How Mushroom Time-Lapses Are Filmed: A Glimpse Into the Pioneering Time-Lapse Cinematography Behind the Netflix Documentary Fantastic Fungi

Mushrooms are having a moment, thanks in part to pioneering time-lapse cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg’s documentary Fantastic Fungi.

Now streaming on Netflix, the film has given rise to a bumper crop of funghi fantatics, who sprang up like, well, mushrooms, to join the existing ranks of citizen scientistsculinary fansweekend foragersamateur growers, and spiritual seekers.




Schwartzberg, who earlier visualized pollination from the flower’s point of view in the Meryl Streep-narrated Wings of Life, is a true believer in the power of mushrooms, citing funghi’s role in soil creation and health, and their potential for remedying a number of pressing global problems, as well as a host of human ailments.

Fantastic Funghi focuses on seven pillars of benefits brought to the table by the fungal kingdom and its Internet-like underground network of mycelium:

  1. Biodiversity

A number of projects are exploring the ways in which the mycelium world can pull us back from the bring of  desertization, water shortage, food shortage, bee colony collapsetoxic contaminants, nuclear disasters, oil spills, plastic pollution, and global warming.

  1. Innovation

Mushroom-related industries are eager to press funghi into service as environmentally sustainable faux leatherbuilding materials, packaging, and meat alternatives.

  1. Food

From fine dining to foraging off-the-grid, mushrooms are prized for their culinary and nutritional benefits.

  1. Physical Health and Wellness

Will the humble mushroom prove mighty enough to do an end run around powerful drug companies as a source of integrative medicine to help combat diabetes, liver disease, inflammation, insomnia and cognitive decline?

  1. Mental Health

Researchers at Johns HopkinsUCLA, and NYU are running clinical trials on the benefits of psychedelic psilocybin mushrooms as a tool for treating addiction, depression, anxiety, PTSD and suicidal ideation.

  1. Spirituality

Of course, there’s also a rich tradition of religions and individual seekers deploying mind altering psychoactive mushrooms as a form of sacrament or a tool for plumbing the mysteries of life.

  1. The Arts

Director Schwartzberg understandably views mushrooms as muse, a fitting subject for photography, music, film, poetry, art and other creative endeavors.

 

With regard to this final pillar, many viewers may be surprised to learn how much of the 15 years Schwartzberg dedicated to capturing the exquisite cycle of fungal regeneration and decomposition took place indoors.

As he explains in the Wired video above, his precision equipment excels at capturing development that’s invisible to the human eye, but is no match for such natural world disruptions as insects and wind.

Instead, he and his team built controlled growing environments, where highly sensitive time lapse cameras, dollies, timed grow lights, and more cinematic lighting instruments could be left in place.

Set dressings of moss and logs, coupled with a very short depth of field helped to bring the Great Outdoors onscreen, with occasional chromakeyed panoramas of the natural world filling in the gaps.

Even in such lab-like conditions, certain elements were necessarily left to chance. Mushrooms grow notoriously quickly, and even with constant monitoring and calculations, there was plenty of potential for one of his stars to miss their mark, shooting out of frame.

Just one of the ways that mushrooms and humans operate on radically different timelines. The director bowed to the shrooms, returning to square one on the frequent occasions when a sequence got away from him.

Providing viewers an immersive experience of the underground mycelium network required high powered microscopes, a solid cement floor, and a bit of movie magic to finesse. What you see in the final cut is the work of CGI animators, who used Schwartzberg’s footage as their blueprint.

Netflix subscribers can stream Fantastic Fungi for free.

From October 15 – 17, filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg is hosting a free, virtual Fantastic Fungi Global Summit. Register here.

You can also browse his collection of community mushroom recipes and submit your own, download Fantastic Fungi’s Stoned Ape poster, or have a ramble through a trove of related videos and articles in the Mush Room.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Brood X Cicadas are her mushrooms. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Watch Venice’s New $7 Billion Flood Defense System in Action

There are capitals unlikely to be much afflicted by rising sea levels — Indianapolis, say, or La Paz — but Venice looks set for a much more dire fate. Still, there is hope for the Floating City, a hope held out by large-scale engineering projects like the one profiled in the Tomorrow’s Build video above. Called MOSE (an acronym standing for MOdulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico), the system consists of “78 gates, each 20 meters wide, that rise up out of the water when flooding is imminent.” This sounds like just the ticket for a city that, “built in the middle of a lagoon,” has “been susceptible to a natural phenomenon known as acqua alta, or ‘high water,’ since its founding in the fifth century.”

