Earth, Migrations, and the Human Effect

Topics: Ecosystems and Biodiversity, Land Use and Land Cover Change

Life on Earth depends on the energy of the Sun and the cycles of seasons and climate.  Plant, animal, and human communities respond to these cycles in ways both familiar and fascinating.  Rapid global changes are influencing these enduring patterns of life, threatening biodiversity and human well being.  Drawing on a range of data, Earth, Migrations, and the Human Effect examines these cycles, how life responds in grand migrations, and human influences — past, present and future.  It explores our place in the vast cosmos to imagine our common future as part of an interconnected Earth system and the future of our local ecosystems.

This event originally took place at the Rose Center for Earth and Space Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History (New York, NY) on December 18, 2012.

Program Kit


Storyboard & Script


Uniview Installer Files

Data Sources

Select visualizations

Summer Solstice / Vernal Equinox / Winter Solstice / Fall Equinox (NASA Blue Marble Next Generation)
Summer Solstice / Vernal Equinox / Winter Solstice / Fall Equinox
(NASA Blue Marble Next Generation)
Sea Ice Extent: March 1979 / September 1979 / September 2012
(National Snow & Ice Data Center)
Ocean Productivity: December 2010 / June 2010
(Oregon State University)
Hawaii Humpback Whale Migrations
(Cascadia Research Collective)
Loggerhead Turtle Migration
(Pacific Loggerhead Project)
Avian Flyways
(10,000 Birds)
Monarch Migrations
Black Poll WarblerCurrent Optimal Area (2010) / Projected Optimal Area (2080)
(University of Massachusetts / Kevin McGarigal)
Black Poll Warbler Bird Sightings (June 2007)
Earth’s Magnetosphere (October 2003)
(AMNH Digital Universe Atlas & Boston University / Charles Goodrich)

Nature Moves

Migration season is under way, and at many Nature Conservancy preserves and priority places, you can find species setting out with a purpose: to find food, secure a mate or die trying. Whether massive or minute, their journeys are undeniably awe-inspiring.

Meet nature’s greatest migrants. Read the article or view the photo gallery.

Bird Migration and Radar

The network of 142 WSR-88D stations in the continental US is a wonderful tool for studying bird migration as it occurs. This animation is a mosaic of the network as operating on 7-8 May 2009. The blocky, uneven, and brightly colored patterns apparent at the start of the animation in the New Jersey and southern New England, the eastern Great Lakes, scattered across the Gulf Coast states, and scattered across the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies represent precipitation. However, in coastal Texas, the pattern is more uniform in color and stippled in pattern. This is characteristic of biological targets, and in this case, many of the targets that Texas radars are detecting are probably trans-Gulf migrant birds with some insects and other aerial plankton. As the afternoon advances, the trans-Gulf arrival continues making it easy to compare these patterns with precipitation.

here video...

Bird Migration

A documentary about bird migration and their stop overs in the North West of England

here video...

Gray Whale Migration

Off the coast of Monterey Bay, California, the arena is set killer whales and gray whales are set for an annual, epic battle. While gray whales are 30-ton powerhouses, they face a fierce predator in killer whales. Join Wild Chronicles to see who wins this struggle for survival beneath the turbulent waves.

here video...

Butterfly Migration

Monarch butterfly winter migration from the Discovery Channel
here video...

Monarch butterfly winter migration from the the BBC
here video...


  • (a.k.a. ‘neXus’) is a searchable online database that provides a gateway to climate information for the Eastern US. It summarizes needs for climate information as articulated in publications; identifies available data, products and services; and captures planned and on-going projects. The goal is to offer a tool to search for regionally relevant climate information, and to facilitate collaborative opportunities across the network of climate-focused programs and partners in the Eastern US. is in its early stages of development. Content will change with time to reflect developments in climate work within the region, and in response to individual sector needs when necessary.

Biodiversity Conservation

  • American Museum of Natural History Center for Biodiversity & Conservation
    Studying the immense variety of life on the planet and the complex relations among living things – what we now call biodiversity – has been a fundamental activity of the American Museum of Natural History since its founding. In 1993, responding to concern among its scientists over rapid species loss and increasing habitat degradation around the world, the Museum created the interdisciplinary Center for Biodiversity and Conservation.

