection; [there was]
he wasn’t at risk for prosecution. no two-factor authentication, no security tokens,
no digital certificates. All of that came later, and it
While his peers made plea deals, Patrick toured the came when we could no longer trust people with
media circuit, appearing on The Phil Donahue Show just a username and password because it was too
easy to break in.” Ultimately, he says the story of the
414s was a watershed moment that exposed the soft FROM TOP: MICHAEL T. VOLLMANN; WINSLOW FAMILY
underbelly of computer security.
“If it is the case that these were the only people
who got into Los Alamos labs when it was very
poorly protected,” adds cybersecurity expert Joseph
Steinberg, “[then] they did us a big favor.” D

Alex Orlando is an assistant editor at Discover.

Tim Winslow was among the 414s interviewed for the
documentary The 414s: The Original Teen Hackers, which
premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

58 DISCOVERMAGA ZINE .COM

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PLANET EARTH

BY JEFF KRONENFELD

Sorry,
cheetahs.
The fastest
animal in the
world is the
peregrine
falcon,
which can
hit 200 mph
as it dives.

Farming With The quest
Falcons to build
better
TRAINED RAPTORS ARE PROTECTING OUR PRODUCE mousetraps
FROM FIELD PESTS AND FOODBORNE PATHOGENS. and
scarecrows
peregrine falcon hurtles at over 100 mph toward rows has daunted
of grapes. It banks at the last moment, passing within farmers
inches of professional falconer Kalen Pearson’s smiling since the
Neolithic
face. The high-velocity interspecies dance causes a era.
flock of European starlings to scatter — along with any other
nearby birds that have any sense. Rows of plump organic grapes unwanted rodents can spread these FROM TOP: CHRISTIAN FRITSCHI/SHUTTERSTOCK; SARA KROSS
are safe for now, and so are the invasive starlings. In falconry- foodborne diseases.
based bird abatement, the game isn’t the catch; it’s the chase.
Farmers have tried decoys, reflective
Farmers have been chasing superior and safer methods mylar tape and moving lights to keep
of crop preservation for millennia. This quest to build better field critters away. Acoustic strategies
mousetraps and scarecrows has daunted agricultural workers include propane cannons, pyrotechnic
since the Neolithic era, and the modern age still hasn’t mastered “bird banger” pistols, speakers mimick-
the art of deterring hungry field pests, which eat crops and ing bird alarm calls and sonic net sys-
can spread pathogens through feces. The consequences can be tems. But adaptive animals grow used to
deadly for producers’ profits, as well as for human bodies. these sound deterrents. Lethal methods
such as shooting or poisoning pests are
In April 2018, for example, E. coli in romaine lettuce from controversial, and only effective if large
Yuma, Arizona, killed five people and hospitalized nearly numbers are killed. Other measures,
100. In October 2015, an outbreak of the same bacteria such as nets, are costly. Pesticides can
sickened 55 people who had eaten at Chipotle Mexican Grill.
Though the source of the bacteria was never pinpointed,

