Flight Paths: How a Passionate and Quirky Group of Pioneering Scientists Solved the Mystery of Bird Migration
For the past century, scientists and naturalists have been steadily unravelling the secrets of bird migration. How and why birds navigate the skies, traveling from continent to continent—flying thousands of miles across the earth each fall and spring—has continually fascinated the human imagination, but only recently have we been able to fully understand these amazing journeys. Although we know much more than ever before, even the most enthusiastic birdwatcher may not know how we got here, the ways that the full breadth of scientific disciplines have come together to reveal these annual avian travels.
Flight Paths is the never-before-told story of how a group of migration-obsessed scientists in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries engaged nearly every branch of science to understand bird migration—from where and when they take off to their flight paths and behaviors, their destinations and the challenges they encounter getting there. Uniting curious minds from across generations, continents, and disciplines, bird enthusiast and science writer Rebecca Heisman traces the development of each technique used for tracking migratory birds, from the first attempts to mark individual birds to the cutting-edge technology that lets ornithologists trace where a bird has been, based on unique DNA markers. Along the way, she touches on the biggest technological breakthroughs of modern science and reveals the almost-forgotten stories of the scientists who harnessed these inventions in service of furthering our understanding of nature (and their personal obsession with birds).
The compelling and fascinating story of how scientists solved the great mystery of bird migration, Flight Paths is an unprecedented look into exciting, behind-the-scenes moments of groundbreaking discovery. Heisman demonstrates that the real power of science happens when people work together, focusing their minds and knowledge on a common goal. While the world looks to tackle massive challenges involving conservation and climate, the story of migration research offers a beacon of hope that we can find solutions to difficult and complex problems.