MOSE is now “finally up and running, eighteen years after construction began” — and a decade after its original completion deadline. This was too late, unfortunately, to spare Venice from the 2019 flood that ranked as its worst in 50 years, leaving 80 percent of the city underwater.




“The good news is, it passed the first major test,” successfully protecting the city in October of last year “from a 1.3-meter high tide, and it’s performed multiple times since. But this doesn’t mean that flooding’s been stopped entirely. In December, it was unable to prevent an unexpectedly high tide from sweeping in and drenching the city once again.” Technically, that incident wasn’t MOSE’s fault: “Weather forecasters underestimated how high the water would get, so authorities kind of didn’t think to switch it on.”

This speaks to the difficulty of not just designing and installing a complex mechanical defense mechanism, but also of getting it to work in concert with the other systems already performing functions of their own (and at various levels of reliability). At a cost of over €6 billion (or $7 billion), MOSE has become “far more expensive than first predicted,” and thus faces that much higher a burden of self-justification, especially given the cloud of “corruption, environmental opposition, and questions about its long-term effectiveness” hanging over it. Seen in action, MOSE remains an unquestionably impressive work of engineering, but its associated headaches have surely converted some to the position on Venice once advanced by no less a scholar and lover of that storied city than Jan Morris: “Let her sink.”

via Kottke

Related Content:

How Venice Works: 124 Islands, 183 Canals & 438 Bridges

Huge Hands Rise Out of Venice’s Waters to Support the City Threatened by Climate Change: A Poignant New Sculpture

The Venice Time Machine: 1,000 Years of Venice’s History Gets Digitally Preserved with Artificial Intelligence and Big Data

Watch City Out of Time, a Short Tribute to Venice, Narrated by William Shatner in 1959

Venice in a Day: From Daybreak to Sunset in Timelapse

Venice is Way Under Water…

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

How Radical Gardeners Took Back New York City

New Yorkers’ relationship to New York City community gardens is largely informed by how long we’ve lived here.

Do you remember the 60s, when a fiscal crisis and white flight resulted in thousands of vacant lots and abandoned buildings in low income neighborhoods?

Activists like Hattie Carthan and Liz Christy sprung from such soil, creating youth programs, hauling away debris, and putting constant pressure on elected officials to transform those urban wastelands into green oases.




Verdant sites like the Bowery Houston Community Farm and Garden (now known as the Liz Christy Garden) improved air quality, lowered temperatures, and offered a pleasant gathering place for neighbors of all ages.

In the ‘80s, the city boasted 1000 community gardens, mostly in neighborhoods considered blighted. School aged children learned how to plant, tend, and harvest vegetables. Immigrant members introduced seeds new to American-born gardeners, to help combat both homesickness and food insecurity. On site arts programs flourished. There were al fresco birthday parties, concerts, movie screenings, holiday celebrations, permaculture classes, community meetings…. Gardens became focal points for community engagement. Participants were understandably proud, and invested in what they’d built.

As Yonnette Fleming, founder of the community-led market at the Hattie Carthan Community Garden and Farmer’s Market, says in the above episode of Vox’s Missing Chapter: “Community gardens grow communities, for the people, to be run by the people, for the benefit of the people.”

In the mid-90s, newly elected Mayor Rudy Giuliani sided with developers over citizens. More than half of the city’s gardens were bulldozed to make way for luxury residences.

Traditionally low-rise neighborhoods like the East Village and Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuyvesant would become increasingly fashionable during the early days of the new millennium. New arrivals with little interest in neighborhood history might assume that the sidewalks had always been lined with cute cafes and hipster bars, not to mention trees. (In reality, Carthan was 64 when she began her successful campaign to line Bed-Stuy with trees, and landmark a venerable Magnolia that was at risk of being torn down.)

Perhaps hoping to command younger viewers’ attention, Vox’s Missing Chapter opens not with the rich history of New York City’s community gardens, but rather the many recipes for seed bombs on TikTok. The glass half full perspective on our 500-strong surviving gardens can ring a bit empty to those who lost the fight to preserve a number of East Harlem gardens just a few short years ago.

