Synurbization

PhotographerJoshua Sariñana
PrizeHonorable Mention
Entry Description

A reflection of birds flying overhead in a puddle of water from melting snow.

Story

Birds are the only dinosaurs to have survived the K/T extinction, which opened an ecological niche for mammals and the eventual rise of humans. Both birds and mammal exhibited explosions in their diversity after the K/T event, in part, due to their intellectual capacity, adaptability, and problem solving skills. Although a six miles wide asteroid impact and unprecedented volcanic activity precipitated the K/T event, humans are triggering the next and 6th great mass extinction. Over half of the world’s population now lives in cities creating immense ecological changes and landscape transformations, otherwise known as urbanization. Urbanization increases pollution, the temperature of densely populated areas, and alters the amount of rainfall in cities. Urbanization changes the behavior of birds as they adapt to human industrialization a phenomenon called synurbization, which ultimately leads to accelerated evolution of these animals. Synurbization reduces bird migration during seasonal changes as cities provide the ability to survive winters. In effect, birds are becoming more sedentary paralleling the human condition. Birds navigate by several methods, which include orienting to the sun, the stars, earth’s magnetic fields and roads. Given light pollution at night and the noise emitted by electromagnetic radiation (e.g., cell phones, radio waves, Wi-Fi signals) cities critically impact on how birds orient, fly to their locations, and ultimately mate. Birds and humans are species that perhaps benefited the most from the K/T extinction. Yet, it is precisely this prosperity of human evolution that is ushering in another great extinction event. This time around what species will benefit if we ultimately undermine our own survival? I aim to show how birds will interact with our urban environment in the absence of humans.

About Photographer

Dr. Joshua Sariñana was born in San José, California. He obtained his neuroscience degrees at the University of California, Los Angeles and in a Nobel Prize winning lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). After MIT, Sariñana became a research fellow at Harvard Medical School where he studied the computational processing of spatial navigation. Sariñana is currently a fine arts photographer and writer. Sariñana has had a solo exhibition at the Griffin Museum of Photography, shown at the Houston Center for Photography, Photoville, and the Center for Fine Art Photography. His work has been recognized by the Sony World Photography Awards, Communication Arts, PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris, and the Head On Photo Awards. He is also the recipient of a Council for Arts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Grant. In addition, Sariñana's work has been featured in The Guardian, Buzzfeed, The Huffington Post, and Time. His work has also been published in Silvershotz Magazine and one of his images was licensed for an iPhone 6 commercial ad. Sariñana has published several articles on the intersection of photography, neuroscience including in the photography periodicals Don’t Take Pictures and The Smart View. He has also been interviewed by several influential photography blogs as well as Vice Magazine. Sariñana currently resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts.