Chapter List

The film chapters should be viewed sequentially for maximum effect, either as a feature-length experience or as a series, since there are connections among the chapters. However, chapters are also designed for independent viewing. See How to View for details.

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Intro – Say Hello to the Junco (2:57) – Introduce yourself to one of the most common and abundant–yet amazing and diverse–groups of songbirds, the Juncos.  Despite being a ‘backyard bird’ across North America, Juncos are ‘rockstars’ in science, playing a central role in countless biological studies.

Chapter 1 – Pioneers in Science: Rowan and the Junco (4:54)  – In the 1920s, a persistent scientist conducted a pioneering experiment in animal behavior and physiology. He made an important discovery that also put Juncos on the map as a perfect bird for scientific study.

Chapter 2 – Appalachian Spring: Long-term Studies at Mountain Lake (18:01) – Join biologist Dr. Ellen Ketterson and her team in the lush mountain forests of Virginia, where she has studied Dark-eyed Juncos for nearly 40 years.  A groundbreaking experiment revealing the complex effects of testosterone on the evolution of social behavior is highlighted.

Chapter 3 – Diversification I: the Dark-eyed Juncos (14:17) – Across the continent, the Dark-eyed Junco “species” exhibits stunning variation in physical appearance from place to place.  Understanding the evolutionary history and diversity of Juncos has captivated biologists for over 100 years, but only recently have modern genetic (DNA) tools allowed researchers, led by Spanish biologist Dr. Borja Mila, to explore these questions in detail.

Chapter 4 – Diversification II: South of the Border (18:14) – Less well-known to N. Americans are several groups of Juncos that inhabit Mexico and Central America.  Join biologists from around the world as they set out to visit stunning mountaintop habitats to collect samples and data that will allow them to examine the diversity and evolutionary history among these unique Juncos.

Chapter 5 – The Mysterious Juncos of Guadalupe Island (11:26) – This segment finds researchers hitching a ride with the Mexican Navy to visit a remote island off the coast of Baja, where a small and isolated population of Juncos are found. Their goal is to collect samples and data to finally uncover the history and origins of the mysterious Guadalupe Junco.

Chapter 6 – Evolution-In-Action: the Campus Juncos at UCSD (16:02) – The middle of a bustling college campus is not your typical Junco breeding habitat.  So when a small population of Juncos began breeding in the urban and coastal habitat of the UCSD campus, researchers took note–documenting how the new environment is rapidly altering their biology.

Outro – What We Can Learn From the Junco (3:15) Featuring soundbites from more than a dozen diverse scientists, this module recaps the prior chapters and previews the Junco research of the future, with Dr. John McCormack emphasizing emerging genetic and genomic tools. The broad array of topics that can be studied through the common yet remarkable Junco is highlighted. 

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