Don’t forget your roots! Christy’s typewritten, hand illustrated Green Guerillas recipe for seed bombs is below. (If you want to try it at home, please use seeds native to your area.)

Related Content: 

A New Interactive Map Shows All Four Million Buildings That Existed in New York City from 1939 to 1941

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New York City: A Social History (A Free Online Course from N.Y.U.) 

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Art of Creating a Bonsai: One Year Condensed Condensed Into 22 Mesmerizing Minutes

To be a good writer, one must be a good reader. This is made true by the need to absorb and assess the work of other writers, but even more so by the need to evaluate one’s own. Writing is re-writing, to coin a phrase, and effective re-writing can only follow astute re-reading. This condition applies to other arts and crafts as well: take bonsai, the regarding of which constitutes a skill in and of itself. To craft an aesthetically pleasing miniature tree, one must first be able to see an aesthetically pleasing miniature tree — or perhaps to feel one. “Bonsai trees (and inspiring art in general) give me a ‘feeling’ that is hard to describe,” as practitioner Bucky Barnes puts it in the video above. “I’m not getting it from this tree yet, so I know I need to continue tweaking.”

That tree is a Japanese larch bonsai, Barnes’ year of work on which the video compresses into a mere 22 minutes. The work is more than a matter of water and sunlight: aspects that must be considered and aggressively modified, include the plant’s viewing and potting angle, the number and direction of its branches, and even the structure of roots spreading through the soil below.




Barnes breaks out a range of clippers, knives, pastes, brushes, and wires — part of a suite of tools that, at least for the masters back in bonsai’s homeland of Japan, can get expensive indeed. To us laymen, the tree that results from this year of work looks pretty respectable, but by bonsai standards its existence has only just begun. Over the coming decades — or even the coming centuries — it could take on other qualities altogether. When well maintained, bonsai only improve with age.

As demonstrated in the video just above, however, not every bonsai receives such maintenance. A product of the same Youtube channel, Bonsai Releaf, “Restoring a Neglected Chinese Juniper Bonsai” begins with a tree that, to many of its nearly four million viewers so far, probably doesn’t look too bad. Barnes sees things differently: beginning by sketching the tree, apparently a standard stage of his professional bonsai-viewing process, he sets about correcting a host of deficiencies like “lower branches competing for light,” excessive upward or downward growth (as well as something called “weak crotch growth”), and dead tissue not delineated from living. This laborious operation requires an even wider tool set, encompassing Dremels and even flames. But by the video’s end, anyone can see the difference in the tree itself — and more importantly, feel it.

Related Content:

The Art & Philosophy of Bonsai

This 392-Year-Old Bonsai Tree Survived the Hiroshima Atomic Blast & Still Flourishes Today: The Power of Resilience

A Digital Animation Compares the Size of Trees: From the 3-Inch Bonsai, to the 300-Foot Sequoia

What Makes the Art of Bonsai So Expensive?: $1 Million for a Bonsai Tree, and $32,000 for Bonsai Scissors

Daisugi, the 600-Year-Old Japanese Technique of Growing Trees Out of Other Trees, Creating Perfectly Straight Lumber

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Art of Balancing Stones: How Artists Use Simple Materials to Make Impossible Sculptures in Nature

Not so long ago, a wave of long-form entreaties rolled through social media insisting that we stop building rock cairns. Like many who scrolled past them, I couldn’t quite imagine the offending structures they meant, let alone recall constructing one myself. The cairns in question turned out, mundanely, to be those little stacks of flat rocks seen in parks, alongside trails and streams. They’re as common in South Korea, where I live, as they seem to be in the United States. Both countries also share a great enthusiasm for Instagram, and it’s the apparent Instagrammability of these cairns that has increased their number (and consequent ecological and cultural harm) in recent years.

No matter how many likes they garner, these common cairns require little or no skill in the building. The same can hardly be said of rock balancing, an art that demands a great deal more discipline and patience than many an influencer can muster. The Wired video at the top of the post profiles one of the most famous living rock-balancers, a Canadian named Michael Grab.




“One of my core drives is to make the formation as impossible as possible,” he says, referring to the apparent defiance of gravity performed by all the rocks he finds and arranges into stacks, arcs, orbs, and other unlikely shapes. In fact, it is gravity alone that holds his artworks together — and repeatedly destroys them in the countless trials and errors before their completion.

