Tags Posts tagged with "Carl Safina"

Carl Safina

Author Carl Safina with Alfie

Reviewed by John L. Turner

Perhaps it’s due to an owl’s forward facing eyes, imparting a humanlike aspect to its face, that is the source of the long-held belief that owls possess great wisdom and intelligence. Actually other birds, most notably members of the crow family like ravens, crow, and blue jays do best in intelligence tests but you wouldn’t know it from the photo of Alfie, a screech owl, that adorns the cover of Carl Safina’s new book Alfie & Me: What Owls Know, What Humans Believe. With an intense stare suggesting human level concentration possessing sickle shaped talons clutching the branch, Alfie is a vibrantly alive bird,  an impressive predator that fully “knows” how to be an owl.    

The book involves the author raising a young screech owl dealt a terrible hand that would have been a fatal one were it not for the intervention of the author. Along the way Alfie learns to become more independent, finds a mate and raises a family of three.     

Author Carl Safina

What becomes immediately clear and what I did not know despite being neighbors and friends of Carl and Patricia, but what I should have known given their abiding and deep interest in the natural world, is just how much time they spent closely watching Alfie reach her potential, blossoming into a fully functioning adult owl, one member of a five member family — all during the COVID pandemic. 

They both, but especially Carl, spent what must be hundreds of hours observing Alfie.  And as a reader of the book will soon discover, this world enlarges with the appearance of her mate Plus-One and the logical results of Plus-One appearing on the scene — three young baby screech owls. These babies, individually and together, are variously described as: “little spheres of fluffiness,” “a fat ball of a baby,” and a “fluff-jacketed cutie.” The quintet were named “The Hoo,” who together “remained down-jacketed, fluffy, light as the clouds above them.”

In this way the book is a classic story of a scientist delving deeply into the world of a wild animal, along the lines of Douglas Chadwick’s The Wolverine Way, Bernd Heinrich’s Mind of the Raven or Maria Mudd Ruth’s detailed study of the Marbled Murrelet in Rare Bird. There’s exploration and analysis, observation and interpretation, study and understanding, and most importantly the development of a strong relationship. 

What’s unique in Alfie & Me is this all takes place in an acre or so around their suburban home, and within that area most within a 50-foot envelope around the house. This story, the development of an intimate “around the house” wild bird-human relationship, ties Alfie & Me with Julie Zickefoose’s Saving Jemima, in which the author spends a good part of a year raising a blue jay to health and independence. There are many delightful parallels between the two books.  

Unlike Safina’s earlier books like Song for a Blue Ocean, A Sea in Flames, Voyage of the Turtle, and Eye of the Albatross, Alfie & Me, is more of an extension of, and elaboration upon, some of the concepts advanced in Safina’s three most recent books: The View from Lazy Point, Becoming Wild and Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel. These later books explore the intellectual, emotional, and sensory world of animals, their societies and culture, and complexities in the relationship and attitudes of humans with other life forms, specifically, and the natural world generally. 

A fundamental aspect of the book is, of course, the interspecies relationship between a few humans and a few owls with colorful side notes on a few dogs and a flock of chickens; an overlapping connection between the one world of the two species, the author aptly emphasizing Alfie being able to place “a wing in ours, I, with a foot in hers.” Or “….the ability to walk the bridge Alfie had opened between their world and ours.”  

The Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio) is one of two common woodland owls that find breeding habitat here on Long Island. Along with their much larger cousin, and sometimes mortal enemy the Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus), Screech Owls are surprisingly common in forests both large and small. Even parcels as small as ten acres are likely to host a breeding pair. Less common woodland owls here include Saw-whet (Aegolius acadicus) and Long-eared Owls (Asio otis) “whoo” are joined by open country visitors during the winter months — Snowy Owls (Bubo scandiacus) and Short-eared Owls (Asio flammeus), coastal and grassland inhabitants respectively.  

And unique to the owl species found in eastern North America, screech owls come in two color forms or morphs. Alfie and Plus-One are red or rufous morph individuals which is the more common form on Long Island. Or as Safina notes “a magical russet comet.” The grey form, however, is more common throughout the species range.  

