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Heeding the Messenger: Songbirds and the Scale of Climate Change

November 6, 2020 @ 10:15 am - 6:00 pm

Image credit: © SongbirdSOS Productions Inc.

The Jackman Humanities Institute Program for the Arts is pleased to present Heeding the Messenger: Songbirds and the Scale of Climate Change in cooperation with the IHPST, Victoria University, and Cinema Studies Institute.

Heeding the Messenger is a one-day interdisciplinary event inspired by, and culminating in, a screening and round table discussion of Toronto film-maker Su Rynard’s 2015 documentary film The Messenger. Echoing the mythical role of birds as divine messengers, the film sets out to discover what we should learn from the recent and rapid decline of migrating songbirds around the globe. In concert with scientists, naturalists, activists, museum curators and concerned citizens, Rynard follows the migration routes of songbirds to critical points of observation–from downtown Toronto to deforested Costa Rica, drought-ridden Turkey, and Manhattan’s 9/11 memorial–seeking insight into the ecological and environmental causes and consequences of songbirds’ decline.

Heeding the Messenger brings together STS and sound studies scholars, participants in Rynard’s film, and the director herself to explore the themes and issues raised in the film and by the plight of songbirds in general. Engaging local and global perspectives, speakers and participants will speak to multiple aspects of contemporary climate change, offering a multivocal and multifaceted account of affective and ecological dimensions of the Anthropocene.

Please register here: https://www.eventbrite.ca


10:15 – 12:00 Birds in Flight

10:15 Welcome

Iris Montero (Brown University)

Into the Archive of Trans-species Migration in Greater Mexico

Kristoffer Whitney (Rochester Institute of Technology)

Migratory Birds, Shifting Habitats, and the “Lost” Science of Phenology

Rachel Mundy (Rutgers University)

Song at the End of Modernity

12:00 Lunch Break

13:00 Screening The Messenger , a documentary by Su Rynard

15:15 Roundtable discussion

Su Rynard (Film Director) / Bill Evans (Old Bird, Inc.) /

Michael Mesure (FLAP) / Chris Guglielmo (Western University) / Alejandra Martínez-Salinas (CATIE) / Çağan H. Şekercioğlu (University of Utah)

Bridget J. Stutchbury (York University)

17:30 Conclusion

Participants’ biographies

Birds in Flight

Iris Montero
Iris Montero is Visiting Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies and Science and Technology Studies at Brown University. She received her Ph.D. in the History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge and was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Cogut Institute for the Humanities at Brown. Her first book project What the Hummingbird Knows centers the elasticity of the early modern genre of natural history to make visible how native Mexican, Creole and European intellectuals co-produced knowledge about the natural world. Her analysis of human-non human migration is forthcoming in the journal Ethnohistory in August.

Rachel Mundy
Rachel Mundy is an Associate Professor of Music in the Arts, Culture, & Media program at Rutgers University in Newark. She specializes in twentieth-century sonic culture with interests at the juncture of music, the history of science, and animal studies. Her research shows how music has been used to navigate changing boundaries between race, species, and culture in the twentieth century. Her book Animal Musicalities: Birds, Beasts, and Evolutionary Listening (2018) traces comparisons between human and animal songs from social Darwinism through the postwar rejection of racial science. By exploring song as an object of study, she locates postmodern notions of art and science as the refrain of a century-long encounter with life’s inequalities.

Kristoffer Whitney
Kristoffer Whitney is an Assistant Professor in the Science, Technology & Society Department at the Rochester Institute of Technology.  He completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Holtz Center for Science and Technology Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and holds a PhD in the History and Sociology of Science from the University of Pennsylvania.  His work has focused on the historical and contemporary intersections between endangered species science and policy, and his article on tracking migratory shorebirds received the David Edge Prize for the best article in the area of science and technology studies (STS) by the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S).

The Messenger and Roundtable Discussion

Su Rynard
Su Rynard is a Canadian filmmaker inspired by science, ecology, and the human relationship to the natural world. Her films have screened in film festivals around the globe and have garnered numerous awards. Recent documentary films include: Duet for Solo Piano (2019), Mosquito (2017), The Messenger (2015). Her dramatic fiction feature film KARDIA debuted in 2006.  She is currently completing a television documentary Reef Rescue (2020).  Su Rynard is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and was a Director Resident at the Canadian Film Centre. She lives and works in Toronto.

Bill Evans
Bill Evans is the director of Old Bird Inc., a nonprofit focused on nocturnal bird migration research and education. Bill Evans has a mission to connect with an avian world otherwise hidden to our eyes and ears.  He records the nocturnal calls of migrating birds and, after listening to two decades of recordings, has identified the flight calls of over two hundred species. Nocturnal monitoring provides information about migrants that is nearly impossible to gather using other techniques.

Christopher G. Guglielmo
Chris Guglielmo is a professor in the Department of Biology at University of Western Ontario and Co-Director of Advanced Facility for Avian Research (AFAR), a world-class facility for interdisciplinary studies of bird physiology, neurobiology and behaviour. His current research focuses on the physiology of endurance flight and stopover refueling in migratory birds and bats.

Alejandra Martínez-Salinas
Alejandra Martínez-Salinas is a tropical applied ecologist broadly interested in biodiversity conservation in human-modified landscapes. Most of her work focuses on understanding the conservation value of agricultural land uses using bird communities as proxies of biodiversity. She is particularly interested in experimental methods that allow measurement and quantification of ecosystem services and in understanding the trade-offs between biodiversity conservation, ecosystem service provisioning and food production.

Michael Mesure
Michael Mesure is the Executive Director of Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) Canada, a registered Canadian charity. An author and speaker, Michael regularly delivers presentations on the topic of bird-building collisions, bringing attention to the reflective light issue that impacts over 1 billion birds across North America every year. His work increasingly focuses on solutions to help mitigate and remediate the challenges of bird migrations in built environments, having led the BirdSafe® Building Standards and Risk Assessments, to helping develop the Canadian Standards Association’s (CSA) Bird-Friendly Design standard as a technical committee member.

Çağan H. Şekercioğlu
Çağan H. Şekercioğlu’s work focuses on the worlds threatened biodiversity and ecosystems, and the causes and consequences of bird extinctions in human dominated landscapes. He is a Prof. in the School of Biological Sciences and the University of Utah and spearheads the Turkish environmental organization KuzeyDoğa.

Bridget Stutchbury
Bridget Stutchbury is a professor in the Department of Biology at York University, Toronto. She did her M.Sc. at Queen’s University, her Ph.D. at Yale and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. Since the 1980s, she has studied migratory songbirds to understand their behavior, ecology and conservation but has also witnessed first-hand the shocking declines of many birds including wood thrushes, barn swallows and bobolinks. She studies the incredible migration journeys of songbirds and the many threats they face along the way. She is on the board of Wildlife Preservation Canada whose mission is to prevent animal extinctions.  She is author of Silence of the Songbirds (2007) and The Bird Detective (2010) and was featured in the award-winning 2015 documentary The Messenger.


November 6, 2020
10:15 am - 6:00 pm