60 DISCOVERMAGA ZINE .COM



PLANET EARTH

leave a major impact Falconry is ancient,
on the environment. though today’s
falconers have a
The string of trial- bit more tech (left).
and-error methods, But the job still
with mixed results, depends on skilled
has prompted some falconers (like Sally
farmers to fight Knight, at right)
birds (and other and their feathered
pests) with birds. co-workers.
The concept turns
to millions of years Sometimes,
of natural predator- recruiting a natural
prey evolution ally is an effective
and an ancient way to manage
sport leveraging pests. A barn owl
human and falcon would love to move
cooperation. But the into your orchard
specialized field of falconry-based pest abatement and eat your mice.
for crop production is just beginning to hatch.
The concept “We’re not hunting. We’re security guards,” Tigan CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: LISA LANGELL; ASHLEY CZAJKOWSKI; RYAN BOURBOUR
BIRD-ON-BIRD DEFENSE turns to says of her method. “You let (the pests) know with
The earliest evidence of using trained birds of prey millions your predator birds that if you cross that line, you’re
to clear the sky comes from a Scottish airbase in the of years going to be in fear of being eaten.” The study dem-
late 1940s, when falconers deployed both peregrine of natural onstrated that falconry reduced both bird intrusions
falcons and gyrfalcons to chase away seagulls near predator- and the amount of fecal matter in the fields, with
the runway. (Only the peregrines succeeded.) The prey levels remaining low days after the falconer left.
industry continued to stretch its wings over the evolution
following decades as a way for airports in Europe and an That experiment’s small-scale success prompted
and North America to keep flight paths clear. ancient a larger follow-up study in 2018 led by Paula
sport Rivadeneira, then a food safety specialist at the
Food science took interest in 1978 when a study leveraging University of Arizona Cooperative Extension.
examined if the airfield strategy could produce human Rivadeneira enlisted teams of falconers to protect
similar results in farm fields. In the experiment, and falcon multiple fields for months under the blazing Arizona
goshawks were used to chase wood pigeons out of cooperation. sun. Starting in February 2018, the teams conducted
vegetable fields in Oxfordshire. The results in that daily patrols, dawn until dusk, with their raptors
case showed that divebombing goshawks were as (barring some days with heavy rains, high winds or
effective as humans walking through a field when noxious chemicals) for two growing seasons of leafy
it came to scaring off hungry pigeons. greens. The birds excelled, achieving a 97 percent
success rate in chasing away nuisance birds, accord-
Since then, falconry abatement has evolved with ing to Rivadeneira. One farmer estimated that they
various approaches, particularly gaining momentum saved crops valued between $400,000 and $1 million.
at California vineyards in the 1990s. Today, the
method is often paired with smartphone-controlled Still, one particular species of brave little birds
GPS tracking systems and drones, as well as other posed a challenge. While red-winged blackbirds,
technological advances. And new research is brown-headed cowbirds, egrets and other birds
refining the work, such as the realization that the generally retreated when faced with the working
threat of a patrolling predator in a field can be more raptors, these other birds (the participants suspect
effective than an actual attack from a raptor’s razor-
sharp talons.

In 2015, researchers at the University of California,
Davis, teamed up with falconer Kathleen Tigan,
owner of Tactical Avian Predators. In a series of
experimental trials, Tigan flew both lanner and
saker falcons through fields of leafy greens while
researchers tracked daily counts of bird flocks —
and their poo.

62 DISCOVERMAG A ZINE .COM

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PLANET EARTH

Falcons
aren’t just for
farmers: Some
falconers, like
Kalen Pearson,
wow crowds
and teach
about falconry
at events.

they were meadowlarks) found protection in the Becoming kestrels can protect orchards in the state. On the FROM TOP: ASHLEY PEARSON; ASHLEY CZAJKOWSKI
crop itself. Flushing them out over the course of the a master other side of the world, researchers introduced wild
experiment required all the dogs of war: bangers, falconer falcons to New Zealand vineyards and found the
screamers, drones, even actual dogs. requires raptors reduced the number of grapes removed by
seven years pest birds by 95 percent. The approach can create a
The takeaway? Yes, birds of prey keep the other experience, holistic benefit for natural systems, as well as farmers,
birds away. But, “falconry alone isn’t going to work,” including says Sara Kross, a conservation biologist at Columbia
Rivadeneira says. “It really takes multiple techniques a two-year University who worked on the New Zealand study.
to keep these nuisance birds out.” apprentice-
ship under “There are plenty of case studies where farmland is
Another lesson was that the long hours exposed a master. a good source of biodiversity conservation, but there
to the elements took a greater toll on the humans is a lot of [room] to improve it,” Kross says. “I hope
than the falcons — and trained falconers are in short that as farmers become more aware of the benefits
supply. One falconer had to be terminated on short they receive from wildlife, they are more inspired to
notice during the study. Finding a replacement with take action.”
the right skillset in the middle of harvest season
proved a major challenge, says Tiffany White, Despite the limitations of falconry abatement, it’s
co-founder of Sonoran Desert Falconry, which likely to expand, according to White — if qualified
provided the raptors and handlers for the project. falconers can be found. Licensure currently requires
White suspects the number of qualified falconers is someone to be a master falconer, which itself
one factor limiting how fast the industry can grow, requires seven years of experience, including a two-
especially given the overlap of harvest times for year apprenticeship under a master, plus additional
different crops. specialized knowledge. Pearson recently opened
a school in the Phoenix area under her nonprofit,
THE WILD BIRD APPROACH Skywolf Inc., designed to teach veteran falconers
For farmers, recruiting wild birds of prey may serve as about abatement.
an alternative, supplement or complement to hiring a
falconer team. Installing bird boxes often does the trick, “Bird abatement, especially in agriculture, is really
attracting kestrels or owls around a property. “They say, about creating a symphony and trying to do it as
‘If you build it, they will come,’” Rivadeneira says. Then quickly and effortlessly as possible,” she says. Just as
they will eat — often as many as 1,000 rodents a year a symphony requires an orchestra, proper abatement
for a family of barn owls. work takes more than one instrument — including
one with razor-sharp talons. D
Related studies have found promising results in
Malaysian palm oil plantations, Israeli farms and Jeff Kronenfeld is a freelance journalist and author based
beyond. Biologists from Michigan State University in Phoenix. He writes for Vice, Psychedelics Today and
and the USDA found installing nest boxes for wild other outlets.

