“Their Fate Is Our Fate employs authorial charm and real-world anecdotes to present a compelling, engrossing case for paying careful attention to our avian neighbors.” —ForeWord Reviews “. . . Doherty views birds as prophets of a sort, as ‘sentinels, sampling the health of the air, seas, forests and grasslands that we share with them.’ He presents tales of complicated, messy interactions between birds and humans, often culled from his experience in the world of medicine but also detailing some of the oft-overlooked ways in which subtle human actions can greatly impact birds. To be reminded of this dynamic, Doherty suggests, is to take responsibility for the health of birds, humans and the Earth.” —Slate “Everyone's heard the expression ‘canary in a coal mine.’ As this fine book makes clear, it turns out to be true in a much larger way than you ever imagined.” —Bill McKibben, author of Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist “The author, an enthusiastic bird-watcher, combines bird lore and cutting-edge science in an attractive mix that should inspire citizen scientists to pursue their hobby with renewed vigor and convince others to join in.” —Kirkus Reviews “A lucid and absorbing account of the relationships between birds, viruses, and environmental degradation. Frightening, but punctuated by humor and historical asides—it will leave you watching and listening to birds with renewed interest.” —Brian Kimberling, author of Snapper “From the Spanish flu to West Nile virus, disease threatens the integrity of our ecological web. Doherty synthesizes with wit and wisdom the science of disease ecology that he helped create, quickly convincing his readers to learn from the birds that share our disease and destiny.” —John M. Marzluff, Professor of wildlife science, University of Washington and author of Gifts of the Crow “If human beings have an intuitive sense to regard birds as sentinel species, Peter Doherty tells us in eloquent and precise terms the history, medicine, and biology of why, exactly, we do this. And more to the point, why it is so vital we should attend to the prophetic capabilities of the avian universe—of finches, pelicans, puffins, parrots, turkeys, grouse, eagles, pigeons, and more—as they reveal to us the consequences of a warming climate, habitat loss, and environmental toxins.” —Akiko Busch, author of The Incidental Steward: Reflections on Citizen Science “In engaging and forthright prose, Doherty makes it clear that we have to listen to birds now and make serious changes to ensure their survival (and ours).” —Mary Ellen Hannibal, author of The Spine of the Continent
Like the canary in the coal mine, "[b]irds in the wild function as a roaming, natural detection system" for environmental pollution and may themselves spread potentially dangerous viruses, writes Nobel laureate Doherty (Microbiology and Immunology/Univ. of Melbourne; The Beginner's Guide to Winning the Nobel Prize: Advice for Young Scientists, 2006, etc.). The author makes a strong case for the need for more citizen scientists to help monitor bird migration. Much of his professional work as a microbiologist has focused on the spread of influenza viruses and the threat of potential deadly epidemics such as the one following World War I that felled more people than the combined war casualties. The author explains that "influenza is generally a relatively mild infection of the avian gastrointestinal tract (rather than respiratory tract"). A large number of wild fowl are mildly infected, but their droppings can contaminate chicken feed. If the chickens are kept in overcrowded coops, then conditions can become favorable for mutations and the transformation of the mild form of intestinal virus to a virulent one that can infect domestic animals. Doherty suggests that bird watchers collaborating with trained ornithologists already play a critical role in helping to prevent pandemics by creating an early warning system--e.g., monitoring changes in annual migratory patterns and noting unusual deaths. More citizen scientists are needed, however, to ensure that new, dangerous viruses are identified in a timely fashion and new vaccines can be produced and public health measures put in place. Doherty gives special mention to the activity of the Audubon Society, which organizes a global network of volunteers who monitor local bird populations and share information internationally. The author, an enthusiastic bird-watcher, combines bird lore and cutting-edge science in an attractive mix that should inspire citizen scientists to pursue their hobby with renewed vigor and convince others to join in.