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Audubon Would Be So Proud

Contributing Editor Jordan Schaul briefly reviews The Big Year starring Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson.                           Last night I wandered into a theater in Anchorage to see what was playing. I literally heard a flock of trumpeter swans overhead as I...

Contributing Editor Jordan Schaul briefly reviews The Big Year starring Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson.

Light-footed clapper rail (Joel Sartore/National Geographic Image Collection)














Last night I wandered into a theater in Anchorage to see what was playing. I literally heard a flock of trumpeter swans overhead as I hurried out of the cold into the cinema.

Could it have been a coincidence?  It must have been fate….

Regardless, I was astounded to learn that a new genre had emerged at the nexus of comedy and natural history. To think how much more I would have paid attention in school had my organismal biology classes been instructed by the likes of Owen Wilson.

Are you kidding me? Owen Wilson? Birding? l was willing to pay a lot more at the box office than I did to see this brilliant comedian add a light-footed clapper rail to his life-list.  He doesn’t really, but the movie is a trip!

It turns out that the feature film wasn’t as funny as it was educational. I don’t want to give anything away, but the movie makes reference to a number of National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges and other protected wilderness areas. It was actually a great tribute to the ornithofauna of North America and the protected lands that provide sanctuary for these beautiful birds.

Cross Sir David Attenborough with Jungle Jack Hanna and you get some idea of what awaits you at the theater this holiday season.

I highly recommend this film for the family. If anything, it will inspire you to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors.

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Meet the Author

Author Photo Jordan Carlton Schaul
With training in wildlife ecology, conservation medicine and comparative psychology, Dr. Schaul's contributions to Nat Geo Voices have covered a range of environmental and social topics. He draws particular attention to the plight of imperiled species highlighting issues at the juncture or nexus of sorta situ wildlife conservation and applied animal welfare. Sorta situ conservation practices are comprised of scientific management and stewardship of animal populations ex situ (in captivity / 'in human care') and in situ (free-ranging / 'in nature'). He also has a background in behavior management and training of companion animals and captive wildlife, as well as conservation marketing and digital publicity. Jordan has shared interviews with colleagues and public figures, as well as editorial news content. In addition, he has posted narratives describing his own work, which include the following examples: • Restoration of wood bison to the Interior of Alaska while (While Animal Curator at Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and courtesy professor at the University of Alaska) • Rehabilitation of orphaned sloth bears exploited for tourists in South Asia (While executive consultant 'in-residence' at the Agra Bear Rescue Center managed by Wildlife SOS) • Censusing small wild cat (e.g. ocelot and margay) populations in the montane cloud forests of Costa Rica for popular publications with 'The Cat Whisperer' Mieshelle Nagelschneider • Evaluating the impact of ecotourism on marine mammal population stability and welfare off the coast of Mexico's Sea of Cortez (With Boston University's marine science program) Jordan was a director on boards of non-profit wildlife conservation organizations serving nations in Africa, North and South America and Southeast Asia. He is also a consultant to a human-wildlife conflict mitigation organization in the Pacific Northwest. Following animal curatorships in Alaska and California, he served as a charter board member of a zoo advocacy and outreach organization and later as its executive director. Jordan was a member of the Communication and Education Commission of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (CEC-IUCN) and the Bear Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (BSG-SSC-IUCN). He has served on the advisory council of the National Wildlife Humane Society and in service to the Bear Taxon Advisory Group of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA Bear TAG). In addition he was an ex officio member of council of the International Association for Bear Research and Management. Contact Email: