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An Awareness of Vultures in Our Poisonous World

By Steve Zack

An appreciation of vultures is in the eye of the beholder. William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition certainly appreciated them; Charles Darwin certainly did not. Clark carefully described in his journal of 1806 the “butifull buzzard of the Columbia” that we now know as the California Condor. Darwin, in 1832, recounted his experience with “these disgusting birds” (in this case, Turkey Vultures) whose bare heads “revel in putridity.” Beyond their beauty or putridity, however, our awareness must include the awful plight of vultures worldwide, due largely to the toxic world of poisons we foist upon them. The sixth annual International Vulture Awareness Day, which we celebrate September 6, gives us an opportunity focus precisely on that issue.

Mystery Solved: Why Peacocks Got Their Eyespots

The brilliant plumage of peacocks and related birds may be a result of female preference, a new study says.

Franz Josef Land Expedition: Surviving the Life Aquatic

For members of a 35-day scientific voyage to the Arctic archipelago of Franz Josef Land, even when freshwater and vodka are in short supply, distractions abound.

Galapagos Expedition Journal: In the Footsteps of Charles Darwin

In 1835 Charles Darwin arrived on Floreana Island in the Galapagos, noting in his journal that it had long been frequented, first by buccaneers, latterly by whalers–and then political dissidents exiled from mainland South America. The giant tortoises Darwin saw on Floreana have since been extirpated from the island and the prisoners and pirates exist only in history. But the scenery he described remains much the same, and a tradition of leaving mail in a “post office barrel” for collection and delivery by passing ships has endured for two centuries.

Saving Other Turtles from George’s Lonesome Fate

For turtle species numbering in the hundreds or less, we may only have a few years before we lose these marvels of evolution forever. We have the ability to make a difference, and we have the ethical responsibility to respond. We must act now to ensure that future generations have the opportunity to spot a turtle in the wild and that no species finds itself reduced by human greed or mismanagement to one last, lonesome representative.

Genographic Test Reveals Darwin’s Ancestry

A Genographic cheek swab test on Chris Darwin—great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin, author of On the Origin of Species—has revealed the deep ancestry of the so-called “Father of Evolution.” National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Spencer Wells revealed the test results today in Sydney, Australia, at the annual meeting of scientists leading Genographic Project field investigations around the world.…

Genographic Test Reveals Darwin’s Ancestry

A Genographic cheek swab test on Chris Darwin—great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin, author of On the Origin of Species—has revealed the deep ancestry of the so-called “Father of Evolution.” National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Spencer Wells revealed the test results today in Sydney, Australia, at the annual meeting of scientists leading Genographic Project field investigations around the world.…

In the Planetwalker’s Footsteps

After witnessing an oil spill in San Francisco Bay in 1971, John Francis gave up riding in cars and other motorized vehicles and began walking nearly every place he went. Several years later, he decided to stop talking, initially for just one day. “For the first time,” he says, “I began listening.” And so his…