Safina is a highly gifted writer, quite adept at turning a phrase and the book is replete with colorful imagery and strong sentences, to wit: “I have always felt that my generation existed in a time spanning the last good years and the beginning of the end of the world,” “The air was stock still. Leafy canopies of maples and the spires of cedars formed a denser darkness against the star-studded vault of space”,  and “If they fell to the ground, they’d still climb straight up a trunk, but they were also realizing that crossing distances involved flapping their interesting upper limbs. In a way, they were finding their inner owl.”  

This book would be a worthwhile read if all it presented was a highly articulate description of  screech owls and their behavior and ecology. But it’s so much more. Alfie provides a feathered springboard for the author to discuss how western thought, espoused by western thought leaders (think Descartes, Bacon, Dawkins, et al.) has led to the dangerous result and our current predicament where so many members of human society are estranged from animals and nature with the resultant deterioration of the global environment. Their “reductionist” thinking of animals as being nothing more than soulless machines incapable of thoughts, emotions, even the ability to feel pain, was all pervasive resulting in the view that humans commanded a lofty and unique perch above lowly forms of life that gave them full dominion over all animals.   

In contrast, Safina documents, Eastern and North American Indigenous cultures and religions held views that better harmonized humankind with the animal kingdom and the natural elements of the world. A world with more passion and less consumption. Clearly, the book is an exploration of proffered beliefs, strongly held. 

This book also is an exultation of life and living things, a fundamentally and qualitatively unique aspect in this otherwise lifeless universe, a concept that Safina notes and embraces and Alfie illustrates. Life is something worth celebrating, cherishing, and protecting. “The owls gave us the opportunity to pay attention. That was their main gift to us: to be present for a while in the always magical here and now.”

Through Safina’s prose we all can take delight in his decision to intercede and change what was clearly a fatal trajectory for Alfie. We are all the richer for his intervention. Safina ends: “It was amazing how quiet and empty the air could feel once you subtracted owls. But now I knew they were out there, livening up the nights with or without me. Yes, I felt an empty nester. But I’d been dealt a full house, a winning hand.”   

Both Carl and Alfie have a lot to say. And we gain pleasure in listening. Alfie & Me is a most important book and a most compelling and worthwhile read — we too have been dealt a winning hand. 

A male Buck Moth. Photo by John Turner

By John L. Turner

John Turner

On my way to redeem some bottles, involving some brands of craft beer that were thoroughly enjoyable, I did a double take passing by what I thought was a small bit of wind-blown garbage, moved by a gentle breeze, along the curb in a supermarket parking lot. Something about its movement caught my eye though and upon a closer look this was no multi-colored piece of trash but rather was something alive, fluttering weakly against the curb. Bending down to take a closer look I suddenly realized I was staring, improbably, at a  male Polyphemus Moth (I could tell it was a male by its quite feathery antennae). 

I picked the moth up and moved it out of harm’s way, placing it under a nearby row of shrubs, realizing all I did was buy it a little more time free from a certain death by a car tire or  pedestrian foot. Having no mouth with which it can feed (all of its energy is carried over from the caterpillar stage) a trait it shares with related species, its life as an adult is short-lived. 

The Polyphemus Moth is one of more than a dozen species of Giant Silk Moths found on Long Island. This family contains some of the largest moths in the world and they range from attractive to beautiful to spectacular. 

Take the Polyphemus Moth as an example. Tan colored with bands of peach on the forewings and black on the hind wings, the moth has four eye spots with the two on the hind wings being especially prominent. The center of the eyespots appears cellophane-like and is translucent. The central eyespot gives rise to the species name as it is reminiscent of the eye of the cyclops of Greek mythology with the same common name as the moth. 

A Polyphemus Moth. Photo by Carl Safina

The eye spots also play a role in the family name — Saturnidae, as some eye spots have concentric rings like those of the planet Saturn. And as moths go this creature has a huge wingspan, being as much as five inches from the tip of one forewing to the other. Its caterpillars feed on oak trees. 

The richly-colored brown, olive, and orange Cecropia moth, with its bright orange body, is slightly larger than the Polyphemus and its eyespots are more in the shape of a comma. They have a purple patch of the tip of each forewing that reminds me of the ghosts in Pac-Man, the popular video game. Cecropia prefer cherry trees as a food plant. 