Bird Migration

  • eBird
    A real-time, online checklist program, eBird has revolutionized the way that the birding community reports and accesses information about birds. Launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, eBird provides rich data sources for basic information on bird abundance and distribution at a variety of spatial and temporal scales
  • To Birds, Storm Survival Is Only Natural
    In the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the spiteful me-too northeaster, much of the East Coast looked so battered and flooded, so strewed with toppled trees and stripped of dunes and beaches, that many observers feared the worst. Any day now, surely, the wildlife corpses would start showing up — especially birds, for who likelier to pay when a sky turns rogue than the ones who act as if they own it?
  • Wild Birds Unlimited Educational Resources
    The Great Lakes and their connecting channels from the largest aggregation of freshwater on the planet (excluding the polar ice caps). The watershed includes parts or all of eight U.S. states and the Canadian province of Ontario. The Lakes are the dominant and defining geological characteristic of the upper Midwest, affecting the social, economic, recreational and ecological life of the region. Bordering as it does on four of the five Great Lakes, the State of Michigan and its universities understand the importance of the Lakes for the future vitality of our state. Accordingly the University of Michigan has pursued an active research program in this area, and seeks to share some of its findings through this site. The research papers represented on this site were published by the Great Lakes Research Division, a unit of the University of Michigan Institute for Science and Technology, and later reorganized under the Department of Biology.

Whale Migration

  • Whale Route
    The big question still is: Why do these mammals embark on these seasonal movements? Climate changes, water temperature, depth, salinity, topography of the sea floor and the biggest, abundance of food, all plays a major roll in these events.

Wildlife Migrations

  • Journey North
    A global study of wildlife migration and seasonal change

Climate Change and Sea Ice

  • Climate Change and Sea Ice Portlet
    The Arctic Portal’s Climate Change and Sea Ice Portlet provides an easy access to material concerning global warming and changes in sea ice. The Portlet consists of recent news articles, scientific reports and other relevant material.

Landscape Conservation

  • North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative
    The North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative provides a partnership in which the private, state, tribal and federal conservation community works together to address increasing land use pressures and widespread resource threats and uncertainties amplified by a rapidly changing climate.  The partners and partnerships in the cooperative address these regional threats and uncertainties by agreeing on common goals for land, water, fish, wildlife, plant and cultural resources and jointly developing the scientific information and tools needed to prioritize and guide more effective conservation actions by partners toward those goals.


  • AMNH Center for Biodiversity and Conservation Annual Symposium
    April 2013: Understanding Ecological and Social Resilience in Island Systems: Informing Policy and Sharing Lessons for Management:
    In Spring 2013, the American Museum of Natural History’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation together with partners will organize a three-day symposium that unites local resource managers, researchers, educators, island leaders, policy makers, and other leading conservation practitioners to present and analyze real world resilience case studies. Central to the symposium is understanding resilience – the ability of ecological and social systems to absorb, resist, or recover from stressors and adapt to change while maintaining critical ecosystem functions and benefits.

Bird Migration

  • Migratory Bird Flyways
    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and it’s partner agencies manage for migratory birds based on specific migratory route paths within North America (Atlantic, Mississippi, Central, and Pacific).  Based on those route paths, state and federal agencies developed the four administrative Flyways that administer migratory bird resources.  Each of the flyways has a Flyway representative and assistant which work for the DMBM.  Each flyway also has a Council, consisting of representatives from state and provincial agencies.  These councils serve to direct the hunting regulations process.  The Councils are advised by Flyway technical committees consisting of state and provincial biologists who evaluate species and population status, harvest, and hunter-participation data.
  • eBird
    A real-time, online checklist program, eBird has revolutionized the way that the birding community reports and accesses information about birds. Launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, eBird provides rich data sources for basic information on bird abundance and distribution at a variety of spatial and temporal scales.
  • Bird-Safe Building Guidelines
    New York City Audubon has proudly published Bird-Safe Building Guidelines, a 55-page manual for architects, landscape designers, engineers, glass technicians, developers, building managers, city, state, and federal officials, and the general public. It reveals the magnitude of bird collisions with glass and describes the conditions that cause these deadly collisions. Bird safety in buildings is integral to the “green” sustainable building movement, and the guidelines suggest strategies that complement the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating system. The guidelines also suggest ways to retrofit existing buildings. NYC Audubon’s Bird-Safe Building Guidelines is an important resource for all people in the building and design industries as well as policy makers.
  • Neighborhood Nestwatch
    The Smithsonian’s Neighborhood Nestwatch program provides an opportunity to be a biologist in your own backyard. Participants learn about birds and help scientists solve critical questions regarding the survival of backyard bird populations
  • Support Bird-Friendly Coffee
    Play a key role in the conservation of migratory birds, which find a sanctuary in their forest-like environment. The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC) has developed the only 100%-organic shade-grown coffee certification.




  • Carter Emmart
  • Ned Gardiner


  • Carter Emmart
  • Ned Gardiner
  • Healy Hamilton
  • Ka Chun Yu

GIS & Visualizations

  • Healy Hamilton
  • Lydia Hooper
  • Cynthia Powell
  • Ned Gardiner
  • Ka Chun Yu

Creative Direction

  • David McConville (The Elumenati)

Production Coordination

  • Kathi Koontz

Technical Support

  • Greg Mancari
  • Ka Chun Yu