Upcoming Events, Programs, and Field Trips

Events, Programs, & Field Trips

Chapter Meeting: Madagascar: Biodiversity in Peril

Eric Heisey

January 26th (Thursday), 7pm, Yakima Area Arboretum + Zoom

YVAS Chapter Meeting January 2023 - Madagascar: Biodiversity in Peril

Madagascar may host one of the most unique biological communities on this planet. The country is widely revered amongst biologists for its vast array of endemic species; roughly 90% of Malagasy flora and fauna are found nowhere else on this planet. Perhaps the best known of these are Madagascar’s lemurs. Incredibly varied landscapes paired with lots of evolutionary time have resulted in a fantastical assortment of life forms. Truly, this country is a biological gem of our planet. When I first learned of this magical place as a toddler, I remember picturing vast swaths of virgin forest dripping with life as the haunting sounds of lemurs echoed through the moss-laden trees. It took me one car ride to realize how misguided this vision of Madagascar was. In fact, over 90% of Madagascar’s forests have been completely stripped of their trees since humans first arrived 2400 years ago. Today, forests remain intact only where they have been nationally protected, or where mountains are so steep that the clearing of the forest is impossible or impractical. Countless species native to Madagascar have already been wiped from the face of this earth, with more set to follow if human activities do not relent. Given the immense magnitude of endemism present on the world’s fourth largest island, Madagascar must be at the forefront of the world’s conservation efforts. I spent four months working in Madagascar as a research assistant and hope that I can share some of the perspective I gained in my time in the country. Madagascar is considered one of the five poorest countries in the world, something which is immediately evident upon arrival. Factors of wealth inequality, hunger, disease, and poverty which we in the United States cannot fully conceptualize compound on the dire conservation issues faced in Madagascar and are echoed across the world. How are these issues affecting the rest of the planet in a similar manner? And what can we do to help? I hope that this talk will inspire an interest in the tropical parts of the world through an introduction to some of the incredible fauna that call Madagascar home, while also providing an important perspective on the outside world that we are readily shielded from in this country. -Eric Heisey

Posted by Yakima Valley Audubon Society on Sunday, January 29, 2023

Image - Pitta-Like Ground Roller - Eric Heisey
Pitta-Like Ground Roller - Eric Heisey

Madagascar may host one of the most unique biological communities on this planet. The country is widely revered amongst biologists for its vast array of endemic species; roughly 90% of Malagasy flora and fauna are found nowhere else on this planet. Perhaps the best known of these are Madagascar’s lemurs. Incredibly varied landscapes paired with lots of evolutionary time have resulted in a fantastical assortment of life forms. Truly, this country is a biological gem of our planet.

When I first learned of this magical place as a toddler, I remember picturing vast swaths of virgin forest dripping with life as the haunting sounds of lemurs echoed through the moss-laden trees. It took me one car ride to realize how misguided this vision of Madagascar was. In fact, over 90% of Madagascar’s forests have been completely stripped of their trees since humans first arrived 2400 years ago. Today, forests remain intact only where they have been nationally protected, or where mountains are so steep that the clearing of the forest is impossible or impractical. Countless species native to Madagascar have already been wiped from the face of this earth, with more set to follow if human activities do not relent. Given the immense magnitude of endemism present on the world’s fourth largest island, Madagascar must be at the forefront of the world’s conservation efforts.

I spent four months working in Madagascar as a research assistant and hope that I can share some of the perspective I gained in my time in the country. Madagascar is considered one of the five poorest countries in the world, something which is immediately evident upon arrival. Factors of wealth inequality, hunger, disease, and poverty which we in the United States cannot fully conceptualize compound on the dire conservation issues faced in Madagascar and are echoed across the world. How are these issues affecting the rest of the planet in a similar manner? And what can we do to help?

I hope that this talk will inspire an interest in the tropical parts of the world through an introduction to some of the incredible fauna that call Madagascar home, while also providing an important perspective on the outside world that we are readily shielded from in this country. I would be delighted if you’d join me in Yakima on January 26th, 2023!

Image - Wood Ducks - Eric Heisey
Wood Ducks - Eric Heisey

About Eric Heisey: After growing up in the Yakima Valley enthralled with our native avifauna, Eric attended university at Western Washington University for two years before transferring to the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada to finish his degree. While at Guelph, Eric got his feet wet in the realm of research, conducting an honors thesis on how environmental and demographic factors affect the timing of breeding of Savannah Sparrows (published in Ecology). Since graduating, Eric has been pursuing odd jobs in various locales. In Madagascar, Eric spent four months working as a research assistant studying frog responses to microclimatic stressors associated with rising temperatures as a result of a changing climate and rampant deforestation. Over the past two years he has also worked with Greater Sage-Grouse in southeastern Oregon, as a backpacking guide in Yosemite National Park, as a teaching assistant for a university field course in the Amazon rainforest of eastern Peru, and is currently the regional editor for Washington for the journal North American Birds. He has diversified in his interests over the past few years, branching out from birds and becoming interested in a wider variety of flora and fauna, though he remains an avid and active birder wherever he may be.

This is planned to be a hybrid program, in-person, and electronically. We will be gathering at the Yakima Arboretum for this monthly program. Though we hope to see you all there, for those unable to attend, we will attempt to also have a simultaneous Zoom version available and a recording of the program on the YVAS website.

We do request all to wear masks when indoors at the arboretum as an additional protection for all of us. . The link for the zoom version will be:

The next program will be Thursday, February 23rd . Denny Granstrand will present My Big Woodpecker Year: 2: the Rest of the Story. Last year he spoke about his project to photograph all the North American woodpeckers, but only had time for some of them. He will be speaking about and showing photos of the rest of them.


Webinar Viewing tips for YVAS Webinars

Would you like to enjoy Yakima Valley Audubon presentations with the whole family? You can now watch our programs whenever it is convenient for you! Our monthly programs are now available as webinars for viewing both in real time (so you can ask questions) and as recordings from a link on our website.

To view the live presentation on your laptop, tablet, or smart phone, click on the link in that month’s Calliope Crier or go to https://yakimaaudubon.org about five minutes before the program is scheduled to start and click on the Zoom webinar link. If you have never attended a Zoom meeting, you will be asked to download the app this first time. (You do not have to have your own Zoom account to join the webinar.) Be sure to answer ‘yes’ to the questions about joining with video and audio. You can always mute yourself for privacy, but you will need to answer yes to view and hear the presentation.

To better enjoy the beautiful photos in the presentation, you have the option of viewing it on a larger screen, such as your smart TV. To do this, you will need to connect your device to the TV with an HDMI cable. If your device does not have an HDMI port, there are inexpensive multiport adaptors available to enable this. (Try Office Depot or buy one online.)

It is even easier to view a recorded seminar once it has been posted on our website! You can watch the recording through your Internet browser, or, if your smartTV allows you to connect to an internet browser, you can simply go directly to our website and click on the seminar link. Video and sound will automatically be displayed and controlled on your Smart TV. Alternatively, you can pull up the webinar on your computer as above and connect your computer with an HDMI cable to your Smart TV.

Even in these challenging times, Yakima Audubon is committed to bringing you information about our natural world. Please let us know at info@yakimaaudubon.org what you think and what we can do to improve this experience for you.


Previous Programs

Additional programs and videos can be found on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/watch/yakimaaudubon/


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