The most tropical looking member of the family is undoubtedly the lime green-colored Luna Moth, a feeder of walnut leaves. The hindwings of the species, also possessing two eye spots, are longer than other Giant Silk Moth members and have a distinctive twist to the two “tails.” The spots on the fore or front wings are smaller, oval and are connected by a line to the purplish/maroon-colored line that runs along the front of the forewing. It is a showstopper!   

A non-native Giant Silk moth has been introduced to Long Island — the Ailanthus Silk Moth also known as the Cynthia Moth. It can be seen in areas of the island where Ailanthus trees commonly grow such as Brooklyn and Queens. 

Two beautiful, closely related silk moths are the Tulip-tree Silk Moth and the Promethea Moth. The latter species is sexually dimorphic, meaning the male and female look different as they are of “different morphs or forms.” The female is a rich blend of browns with an orange body while the male is a deep charcoal grey with olive to tan borders on both wings. As the name suggests, the former species as a caterpillar feeds on the leaves of the Tulip Tree, a spectacular columnar tree that grows in richer soils along Long  Island’s north shore. 

Related to these other Giant Silk Moths is a smaller inhabitant found in the Long Island Pine Barrens — the Eastern Buck Moth. And unlike other giant silk moths, and moths in general, the buck moth is strictly diurnal, flying from late morning through mid-afternoon on days in late September through mid-October. Why the radical difference in lifestyle compared to typical night flying moths?  It has to do with living in a fire-prone environment. Unlike other members of the family, buck moths don’t pupate by forming a cocoon that hangs from a branch because it would run the real risk of being destroyed by fire. Rather, the buck moth pupates in an earthen cell underground, out of harm’s way, waiting until the threat of the fire season lessens. This means a shift in emergence to the fall, and since it can get cold at night, buck moths have shifted their active period to the warmer daytime. 

In the same subfamily as the buck moth is the beautiful Io Moth. This species too is dimorphic with the female being darker than the male’s bright yellow coloration. Both sexes have large eyespots on their hindwings which are revealed when the forewings are thrown forward by a disturbed moth; suddenly the here-to-fore innocuous insect appears to be the face of a mammal which may deter predation or allow the momentarily confused predator to give enough time for the Io moth to escape. 

In yet another subfamily are the remarkable Pine Devil moth, Royal Walnut Moth (which  as a caterpillar is the famous hickory horned devil!), Imperial Moth, three species of oak webworms common in the Pine Barrens, and the Rosy Maple Moth, the color of raspberry and lemon sherbet.   

Unfortunately, all of these species have become less common on Long Island with some perhaps on the verge of extirpation (local extinction), done in by a loss of habitat and the widespread use of pesticides. Their rarity, paired with exceptional beauty, makes seeing a member of the Giant Silk moth family a special visual treat. Good luck!     

A resident of Setauket, John Turner is conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, author of “Exploring the Other Island: A Seasonal Nature Guide to Long Island” and president of Alula Birding & Natural History Tours.

Meet New York Times Best Selling Author Carl Safina at the Bates House in Setauket on June 13. File photo

The Bates House, 1 Bates Road, Setauket welcomes New York Times Best Selling Author Carl Safina for an Author Talk on Tuesday, June 13 at 7 p.m. Safina will be reading from his many bestselling and award-winning books and talk about the work of his not-for-profit organization, The Safina Center, based in Setauket. A book signing will follow. $10 per person. To register, visit www.thebateshouse.org. For more information, call 631-689-7054

Photo by Carl Safina


Carl Safina of Setauket captured this incredible sight during a visit to Stony Brook Harbor on May 4. He writes, “The moon was full but the sky was overcast. The combination created something I’ve never seen before: moonbeams coming spectacularly through clouds.”

Send your photo of the week to [email protected]

Fanny M. Cornejo. Photo from SBU

Stony Brook University graduate student Fanny M. Cornejo has been named the winner of the newly-created “Emerging Conservationist Award” presented by the Indianapolis Prize. This award recognizes professional wildlife conservationists, biologists and scientists under 40-years of age who are working to make strides in saving animal species from extinction.

Cornejo, a Peruvian primatologist, anthropologist and the executive director of Yunkawasi, an organization that works with Amazonian and Andean communities for the conservation of threatened species through sustainable economic development and protected area management approach, was selected from among 10 finalists. She will receive $50,000 provided by the Kobe Foundation to continue the conservation work of Yunkawasi.