Yes, Grab has an Instagram account: Gravity Glue, on which he showcases his precariously solid sculptures as well as their natural contexts. So does Jonna Jinton, a Swedish “artist, photographer and Youtuber” who also balances rocks. “It’s such a great way to also balance myself,” she says in the short video just above, “and to create something beautiful at the same time.” For her, the art has become a form of meditation: “As I try to find a tiny, tiny little balance point, my thoughts are completely silent, and that’s a very good feeling.” Jinton doesn’t say whether she personally ensures the destruction of her works, as Grab does. But doing so, as one should note before entering the rock-balancer lifestyle, may keep you on the better side of the ecological recommendations and indeed the law. But then the aforementioned anti-cairnism seemed to hit its zenith in early 2020, since which time, it’s fair to say, the world has had more pressing concerns.

Related Content:

The Philosophical Appreciation of Rocks in China & Japan: A Short Introduction to an Ancient Tradition

Discover the Japanese Museum Dedicated to Collecting Rocks That Look Like Human Faces

Watch a Masterpiece Emerge from a Solid Block of Stone

A Modern Drummer Plays a Rock Gong, a Percussion Instrument from Prehistoric Times

Watch an Archaeologist Play the “Lithophone,” a Prehistoric Instrument That Let Ancient Musicians Play Real Classic Rock

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Wildlife Is Now Thriving Again in Chernobyl–Even If Humans Won’t for Another 24,000 Years

In Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 sci-fi film Stalker, a mysterious artifact renders a landscape called the Zone inhospitable for humans. As critics have often pointed out, a tragic irony may have killed the director and some of the crew a few years later. Shooting for months on end in a disused refinery in Estonia exposed them to high levels of toxic chemicals. Tarkovsky died of cancer in 1986, just a few months after the disaster at Chernobyl. “It is surely part of Stalker’s mystique,” Mark Le Fanu writes for Criterion, “that in some strange way, Tarkovsky’s explorations … were to ‘prophesy’ the destruction… of the nuclear power plant.”

Tarkovsky did not see the future. He adapted a dystopian story written by brothers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. “Certainly,” writes Le Fanu, “there were many things in the Soviet Union at that time to be dystopian about.” But the film inspired a video game, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, which in turn inspired tourists to start “flocking to Chernobyl,” writes Katie Mettier in The Washington Post: “fans of the video game… wanted to see firsthand the nuclear wasteland they’d visited in virtual reality.”




Ukraine may have succeeded, thanks to these associations, in rebranding Chernobyl for the so-called “dark tourism” set, but the area will not become habitable again for some 24,000 years. Habitable, that is, for humans. “Flora and fauna have bounced back” in Chernobyl, writes Ellen Gutoskey at Mental Floss, “and from what researchers can see, they appear to be thriving.” They include “hundreds of plant and animal species in the zone,” says Nick Beresford, a researcher at the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. “Including more than 60 [rare] species.”

Among the many animals to return to the area are “Eureasian lynx, brown bear, black storks, and European bison,” as well as elk, deer, boars, and wolves. Nearby crops are still showing high levels of contamination. According to the latest research, nothing that grows there should be eaten by humans. And as one might expect, “mutations are more common in Chernobyl’s plants and animals than in those from other regions,” Gutosky notes. But the harm caused by radiation pales by comparison with that posed by a constant human presence.

Among the many species making their home in Chernobyl are the endangered Przewalski’s horses who numbered around 30 when they were “released into the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and left to their own devices…. Now it’s estimated that at least 150 Przewalski’s horses roam the region.” The horrific, human-caused accident of Chernobyl has had the effect of clearing space for nature again. The area has become an unintended experiment in what journalist George Monbiot calls “rewilding,” which he defines as “[taking] down the fences, blocking up the drainage ditches, enabling wildlife to spread.”

In order for the planet to “rewild,” to recover its biodiversity and rebuild its ecosystems, humans need to step away, stop seeing ourselves “as the guardians or the stewards of the planet,” says Monbiot, “whereas I think it does best when we have as little influence as we can get away with.” Tourists may come and go, but there may be no humans settling and building  in Chernobyl for a few thousand years. For the species currently thriving there, that’s apparently for the best.

via Mental Floss

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Cicadas Return After 17 Years: Stunning Footage of the Brood X Cicadas

Sing, fly, mate, die.

