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TV biologist Jeff Corwin visits Bridgewater

Jeff Corwin

The wildlife biologist, conservationist, and Emmy Award-winning television host Jeff Corwin is giving an endowed lecture at Bridgewater College on Wednesday. WMRA's Randi B. Hagi reports.

Depending on your age, you may know Jeff Corwin from his wildlife shows on Animal Planet in the early 2000s, or his more recent work, including the show 'Ocean Treks with Jeff Corwin.' This Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., he'll be speaking at Bridgewater College about his 30 year, globetrotting career -- including his newest show: 'Wildlife Nation.'

Bridgewater College is a financial supporter of WMRA.

[dramatic music from promo clip]

JEFF CORWIN: As soon as we open the door, we see her -- a mother peregrine falcon ready to protect her nest, and her offspring, at any cost. As soon as we remove the guardrails, and step onto the catwalk --

[falcon screeching]

MAN 1: She's coming right in for ya.

CORWIN: She begins to divebomb our team with incredible speed.

MAN 1: Coming in hot.

MAN 2: She's coming in from below!

CORWIN: This right here is a nesting box for a peregrine falcon.

MAN 1: Getting close, getting close, getting close!

[music swells]

When I spoke with Corwin last week, he was out in Kentucky looking for endangered salamanders.

JEFF CORWIN: Our mission is, we travel coast to coast, from New England to California, from Alaska to New Mexico, and we're exploring the incredible wildlife that we all share in our national backyard, and the amazing conservation heroes that are fighting to save them.

One of his favorite experiences while filming the series so far was a recent trip to Alaska.

CORWIN: … where this Alutiiq Alaskan native community … were actually bringing bison back to the Alaskan prairie ecosystem. People don't realize that there were Alaskan bison, but 300 years ago, while there were 60 million bison, by the turn of the 19th into the 20th century there were only 300 surviving bison in the whole American West … this Alaskan native community are working with tribal communities of Native Americans in the lower 48 to move pure strain Yellowstone bison to Alaska to reintroduce this species. And that to me was an epic project.

He said working with native and tribal communities on conservation efforts has been a highlight of the show.

CORWIN: So we just came back from this incredible story on Fort Belknap where they're reintroducing Black-footed ferrets to the prairie. This is a species that became extinct and through incredible efforts, it has an opportunity for recovery after it was rediscovered, and it's been such a journey to get to this point. There's, I think, about 400 of them living in the wild, but that's a lot when you compare it to something that was once extinct. So we did this incredible project on this tribal community where we're vaccinating wild ferrets against plague, working with the ecosystem restoration projects.

He might possibly do an episode in Virginia.

CORWIN: We're looking at a project that's looking at Hellbenders, which are these really cool giant salamanders that live in cold mountain streams, and looking at projects about the recovery of Eastern Brook Trout and Chesapeake Bay conservation, so there's a lot of connections there.

His talk at Bridgewater will also include the challenges we face in protecting the planet and its inhabitants.

CORWIN: We live in very unprecedented times where we have consumed, in less than a hundred years, we've consumed nearly 70% of all our planet's nature. And that's collectively in species, habitat, and wildlife. So, what can we do in our own lives to make a difference, to ensure that these resources get to move forward to the next generation?

The lecture is free and open to the public. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and face masks are required indoors regardless of vaccination status.

Randi B. Hagi first joined the WMRA team in 2019 as a freelance reporter. Her writing and photography have been featured in The Harrisonburg Citizen, where she previously served as the assistant editor; as well as The Mennonite; Mennonite World Review; and Eastern Mennonite University's Crossroads magazine.