Cornejo is being recognized for her more than 15 years dedicated to the conservation and research of the yellow-tailed woolly monkey, a primate species that only inhabits the montane forests of Peru and is critically endangered due to human unsustainable activities that have generated the loss of over 80% of its population.

Cornejo is a member of the Interdepartmental Doctoral Program in Anthropological Sciences (IDPAS) at Stony Brook University and works in the Pat Wright Lab, where she focuses on the study of primates and big mammals, focusing on diversity, ecological studies as well as conservation activities to protect forests and improve the livelihoods of local and indigenous communities. Cornejo has also conducted research on the black and white ruffed lemurs in Ranomafana National Park in Madagascar. Her graduate mentors are Professors Patricia C. Wright and Liliana Dávalos.

“Fanny lives and breathes conservation. Her energy, her motivation and her success are part of her very being. What a joy to hear that her talents and hard work have been recognized with this inaugural Emerging Conservationist Prize. What an honor for Stony Brook and an honor for Peru!” said Professor Patricia Wright, Distinguished Service Professor and Herrnstein Professor of Conservation Biology.

“Fanny was always a stand-out and it’s fantastic, but not surprising, that her talents and contributions continue to go above and beyond and to be recognized,” said Professor Carl Safina, Holder of the Endowed Chair for Nature and Humanity.

“Fanny is leading the next generation of conservationists to protect nature and inspire people to care for our world. The depth of accomplishments set her apart from the other nominees. I can’t wait to see the impact of her career in conservation,” added Indianapolis Zoological Society President and CEO Dr. Rob Shumaker.

Cornejo will be formally recognized as the 2023 Emerging Conservationist at the Indianapolis Prize Gala presented by Cummins Inc. in downtown Indianapolis on Sept. 30, 2023.

“I am very honored and grateful for this recognition that is not only for me, but also for my entire team, the people we work with, our partners in local communities, governments and our donors. Undoubtedly, being the first winner of the Emerging Conservationist Award and from an organization as important as the Indianapolis Prize is a great recognition for our work in Peru,” said Cornejo.

The Emerging Conservationist finalists were selected through a two-stage selection process, where a review committee evaluated and narrowed the application pool to 10 finalists. Those finalists were then evaluated by a selection committee who chose Cornejo the winner.

The Indianapolis Prize recognizes the world’s leading conservationists whose work provides future generations with replicable and actionable conservation practices. The finalists of the Emerging Conservationists represent the people we can rely on to save species worldwide. Stony Brook University Professors Patricia Wright (2014) and Russ Mittermeier (2018) have both been awarded the Indianapolis Prize.

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About the Indianapolis Prize

The Indianapolis Prize recognizes and rewards conservationists who have achieved major victories in advancing the sustainability of an animal species or group of species. Since 2006, the Indianapolis Prize has given more than $5.6 million in unrestricted cash awards. The Indianapolis Prize is administered by the Indianapolis Zoological Society, Inc.

About Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University — New York’s flagship university and No. 1 public university — is going far beyond the expectations of today’s public universities. It is part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system. With more than 24,000 students, more than 2,800 faculty members, more than 200,000 alumni, a premier academic healthcare system and 18 NCAA Division I athletic programs, Stony Brook is a research-intensive distinguished center of innovation dedicated to addressing the world’s biggest challenges. The university embraces its mission to provide comprehensive undergraduate, graduate and professional education of the highest quality, and is ranked among the top 35 public universities by Forbes and one of the top 80 universities in the nation by the U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges listing. Fostering a commitment to academic research and intellectual endeavors, Stony Brook’s membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU) places it among the top 65 research institutions in North America. The university’s distinguished faculty have earned esteemed awards such as the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Indianapolis Prize for animal conservation, Abel Prize and the inaugural Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics. Stony Brook has the responsibility of co-managing Brookhaven National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy — one of only eight universities with a role in running a national laboratory. Providing economic growth for neighboring communities and the wider geographic region, the university totals an impressive $7.23 billion in increased economic output on Long Island. Follow us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/stonybrooku/) and Twitter(@stonybrooku).

