January 20, 2022    
7:00 pm - 10:00 pm

Event Type

Unfortunately, with the recent Covid surge, this will again be a virtual meeting on Zoom.  Please register here and then watch for the meeting link in your email.


Across Australia’s tropical North, certain raptors have an amazing tool-using ability: they spread fires. Black Kites, Whistling Kites, and Brown Falcons, when in need of more food, snatch burning brands from wildfires and campsites and drop them in patches of unburned grass to flush out prey. Every Aboriginal group and every firefighter in the bush know this, because firehawks can become quite a nuisance. But are these raptors part of the problem, or part of the solution? In 2016, Dr. Bonta started leading teams of researchers into remote corners of the Northern Territory to find out more about this enigmatic behavior and what it could tell us about the intelligence of birds, human evolution, and the future of Australian tropical ecosystems in a warming world. Over the next few years, they talked to Aboriginal firefighters and the owners of sacred sites whose ancestors have been on the land for 40,000 years. What they found out will amaze you!


Mark Bonta was raised on a mountaintop in central Pennsylvania and went on to explore the remote corners of the planet through service to the Peace Corps and academic research at several small colleges. Dr. Bonta has traversed more than 40 countries and six continents in his pursuit of global citizenship and has been involved in environmental conservation efforts in the Philippines, Australia, Honduras, Mexico, and the US. His many passions include all things related to birds, including the wisdom traditions of avifauna among local and Indigenous peoples. Mark is also a leading expert on cycads, “living fossils” that are the most threatened group of plants in the world. You can access his publications at https://markbonta.academia.edu/ and his eBird profile at https://ebird.org/pa/profile/NDE4MTI5/world.