64 DISCOVERMAGAZINE .COM



20 THINGS YOU BY JONATHON KEATS
DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT ...

Wilderness

In a hundred years, 1 With wilderness covering nearly Chernobyl: In 1986, fallout from the world’s most FROM TOP: JGOMOLACH/SHUTTERSTOCK; JARMO PIIRONEN/SHUTTERSTOCK;
wilderness may a quarter of the global landmass, catastrophic nuclear accident slew animals and killed ANTON PETRUS/GETTY IMAGES
have vanished it’s pretty wild out there. 2 But not a nearby pine forest, turning the trees’ needles red.
— bad news for for long — almost a tenth of the 13 Thirty-four years after evacuation, Chernobyl’s
everything from globe’s wilderness has been lost in landscape is thriving again. Today, it’s brimming
pharmaceutical the past quarter century. An inter- with megafauna including brown bears and bison —
research to carbon national team of scientists projects probably bolstered by the lack of human settlement.
storage. Slightly that there may be no wilderness 14 Meanwhile, humans are abandoning large swaths
better news: Even areas of any significant size left in a of Europe, ditching farms because cultivation is no
blighted wilderness hundred years. 3 That’s bad news, longer economically viable. Up to 11 percent of agri-
can recover, as the and not just for tree-huggers. cultural land is under high risk of abandonment by
megafauna thriving High-latitude boreal forests, the 2030. 15 Some ecologists see this as an opportunity
at Chernobyl world’s most intact ecosystems, to “rewild” the terrain by reintroducing wild animals,
attests. hold a full third of the planet’s such as aurochs, that dominated before people
terrestrial carbon. 4 Nature is also got the upper hand. 16 That aurochs are extinct
DISCOVER (ISSN 0274-7529, USPS# good for your health, reducing blood pressure and seems more of a challenge than an impediment.
555-190) is published eight times per boosting the immune system. According to research- Wageningen University geneticists have rediscovered
year (January/February, March/April, May, ers at the University of Exeter, there are measurable much of the auroch gene pool and are “back-
June, July/August, September/October, benefits to spending just two hours a week in the breeding” cattle to revive the aurochs’ mighty horns
November and December). Vol. 41, no. 7. forest or on the beach. 5 And that doesn’t take into
Published by Kalmbach Media Co., 21027 account all the medical treatments unearthed in the and hardiness. 17 Before humans migrated to North
Crossroads Circle, P.O. Box 1612, Waukesha, great outdoors. Microorganisms, plants and animals America, the continent bustled with megafauna of
WI 53187-1612. Periodical postage paid at found in the wild have provided the molecular its own, including mammoths, mastodons and even
Waukesha, WI, and at additional mailing ingredients for 35 percent of all pharmaceuticals, supersized camels. 18 Beguiled by fossilized mam-
offices. POSTMASTER: Send address from aspirin to cancer drugs. 6 Nonetheless, moths, Thomas Jefferson sent Meriwether Lewis and
changes to DISCOVER, P.O. Box 8520, Big wilderness was scorned in the past. Ancient Roman William Clark to capture the living creatures, hoping
Sandy, TX 75755. Canada Publication philosopher Lucretius saw forests as planetary to show European snobs that New World wilderness
Agreement # 40010760. Back issues defects, a sentiment echoed some 1,700 years was as impressive as Europe’s. 19 On a smaller scale,
available. All rights reserved. Nothing later by colonial governor John Winthrop, who wilderness might be closer than you think: Indoor
herein contained may be reproduced advocated colonizing North America so it wouldn’t spaces are among the most rapidly expanding biomes
without written permission of Kalmbach be “waste[d].” 7 Others have valued wilderness on Earth. Recent studies suggest there may be more
Media Co., 21027 Crossroads Circle, P.O. since at least the Middle Ages, when noblemen than 200,000 species living in homes. 20 Houses are
Box 1612, Waukesha, WI 53187-1612. realized they’d better preserve forests in order to filled with appealing niches, including the hot water
Printed in the U.S.A. have good hunting grounds. Eluding centuries of heater, which hosts exotic species of thermophilic
logging, many of those preserves are now national bacteria first discovered in hot springs. Even your
parks. 8 The formation of the world’s first national home is a pretty wild place. D
park, Yellowstone, was heavily driven by the rapidly
growing railroads and their desire for a destination to Jonathon Keats is a contributing editor to Discover.
attract more customers. 9 With the park’s establish- His most recent book is You Belong to the Universe:
ment came the government’s egregious eviction of Buckminster Fuller and the Future.
Native Americans who had lived on the “uninhab-
ited” land for generations. But Native hunting and
crop cultivation practices were crucial to the ecology
of Yellowstone and most other wildernesses. 10 In
particular, controlled burns managed forest density
and prevented the explosive forest fires currently
affecting North America. 11 States are now hiring
Indigenous firefighters to bring back their ancestral
practices. 12 Even the most blighted terrain can
recover and return to wilderness in time. Consider