About Yunkawasi

Yunkawasi is a Peruvian non-profit, dedicated to the sustainable development of the territory and the conservation of its biodiversity to achieve the well-being of different human groups. They have more than 16 years of experience working hand in hand with state, civil and private partners for the design and implementation of conservation projects in key ecosystems. Yunkawasi works in various ecosystems, from coastal to Amazonian landscapes, with a focus on conservation and management of protected natural areas, sustainable socioeconomic development, participatory research, and communication and environmental education. They promote an inclusive society that sustainably manages its natural resources, values the benefits they provide, and defend their natural and cultural heritage.

Photo from the Reboli Center

The Reboli Center for Art and History, 64 Main St., Stony Brook continues its Third Friday series on Feb. 17 with a presentation titled The Enchanted Islands — Galapagos with guest speakers Carl Safina and Patricia Paladines from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

The volcanic islands 600 miles west of the Pacific coast of South America have lured humans for hundreds of years. In 1535 a Spanish galleon carrying the Bishop of Panama found itself drifting helplessly in a no-wind situation near the islands. The crew, including the Bishop—finding themselves running out of water—staggered ashore. For two days they searched the land of black rocks finding nothing to alleviate their thirst. In desperation they began eating the island’s cacti, squeezing out the water these succulent plants retain. Unimpressed with the volcanic oasis that saved his life, the Bishop wrote in his journal that what earth the islands have, “is like a slag, worthless.”

Herman Melville also passed through the Galapagos aboard the whaler Acushnet, drawing inspiration for his most famous novel, Moby-Dick. But the most paradigm shifting visit was made 300 years after the cactus eating Bishop, with the arrival of Charles Darwin aboard the Beagle. His observations in the Galapagos Islands changed the way we understand the origins of life. But at first arrival, Darwin did not immediately see the beauty in the animals that greeted him. Upon seeing the islands’ endemic marine iguana, he noted, “The black Lava rocks on the beach are frequented by large…most disgusting, clumsy Lizards…They are as black as the porous rocks over which they crawl.”

As the world celebrates Charles Darwin’s 224th birthday this month, Safina and Paladines will share their personal observations of the enchanting islands, the unique life forms that inhabit the rugged landscape, and the conservation efforts that now protect this crucible of evolutionary understanding.

This family-friendly event is free to the public and no reservations are required to attend. Refreshments will be served. For more information, call 631-751-7707 or visit www.rebolicenter.org.

Birdlovers art sale to support local environmental groups

By Melissa Arnold

Birds have long fascinated nature enthusiasts of all ages, and it’s easy to understand why. Their wide variety, brilliant colors, seasonal travel and flight skills provide a lot to admire. Those same qualities have made birds a frequent subject in art for generations as well.

On the weekend of Nov. 11, the historic Bates House in Setauket will host a special 3-day art sale and silent auction entitled “Audubon and Friends.” All proceeds from the weekend will be split equally among four local organizations dedicated to protecting Long Island’s wildlife and environment: The Seatuck Environmental Association, the Four Harbors Audubon Society (4HAS), The Safina Center, and Frank Melville Memorial Park.

The idea for the event came from conservationist John Turner and his brother Craig, who shared a love for nature from their early years.

John, who is conservation chair at Seatuck and serves on the board of 4HAS, developed a passion for birding as he watched his father feed the birds as a young boy.

“I was pretty active in conservation even as a teen — when you fall in love with something, you want to see it protected and have the ability to flourish,” said the Setauket resident. “I was really affected by stories of pollution, fires and disasters on the news, and I wanted to do whatever I could to help.”

Craig Turner’s interest in birdwatching developed later, thanks to an old friend from his time in the Air Force.

“He fed all sorts of birds at his home, and whenever I would visit I would become completely captivated by watching them stop to eat,” Craig recalled. “It became a wonderful excuse for me to get outside and see what I could find, and it was a great window into exploring natural history as well.”

Craig would go on to befriend a man who lived near him in Maryland who ran an Audubon magazine and also collected an array of bird depictions, many of them made by early natural history artists. Craig found the prints beautiful and desired to start a collection of his own.

“I thought the prints would look great at home, and then eBay came along, which gave me the ability to acquire things that would otherwise be very expensive, like prints made by John James Audubon in the 1840s,” he said.

