For my first article for Vice's science section Motherboard I examine a study speculating on what the world would still look like without humanity's annihilative presence (hint: it's a lot more exciting).
We usually think of golden eagles as hunters of the sere canyonlands and sagebrush flats of the American West, but a small and genetically invaluable subpopulation from eastern Canada overwinters every year in the Appalachian mountains. I go on a freezing search for these powerful predators in the latest issue of Virginia Wildlife magazine.
My latest post for the African Wildlife Foundation's blog concerns the world's rarest canid, the lovely Ethiopian wolf, and the gelada monkeys, as big as baboons, that kindly tolerate the wolves as they hunt for rodents. With the fastest growing population in Africa, Ethiopia's montane habitats are under threat as never before, and urgent action is needed to keep these wolves howling under African skies.
Years back and fresh out of law school I was working a soul-numbing job as an environmental bureaucrat with the North Carolina state government, unhappy in sprawling Raleigh and yearning to breath free. Any time away from the office or my little hutch in that arid "gated community" was a blessing, but one hiking trip, to Pilot Mountain State Park in the rolling western Piedmont, put me back on course, thanks to a totemic friend I'd not seen since leaving school in New England that spring. A feature in this month's Bird Watcher's Digest tells a story of the spiritual renewal that can only be found--with effort--in the natural world.
Last year I wrote a story about white-nose syndrome, a devastating fungal disease of Eurasian origin that has wiped out entire populations of native North American bats. A leprous itching wrests hibernating bats from their natural winter slumber and forces them out of their caves in a fruitless search for insects, where the majority perish from hypothermia or starvation. Now a major new discovery in the form of a fungal-inhibiting microbial yeast protein promises to at last turn the tide ... hopefully before several critically endangered bat species are driven to extinction in the wild.
Happy 2015 to you all. In this piece I explore a representative selection of the foreign mammals, birds, insects and plants that our buzzing interdependent hive of globalism are bringing to our doorsteps, whether we like it or not. "Aliens Among Us" traces the invasive lineages and ecological and economic impacts of exotic species brought to Virginia by the pet and nursery industries, by carelessness and indifference, and by pure unknowing accident. The destructive competition waged by exotic species ranks with habitat loss, wildlife trafficking and climate change as a leading force behind the ongoing Sixth Extinction, and it's high time we took these invaders seriously and got behind efforts to enact meaningful federal regulations that could intercept these aliens at the border, before they seize and exploit yet another biome to the detriment of our native wildlife.
William H. Funk
I'm a freelance writer focusing on natural history, conservation, and environmental law, policy and politics.