Project Details

In early April 2019, we will begin chasing a billion migratory birds northward from the Gulf Coast up the Mississippi Flyway, ending in early June 2019 in the boreal forests of northern Minnesota, using this phenomenon as an entry point into the natural world and examining our effect upon it. See below for project details!


What is a Flyway?

Each year, billions of migratory birds make their way from their wintering grounds in Central and South America to their breeding grounds in the United States and Canada. Generally, there are four paths that they choose to take, known as flyways. Flyways can span entire continents and oceans, and often include major landmarks such as rivers, mountains, and lakes that migratory birds use to help guide their way north — and then south in the fall — as they make their way back to their wintering grounds.

‘Voices of a Flyway’ will focus on following migratory songbirds northward along the portion of the Mississippi Flyway that lies within the United States, focusing specifically on 6 species. However, more than 300 species of migratory birds use this flyway every year, making it one of the busiest flyways in the world.


Flyway Ecosystems We’ll Visit

  • Coastal Plains
    • Benefits to humans: Flood protection, water purification, ground water recharge, nature tourism
    • Threats: Subsidence, rising ocean levels, saltwater intrusion, oil/gas development, climate change
    • States we’ll visit: Louisiana
  • Piney Woods
    • Benefits to humans: Timber production, watershed services, carbon storage, recreation, nature tourism
    • Threats: Deforestation, fire suppression, invasive species, climate change
    • States we’ll visit: Louisiana, Texas
  • Bottomland Hardwood Forest
    • Benefits to humans: Flood protection, watershed services, timber production, recreation, nature tourism
    • Threats: Deforestation, agriculture, flood control, fire suppression, invasive species, climate change
    • States we’ll visit: Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas
  • Temperate Deciduous Forest
    • Benefits to humans: Timber production, carbon storage, watershed services, recreation, nature tourism
    • Threats: Deforestation, acid rain, strip mining, invasive species, climate change
    • States we’ll visit: Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri
  • Tallgrass Prairie
    • Benefits to humans: Carbon storage, erosion control, watershed services, recreation, nature tourism
    • Threats: Agriculture, fire suppression, invasive species, climate change
    • States we’ll visit: Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota
  • Boreal Forest
    • Benefits to humans: Timber production, carbon storage, watershed services, recreation, nature tourism
    • Threats: Deforestation, mining, hydropower, oil/gas development, invasive species, climate change
    • States we’ll visit: Minnesota

Storytelling Tools

All along our route, we’ll visit protected and unprotected lands, encountering migratory songbirds and people with stories to tell as we make our way north. We’ll highlight the beauty and diversity of the natural world, demonstrate the power of conservation, and document how human actions have impacted the natural world and people alike.

To do this, we will capture ultra-rich audio recordings and intimate photographs of the lands, species, and people we encounter. Audio recordings will consist of soundscape recordings, along with cameo recordings of songbirds and people. Photographs will visually document natural lands and how we’ve altered them, while also intimately capturing the portraits of our focal bird species and human storytellers.

Soundscape recordings capture how an entire place sounds in a stereo format that allows a listener wearing headphones to feel as though they are sitting in that very location. Click below to hear an example soundscape recording from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota, United States.

Cameo recordings capture the intricate detail and beauty of bird song and human stories. Click below to hear an example cameo recording of a California Thrasher (Toxostoma redivivum) recorded in Sequoia National Park, United States.


Stories We Seek

Part of the inspiration for this project comes from a sense of deep division in our country on issues that should absolutely unite us; clean air, clean water, quality food, and availability of natural spaces for recreation and relaxation.

To help understand this divide, we seek the perspective who are personally connected to the land in diverse ways to tell us their stories about these connections. We look to hear from people living through subsistence, farmers, hunters, fishermen, conservationists, outdoor recreationists, and of course, birdwatchers.

Particularly critical to the conversation are the voices and concerns of populations who have been – or will be – disproportionately impacted by environmental harm. Communities of color, indigenous populations, poor and working class communities often bear the very worst consequences of our actions, while a rising generation inherits the irreparable damage we leave behind. We seek to create a platform that can amplify voices and personalize a struggle for which the stakes are as diverse and urgent as they are shared.



Project Timeline

  • Field Work: Early April to Early June 2019
  • 8 Episode Podcast Release: Fall 2019
  • ESRI Online Story Map Release: Fall 2019
  • Speaking Tour: October/November 2019