By 2012, he had amassed so many prints that he decided to open his own shop in Annapolis, Md. The Audubon and Friends Gallery sold a variety of natural history prints as well as glassware and wood carvings before its closing in 2015.

As much as he treasured each piece, it didn’t make sense for one person to have so many, Craig said to John some time afterward. Why not continue to find ways to share beautiful work with others?

And John had another thought: Why not make it for a good cause as well?

“I wanted to do whatever I could to support the hard work of environmental conservation and protection, and I thought it would be fun to explore the history of natural history art in a talk,” said Craig.

So the event took shape — the beautiful Bates House in Frank Melville Memorial Park would host more than 100 prints from some of the earliest natural history artists, including John James Audubon, Mark Catesby and Alexander Wilson. Depending on value, some pieces will be for sale, while other, rarer pieces will be available in a silent auction held throughout the weekend.

“Audubon wanted to catalogue all the North American birds in life-size prints, and his work became the pinnacle of bird engraving,” Craig explained. “The idea of owning an original natural history print appeals to a lot of people as an important part of Americana, regardless of whether or not they’re birders themselves.” 

Among the pieces included at the fundraiser are many first edition, hand-colored prints from John James Audubon’s Royal Octavo edition of “Birds of America,” a foundational work in the field. 

Visitors to the show will enjoy light refreshments throughout the weekend, and on Friday, Nov. 11, Craig Turner will offer a special presentation on the history of bird illustration.

It’s a win-win situation for natural history enthusiasts, art lovers and the organizations who will benefit.

“When John Turner approached us about the fundraiser, we thought it was a splendid idea. The art is exquisite and classic,” said Carl Safina, founder of the Safina Center in Setauket. “Birds make the world livable. They are the most beautifully obvious living things in our world and they connect everything, everywhere. It’s truly a tragedy that most people barely notice them, nor do they understand that nearly 200 species can be seen on and around Long Island in the course of a year.”

The Safina Center inspires awareness and action in the community through art, literature and other creative outlets. Safina said that their portion of the funds raised would likely benefit their fellowship program for young, up-and-coming creators.

“Henry David Thoreau said that in wilderness is the preservation of the world, and it’s never been more important to do the work of preservation,” John Turner said. “The biggest thing we can all do is think about the planet in our everyday choices. Some people don’t realize how much of an impact they can make in what they eat, what they buy, and what they reuse.”

The “Audubon and Friends” art sale and silent auction will be held at The Bates House, 1 Bates Road, Setauket on Friday, Nov. 11 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. with a special presentation from Craig Turner titled “A History of Bird Illustration” at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 12 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sunday, Nov. 13 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event is free to attend. For more information, call the Bates House at 631-689-7054.

Erica Cirino with her book, ‘Thicker Than Water.’ Photo from Erica Cirino

By Donna Newman

At year’s end, TBR News Media honors community members who have shared their time and talents to enhance the place they live for the benefit of all. Long Island environmentalist Erica Cirino takes her efforts to a global level.

We are pleased to honor her as a 2021 TBR News Media Person of the Year.

After earning a bachelor of arts in environmental studies and a master’s of science in journalism at Stony Brook University, this former Huntington resident has dedicated herself to one of Earth’s most pressing environmental concerns.

According to the bio on her website, Cirino is a science writer, author and artist exploring the intersection of the human and nonhuman worlds. Her widely published photojournalistic works depict the numerous ways people connect to nature — and each other — and shape the planet. Her work has appeared in Audubon Magazine, The Guardian and on the National Geographic Voices blog and VICE News among other media outlets.  

While working at a rehab clinic as a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, Cirino saw firsthand that the majority of animals brought in for care were there as a result of human actions that have deleterious effects on wildlife — and nature. This realization led her to focus on telling the stories she feels need to be heard to prevent continued destruction of the planet and further harm to wildlife.

Currently, Cirino manages outreach campaigns and online and print media for The Safina Center, a nonprofit nature conservation and environmental organization that is affiliated with Stony Brook University. The center is headquartered in Setauket.

Carl Safina, the eponymous center’s founder, said he has known Cirino about six years.