The periodical cicadas in Brood X are emerging from underground, where they have spent the last 17 years as nymphs. They are making the final climb of their lives, intent on escaping their carapaces in order to make more cicadas. And as always they are doing it en masse.

Once free, they must quickly get the hang of their brand new wings, and make for the trees, where the males will sing (some say scream) in a bid for females with whom to mate.

The pregnant females drill cavities into narrow branches to receive their eggs.




By the time the larva emerge, some six weeks later, their mothers and fathers are long dead.

Instinct propels these babies to drop to the ground and burrow in, thus beginning another 17 year cycle, a process Samuel Orr, a time lapse photographer and filmmaker specializing in nature documentary, documents in macro close up in Return of the Cicadas, above.

His adventures with Brood X date to their last emergence in 2004, when he was a student at Indiana University, working in a lab with a professor whose area of expertise was cicadas.

While waiting around for Brood X’s next appearance, he traveled around the country and as far as Australia, gathering over 200 hours of footage of other periodical cicadas for an hour long, Kickstarter-funded film that aired on PBS in 2012.

Brood X has a way of ensuring that we humans will also observe a 17 year cycle, at least those of us who live in the states the Great Eastern Brood calls home.

Some celebrate with commemorative merch. This year, that means face masks as well as an ever burgeoning assortment of t-shirts, mugs, and other paraphernalia.

Also new this year, Cicada Safari, entomologist Dr. Gene Kritsky’s smartphone app for citizen scientists eager to help map the 2021 emergence with photos and location.

There are some among us who complain about the males’ lusty chorus, which can rival garbage disposals, lawn mowers, and jackhammers in terms of decibels.

Those concerned with the planet’s health can use the data from this and past emergences to discuss the impact of climate change and deforestation. Brood X is listed as “Near Threatened” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.

Some of us are moved to write poetry and songs, though we don’t always get the species right — witness Ogden Nash’s Locust-Lovers, Attention! (1936) and Bob Dylan’s Day of the Locusts (1970).

Inevitably, there will be articles about eating them. It’s true that they’re a hyperlocal source of sustainable protein, albeit one that’s rarely on the menu. (The Onondaga Nation celebrates — and ceremonially samples — Brood VII every 17 years, crediting the insects with saving their ancestors from starvation after the Continental Army destroyed their villages and food sources in 1779.)

Human nature is such that we can’t help but reflect on the twists and turns our lives have taken over the last 17 years.

A woman in Maryland planned a cicada themed wedding to coincide with Brood X’s 1987 emergence, having been born two emergences before, and graduated from Bryn Mawr during the 1970 emergence, as 50 miles away, Bob Dylan was having his fateful encounter on the campus of Princeton.

Most of us will find that our milestones have been a bit more accidental in nature.

Brood X’s emergence also serves as a lens through which to view 17 years in the life of our country. The Onion took this to the edge several years ago with an article from the point of view of Brood II, but it’ll be hard to top the 17-year chunk of recent history Brood X and the humans who have been living atop them since 2004 will have to digest.

Speaking of history, Brood X Mania has been around much longer than any of us have been alive, and probably predates a Philadelphia pastor’s description of the 1715 emergence in his journal (though we’ll give him FIRST!!! since no earlier accounts have surfaced).

Prior to the Internet, entomologist Charles L. Marlatt’s The Periodical Cicada: An Account of Cicada Septendecim, Its Natural Enemies and the Means of Preventing Its Injury (1907) was the go to source for all things cicada related, and it remains a fascinating read.

In addition to lots of nitty gritty on the insects’ anatomy, habits, diet, and habitat, he quotes liberally from other cicada experts, from both his own era and before. The anecdotal evidence suggests our obsession is far from new.

These days, anyone armed with a smartphone can make a recording of Brood X’s cacophony, but back then, experts in the field were tasked with trying to capture it in print.

Professor Charles Valentine Riley compared the sound early in the season, when the first males were emerging to the “whistling of a train passing through a short tunnel” and also, “the croaking of certain frogs.” (For those needing help with pronunciation, he rendered it phonetically as “Pha-r-r-r-aoh.”)

