THE DYING EARTH SCOUTS FIELD GUIDE TO EXTINCTION

Michael Pisano // Studio Director, Pisano Films / michael@pisanofilms.com

 
 

The Dying Earth Scouts Field Guide to Extinction is a documentary webseries about the history of mass extinction events and climate change. Earth in 2017 is losing biodiversity at the fastest rate since the dinosaurs perished, at an estimated 140,000 species per year. That’s 1,000 times the pre-human extinction rate. The Field Guide examines the causes of this and other mass extinctions, largely through study of life in the undergrowth. Life at this scale is uniquely threatened by humans, and as the base of our energy and materials cycles, trouble that starts down in the dirt unequivocally impacts our lives.

Goal // To spread awareness of human causes of extinction and suggest ways to ease those pressures // To arm viewers with knowledge about climate change that they need to engage their communities in discourse // To reframe our relationship with the environment as a responsibility to protect it.

The series collects footage from all over the world, but is ideally based at a Natural History Museum. Inspired by Emily Graslie’s science communication webseries, The Brain Scoop, hosted at The Field Museum in Chicago, the Field Guide will use the collections, exhibits and research at an active museum as a frame for telling the story of mass extinction in the Anthropocene.

Each Field Guide episode is around ten minute, similar in pacing to YouTube series Kurzgesagt: In a Nutshell, and mixes interviews, narration, video, and animation.

 

Episodes

Episode // Life During Extinctio / This intro surveys the “big 5” mass extinctions in history, and compares their causes and symptoms to the current mass extinction event we’re living through in 2017. What are the main human pressures threatening biodiversity?

Episode 1 // Life During Extinction

This intro surveys the “big 5” mass extinctions in history, and compares their causes and symptoms to the current mass extinction event we’re living through in 2017. What are the main human pressures threatening biodiversity?

 
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Episode 2 // Invasion

 What’s an invasive species, and how do humans spread them? Taking ants as a case study, we’ll see how a supercolony can, like a human settlement, overtax its environment.

 

Episode 3 // Agriculture

A comparative study of insect agriculture and human agriculture, and a closer look at pollution, habitat loss, and overharvesting as extinction pressures.

 

Episode 4 // Extinction Profiteers

What organisms (fungus, bacteria, viruses) survive and thrive during extinction events? What might the post-Anthropocene extinction landscape look like?

 

Episode 5 // Co-evolution and Co-extinction

A look at interrelationships in the undergrowth (and the broader resource web), via case studies in insect-plant coevolution and periodical cicada emergence.

 

Episode 6 // Conservation vs. Capitalism

A visit to the Galapagos Islands to see the tension between these two big C’s, from pirates overhunting turtles to tourists funding conservation today.

 

Episode 7 // An Anthropocene Eulogy

What will our legacy be?

 

Each episode links to a related tutorial or other resource suggesting stewardship actions viewers can practice. These are collected as The Dying Earth Scout Conservation Handbook, a free online guide to stewardship in the Anthropocene. 

The Field Guide is one of three components of Crawler, a transmedia project about mass extinction and climate change in the Anthropocene. Learn more here.

Pisano Films is an video + animation studio in Pittsburgh, PA. www.pisanofilms.com.

 

Additional Media

Timelapse footage of oyster mushrooms growing in my basement.

Timelapses of the slime mold physarum polycephalum cultured onto found and sculpted objects.