“Erica has been a kind of protégé for years,” he said. “I am not sure that does her justice, because she is her own person with her own work and views. But I have helped her along as best I can because she has great talent well worth assisting. Erica was one of the main reasons we created our junior fellowships [for younger scholars establishing their careers]. Now she is the author of an important book and in high demand as a speaker. I can hardly imagine doing what we do without Erica. She seems able to do just about anything. She is multitalented and preternaturally efficient.”

In a review of her book, “Thicker Than Water: The Quest for Solutions to the Plastic Crisis,” in this newspaper last month, Jeffrey Sanzel lauded Cirino’s recently released treatise.

Author Erica Cirino

“Cirino, a gifted author whose writings have been featured in Scientific American and The Atlantic, has penned a smart, passionate exploration of one of the most troubling and challenging issues,” he wrote. “The book examines a problem of overwhelming global impact.”

Sanzel concluded, “It would be impossible to read this powerful book and not look at the world differently, both in the larger picture and day-to-day life. … Erica Cirino’s ideas stimulate thought, raise awareness and, most importantly, are a call to action.”

Lise Hintze’s connection to Cirino began with their dogs. The pups had an affinity for one another in their Setauket neighborhood, and began playing together in Hintze’s fenced backyard during the pandemic as the women got to know each other.

“When I first met her, she said, ‘I’m going to write a book,’” Hintze recalled. “She talked about her sailing and the expeditions she’d been on, and her travel all over the world. And I asked, ‘How old are you?’ because her face did not match the experiences she’d described. She replied, ‘I’m going to be 29.’ And I thought: ‘And you’ve done all that?’”

The more time they spent together, the more Hintze learned from her new friend. Cirino talked about what’s happening in the oceans and how serious it is and Hintze’s admiration for her passion and determination to solve this problem grew.

“Erica is one of the most dynamic young people I’ve ever met,” Hintze said. “She is an incredibly terrific young woman, soft spoken and extremely humble. I wish she knew her own worth. She is going far. Erica can confidently take anything she chooses to the next level.”

Learn more about this talented champion of our planet at her website www.ericacirino.com. Her book, “Thicker Than Water,” is available at islandpress.org/books or Amazon.com.

Maria Hoffman will be the honoree at this year's gala. Photo from TVCT

The Three Village Community Trust will hold its annual Fall Fundraising Gala on Wednesday, Nov. 17 at the Old Field Club. This event supports the Trust’s year-round programs and projects. 

Currently, the Trust is conducting major restoration work at the Hawkins Homestead, the Smith/deZafra House, and the three Factory Worker Houses. The Trust is also working to enhance both Patriots Rock Park and the Greenway Trail. With so many undertakings, this year’s Gala will be more an important than ever to keep the Trust moving forward to “Protect the Places We Love.”

The special guest and honoree at this year’s gathering is Maria Hoffman.  An artist, photographer and naturalist, Maria is one of the most beloved and respected figures in our community and is widely known as “Everybody’s Best Friend.”  Now, after three decades of community service as Chief of Staff to New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Hoffman has retired and, at the Gala, will reflect on her life and career in the Three Villages. 

Live music by the renowned Carl Safina and the Natural Causes will fill the party air with magical jazz, and there will be chances to win some fun-filled raffle baskets. The big art raffle prize this year is an oil painting by the well-known artist Nancy Bueti-Randall, titled “Late Day at the Beach.”  

Tickets to the event can be purchased on the Trust’s website, www.threevillagecommunitytrust.org. For more information, call 631-689-0225 or visit [email protected].

Carl Safina and Patricia Paladines. Photo from WMHO

Save the date! The Ward Melville Heritage Organization continues its Master Class series with Forces of Nature: Travel, Conservation and Love, on Wednesday, July 29 via Zoom at 1 p.m.

Forces of Nature brings you internationally renowned conservationist, Endowed Professor of Nature and Humanity at Stony Brook University, and Macarthur Genius recipient, Dr. Carl Safina and his wife, Patricia Paladines, a photographer, naturalist and writer.

The couple will engage you with powerful stories of travel, their drive to conserve the environment near and far, and their love of nature and each other. With each story, they will challenge you to see the natural world, how humankind is responsible for changing it, and what those changes mean for us and the nonhumans we share it with.

To register for this free event, please email [email protected] or call 631-751-2244.