The Junco Project does a superb job of converting a common and widespread backyard bird into a lively textbook about evolution, animal behavior, genetics, and even our own biological makeup. We travel to habitats all over North America and learn in just a few spellbinding minutes how much a rapidly evolving bird can teach us – from how the body works to how new species form. I’ve never seen a more exciting demonstration of the fact that absolutely nothing in nature is “ordinary.” Ellen Ketterson is a master scientist and educator, and it’s a thrill to see her life’s work, and that of her many colleagues, come together in such an engaging way for the global public."
Dr. John Fitzpatrick
Director, Cornell Lab of Ornithology (www.birds.cornell.edu)
The “Junco Project” is a celebration of the scientific process and the sense of wonder and discovery that is at the heart of all scientific endeavors. It is also a celebration of the fact that we can learn valuable lessons from even the most familiar of birds. When a common backyard bird such as the Junco can teach us all these important lessons in behavior, ecology, evolution, and physiology, just imagine the lessons that remain to be learned from the millions of other species with which we share this planet. I've not seen a better science film.”
–Dr. Scott Lanyon (website)
President Elect of the American Ornithologists Union
Professor of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Minnesota
I showed the Diversification, part 1, video chapter to my introductory Evolution class last night, which was the start of the section I teach on speciation, and the film worked beautifully to illustrate both how scientists study species and the speciation process, and why applying species concepts can be quite difficult. The students had a great discussion afterwards about species concepts and diversification. They were especially engaged because the video covered an animal that all of the student should (or could) be familiar with -- so they could appreciate that the process of speciation is not some odd artifact that happens elsewhere. Additionally, the films are beautiful and well made! I definitely plan to use at least this section of the series in my future Evolution courses.
Dr. Susan Masta (website)
Professor of Biology, Portland State University
I am teaching an adult education class on migratory birds at the National Zoo and I was able to use the UCSD chapter of the Ordinary Extraordinary Junco film as a perfect demonstration of contemporary evolution of migration and life history differences between residents and migrants. Thank you all so much for this amazing educational tool!"
Dr. Chris Tonra (website)
Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
The Extraordinary Ordinary Junco is a fascinating film that takes wide ranging ideas in evolutionary biology and distills them into an accessible and entertaining story. I have had a fun time watching each segment with my elementary aged daughter and discussing with her what is being learned from studying this one bird. At the same time I plan to use chapters from the film in my undergraduate class on biological invasions to illustrate concepts about isolation and diversity. This project may set the standard for how science education should be done!"
–Dr. Luke Flory (website)
Assistant Professor, Agronomy Department, University of Florida
Using the Junco Project in my class has brought to life a topic that students used to believe was as dead as Charles Darwin himself. They are fascinated to not only see current research by "regular guys" (as they would say), but to themselves be hands-on with the data and research as the story unfolds. They are part of the discovery process, and they feel included as part of the model building process. As a teacher, there is simply no better vehicle to meeting the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) than the Junco Project. I hope it inspires similar projects in other areas of science so that students can have this more experiential learning format, and so that they can buildup a strong scientific reasoning skill set."
Biology Teacher, Hamilton High School, Michigan
"In evolutionary biology some of the most important studies focus on one or a few species, but they investigate this species at many different levels and over a long time. This makes species like the Junco real biological stars. The Junco Project website makes a treasure trove of exciting biology available to a wide audience. Nothing can be more important than that."
–Dr. Ingo Schlupp ()
Presidential Professor of Biology – University of Oklahoma
The Ordinary Extraordinary Junco is a truly wonderful set of films for introducing avian biology. Too often undergraduate science classes become narrowly focused on the biology and pathophysiology of mammals, and especially humans. The Junco movie provides a wonderful exposition of how studies on birds can also inform us of the biology of the natural world. I plan to use several clips from the movie in my introductory endocrinology class. It will be an engaging way to show that endocrinology is not just a study of mammals.
–Dr. Michael Romero (website)
Professor of Biology – Tufts University
This a visually arresting and intellectually satisfying film that has something for everyone - behavior, evolution, ecology and physiological mechanisms, plus excellent cinematography that will hold the attention of every student, even those who care only about the arts. The film also conveys something that is often lost in textbooks - that science is a process (and often an exciting one), not just a collection of facts. But the greatest thing about this film is the junco, a species that exhibits rapid evolution on a scale that earns it a place alongside the Galapagos finches and Trinidadian guppies, and in which evolution can be linked to selection on relevant physiological mechanisms."
–Dr. Jim Goodson (website)
Professor of Biology – Indiana University
"Ordinary Extraordinary Junco should be shown in every high school biology classroom. The short segments and captivating story line keep student’s attention while encouraging them to think critically. After watching Ordinary Extraordinary Junco, students will have a better understanding of the scientific process, cellular chemistry, ecology, genetics, and evolution. Because the filmmakers obviously considered state standards when making this film, it could be effectively used as a resource for End of Course Assessment review. Ordinary Extraordinary Junco is exactly how an educational film should be made."
–Jabin Burnworth (website)
Biology Teacher – Manchester High School, Indiana
Ordinary Extraordinary Junco beautifully captures the diversity of scientific questions that studies of wild birds can shed light on. I plan to use these videos in my Ornithology class to illustrate how learning about birds is much more than an exercise in natural history---birds (particularly Juncos!) are exceptional models for understanding behavioral ecology, endocrinology, sexual selection, and evolution.
–Dr. Dana Hawley (website)
Professor of Biology – Virginia Tech University
This film does a terrific job of illustrating evolution and evolutionary biologists in action. It is perfect for introductory classes! The film emphasizes how individual variation within populations is necessary for Darwinian evolution as well as how local differences in selection lead to larger scale, geographic patterns in coloration and behavior, and eventually to new species. Sexual selection is a prominent theme as is the role of hormones in mating behavior and care of the young. The narrative is compelling and the visual images are nothing short of stunning. It brings life to Evolution. The teamwork that is an essential part of all longstanding scientific inquiry shines through. It left me with the feeling of what could be a better way to break down the age and cultural barriers that separate us than to be a scientist!
Distinguished Professor of Biology – Indiana University
As a researcher, I have followed the junco story for years and always eagerly read each publication. As a teacher, I find these videos to be an extraordinary tool. They demonstrate how science and researchers work. They also cross disciplinary lines and show what we can learn as ornithologists, physiologists, evolutionary biologists, ecologists, and animal behaviorists. For the average viewer, these videos do a remarkable job showing why such studies are important and how much we can learn from an 'ordinary' bird. These videos are entertaining and educational for anyone from the professional researcher to the educator, student, and bird enthusiast.
–Dr. Ignacio Moore (website)
Professor of Biology – Virginia Tech University
Just wanted to let you know I am using two of the Ordinary Extraordinary Junco video chapters in my Endocrinology class. I am always looking for ways to invigorate my teaching material and these video essays are a wonderful means to do so. The film has inspired the students I train and teach everyday to look at the world which surrounds them in a new and exciting way. I use Chapter 2 on your long-term manipulations of Testosterone as the case study to examine the pleiotropic effects of hormones in vertebrates, and it accompanies the sometimes dry nuts and bolts of lecture material wonderfully. I am also using Chapter 1 as a short 'outro' to my lecture on the control of seasonal breeding."
—Dr. Oliver J. Love (website)
Professor of Biology, University of Windsor