66 DISCOVERMAGA ZINE .COM

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cuff bracelet setting. Adjustable 3000 BC-1900’s AD...............$150 46769RomanBronzemermaidcandlestickholder.4¾”100AD$1,200 53671 Greek Silver Alexander the Great tetradrachm. 1” 336 BC $1,200
28217 Holy Land Lapis lazuli inlays and red and green glass 47412 Egyptian Limestone wall fragment depicts mother god- 54228 Greek Gold coin of Alexander the Great. ¾” 336 BC.$7,000
beads in a silver cross pendant. 3” 1800’s AD..........................$150 dess Isis suckling pharaoh Seti I. 12” x 6 ¾” 1290 BC...........$8,000 54245 Holy Land Gold Menorah pendant. 1 ¼” 1700 AD..$4,000
30608 Egyptian Bronze ankh.1 ½” 600 BC...........................$120 48700 Holy Land Gold pendant of the Ten Commandments. An 54253 Egyptian Gold pendant: two Sphinxes, a winged scarab on
31418 American Silver Atocha shipwreck coin. 1 ¼” 1622 AD $400 incised Star of David on the back. ¾” 1700’s AD..................$5,000 the bottom, a lions head on top. 2” 305 BC.......................$5,000
31442 Near Eastern Lapis lazuli necklace. 22” 3000 BC-1900 AD $150 48967 Egyptian Stucco over linen cartonnage fragment of Nefertari 54255 Egyptian Gold pendant of a Pharaoh. 1 ½” 305 BC.$5,000
32624 Holy Land Terracotta oil lamp. 4” 300 AD..................$700 worshipping Thoth, god of wisdom. 9” x 7” 1200 BC.....$7,000 54394 Egyptian Gold pendant of a Pharaoh with a snake in the
32664 Holy Land Lapis lazuli inlays set into a silver Star of David 49306 Greek Silver tetradrachm coin of Artemis. 1 ½” 413 BC $5,000 background. 1 ½” 305 BC.....................................................$5,000
pendant setting. 2 ½” 1800’s AD.............................................$500 50058 Persian Gold ram bracelet. 3.5 oz. 3 ¼” 500 BC....$12,000 54417 Roman Gold lion head pendant. 1 ¼” 100 AD........$4,000
32810 Egyptian Bronze Eye of Horus. 1 ¾” 663 BC...............$700 50265PrehistoricCricketinamberpendant.1¾”12MillionYearsOld$700 54433 Holy Land Gold pendant of a bearded man. 1 ¾” 100 AD $8,000
32833 Roman Bronze owl pendant. 2” 100 AD.....................$300 50267PrehistoricBeeinamberpendant.1¾”12MillionYearsOld$500 54480 Greek Bronze sword. 22” 400 BC............................$2,500
34496 Greek Silver Alexander the Great drachm coin. ¾” 315 BC $200 50782 Prehistoric Butterfly in amber. 1 ¾” 12 Million Years Old $1,200 54619PrehistoricLizardinamberpendant.2”12MillionYearsOld$1,200

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