Professor Asa Fitch’s described high season in New York state, when a maximum of males sing simultaneously:

tsh-e-e-E-E-E-E-e-ou, uttered continuously and prolonged to a quarter or half minute in length, the middle note deafeningly shrill, loud and piercing to the ear

Marlatt himself worried, prematurely but not without reason, that the march of civilization would bring about extinction by over-clearing the densely wooded areas that are essential to the cicadas’ reproductive rituals while offering a bit of protection from predators.

Dr. Samuel P. Hildreth of Marietta, Ohio noted in 1830 that “hogs eat them in preference to any other food” and that birds were such fans “that very few birds were seen around our gardens during their continuance and our cherries, etc, remained unmolested.”

Dr. Leland Ossian Howard was erroneously credited with conducting “the first experiments of cicada as an article of human food” in early summer 1885. Marlatt reproduces the account of an eyewitness who seemed to fancy themselves a bit of a restaurant critic:

With the aid of the Doctor’s cook, he had prepared a plain stew, a milk stew, and a broil. The Cicadae were collected just as they emerged from pupae and were thrown into cold water, in which they remained overnight. They were cooked the next morning, and served at breakfast time. They imparted a distinct and not unpleasant flavor to the stew, but they were not at all palatable themselves, as they were reduced to nothing but bits of flabby skin. The broil lacked substance. The most palatable method of cooking is to fry in batter, when they remind one of shrimps. They will never prove a delicacy.

We leave you with the thoughts of Dr Gideon B. Smith of Baltimore, whose attempt to capture a mercurial month turns bittersweet, and all too relatable:

The music or song produced by the myriads of these insects in a warm day from about the 25th of May to the middle of June is wonderful. It is not deafening, as many describe it; even at its height it does not interrupt conversation. It seems like an atmosphere of wild, monotonous sound, in which all other sounds float with perfect distinctness. After a day or two this music becomes tiresome and doleful, and to many very disagreeable. To me, it was otherwise, and when I heard the last note on the 25th of June the melancholy reflection occurred. Shall I live to hear it yet again?

Related Content: 

Sounds of the Forest: A Free Audio Archive Gathers the Sounds of Forests from All Over the World

Tune Into Tree.fm: An Online Radio Station That Streams the Soothing Sounds of Forests from Around the World

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Welcome back, Brood X Overlords! Follow her @AyunHalliday.

BirdCast: You Can Now Forecast the Migration of Birds Across the U.S. Just Like the Weather

We talk about the weather more often than we talk about most things, other natural phenomena included. We certainly talk about the weather more often than we talk about birds, much to the disappointment of ornithological enthusiasts. This could be down to the comparative robustness of weather prediction, both as a tradition and as a daily technological presence in our lives. We can hardly avoid seeing the weather forecast, but when was the last time you checked the bird forecast? Such a thing does, in fact, exist, though it’s only come into existence recently, in the form of Birdcast, which provides “real-time predictions of bird migrations: when they migrate, where they migrate, and how far they will be flying.”

Developed by Colorado State University and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, BirdCast offers both live bird migration maps and bird forecast migration maps for the United States. “These forecasts come from models trained on the last 23 years of bird movements in the atmosphere as detected by the US NEXRAD weather surveillance radar network,” says BirdCast’s web site.




Unprecedented in both the kind of information they provide and the detail in which they provide it, “these bird migration maps represented the culmination of a 20-year long vision, so too the beginnings of new inspiration for the next generation of bird migration research, outreach and education, and application.”

You can learn more about the development and workings of BirdCast in the recorded webinar below, featuring research associate Adriaan Dokter and Julia Wang, leader of the Lights Out project, which aims to get Americans spending more time in just such a state. “Every spring and fall, billions of birds migrate through the US, mostly under the cover of darkness,” says its section of BirdCast’s site. “This mass movement of birds must contend with a dramatically increasing but still largely unrecognized threat: light pollution.” The goal is “turning off unnecessary lighting during critical migration periods,” and with spring having begun last weekend, we now find ourselves in just such a period. Luckily, our fine feathered friends shouldn’t be disturbed by the glow of the BirdCast map on your screen. View live BirdCast maps here.

via Kottke

Related Content:

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Watch “The “Art of Flying,” a Short Film Capturing the Wondrous Murmurations of the Common Starling

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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