Birds of a Feather

You may have caught a flying demonstration or spied a silhouette on a rooftop, but the relationship Pace shares with its birds of prey goes way beyond that.

The tradition of falconry dates back to 2,000 BC China, when birds of prey were used by humans for hunting purposes and  given as gifts to indicate wealth and nobility. Despite the sport’s ancient roots, the tradition is still very much alive on Pace’s Westchester Campus. Assistant Director of the Environmental Center and master falconer James Eyring can attest to the changing roles of raptors and how the sport of falconry has evolved in this modern era.

“Falconry is a hunting sport, a blood sport. Ideally, you would fly a wild bird of prey and catch wild game,” explains Eyring. “ If you think about it, in the Middle Ages there were no guns, so if you wanted to eat (certain types of) poultry, you’d need a bird of prey to get some, because catching ducks is very difficult.”

Eyring postulates that the sport originated accidentally—that someone caught a hawk and kept it as a pet instead of eating it and that most likely, through instinct alone, the hawk chased after a duck or pheasant, which led to humans adopting and modifying the natural behavior of the birds of prey.

Today, Eyring’s birds serve a variety of purposes—both at Pace and in the surrounding communities. Fitted with small radio telemetry devices that can aid Eyring in locating a bird who has flown the coop, the hawks are featured in flying demonstrations that have become a staple during Pace’s Earth Month celebration, as part of welcome events for incoming students, and as a part of Homecoming for members of the Pace Community who are returning to campus. Additionally, Eyring takes the show on the road, traveling to nearby communities to speak to young people about habitat and environmental issues.

“With the demonstrations we do, the birds serve as an equalizer. I could walk into a school in Darien, Connecticut, or into a school in the South Bronx and the kids will have the same reactions,” he explains. “I walk in with an owl on my glove and there’s this aha moment that the bird’s presence offers. It really jump-starts the learning.”

For Eyring, his own aha moment came to him when he was growing up in North Salem, New York. At the time, Eyring’s father was a dog trainer that used live pigeons and quail to aid in the dogs’ training. One day, near his father’s birdcages, Eyring spotted a raptor wearing leather jesses around its legs, which Eyring knew to mean that the bird “belonged” to a falconer—one that he was determined to find. Eventually, he did find the bird’s owner, falconer Paul Kupchok, who spent two years as Eyring’s  mentor and sponsor while he apprenticed  as a New York  State falconer

Eyring eventually found himself on Pace’s Westchester Campus and three decades later, he is the care taker for 70+ animals, including uromastyx lizards, chinchillas, and a 9’ long Burmese python named Thud; but it’s the birds that steal the show.

The collection includes Oscar, the affectionate, Furby-faced Barred owl; Ophelia, the squawky, Peregrine-Gyr hybrid falcon; Delta, the large Lanner falcon whose species is native to Africa; and the tiny kestrel, Phineas. In addition to his sporting birds, there are several other large birds of prey that call Pace home.

“Elvis is my favorite. He’s definitely the star,” says Eyring of a Gyr-Saker hybrid falcon. “We’ve had him since he was an eight-day-old eyeass, or baby falcon, and he’s the most reliable flyer.” Part of what makes Elvis and his feathered friends so successful is careful weight management on Eyring’s part. Each morning, he weighs each bird and records the data—a few mere grams in a bird’s weight can mean the difference between soaring skyward or sluggishly perching.

Though most of Pace’s raptors have made their way to Eyring for rehabilitation and release back into the wild, there are several birds that remain on campus due to their inability to fend for themselves and—despite Eyring’s best attempts—their diminished fear of humans.

“Some of the birds are used in the flying demonstrations, but Merle is my hunter,” he explains about a large Harris Hawk, native to the Southwestern U.S. and parts of South America. “Traditionally, the falconer and the bird would share the bird’s quarry. She’ll take ducks, pheasant, muskrats, rabbits, and squirrels; it’s pretty impressive.”

For more information about the birds of prey on Pace’s Westchester Campus, or to learn more about the Environmental Center, click here.

Pace Celebrates Earth Day All Month Long

Are you interested in being a little greener? The Pace Community is invited to celebrate Earth Month every day in April, here at Pace!

By Pace student Helen Arase ’14

Pace has always been a leader in environmental studies, so why not take advantage of learning and participating with some of the best? There will be at least 30 programs this month to excite and inspire you and your classmates to have a little more appreciation of what’s around us.

So, how did Earth day grow from one day to one month? Nine years ago, Angelo Spillo, director of the Environmental Center, started Earth Month, as a way for the Pace Community to extend Earth Day and learn to fully appreciate the environment. He says, “It’s very rewarding because now it has evolved into an interdisciplinary event that involves all components of Pace, including faculty, staff, and students from all of our schools and departments.”

All events are open to the Pace Community. So, what are a few of the events that you should definitely attend? There’s the Wild World of Animals that features 14 interesting animals—from scorpions to legless lizards—sponsored by N.A.T.U.R.E., Pace’s Environmental Club. Interested in photography? There will be an exhibition available for viewing April 18 to April 26. What about solar power? On April 19, the unveiling of the solar classroom provided by Con Edison is sure to be eye-opening. And who doesn’t want to see those marvelous birds of prey on the Pleasantville Campus?

“Who shouldn’t be interested in the environment? It is important to all of us; we only have one earth,” says James Eyring, Assistant Director of the Environmental Center, who is leading the Birds of Prey presentation, fitness trail hike, and various other events.

And after Earth Month is over, let’s take our newfound knowledge out into the world. Eyring hopes that we will take our passion for protecting the environment into the real world to inspire future generations to help out by teaching, creating policies, restructuring how corporations view nature, and living sustainably.

So why not come on down and participate? You can definitely learn something new, even if you attend only one event. Our earth is important to all of us and what we do to it affects everyone. Let’s all be clean, green, environmental machines!

Check out the list of Earth Month events below, or for a complete list of events, visit

An Environmentally Friendly Future
So much of what we do today ends in excessive waste. The implications are many including pollution, habitat destruction, species extinction, and the depletion of resources. In our complex world, where we are major consumers, we exist in a disposable society. Why not consider a change? Is it possible to simplify our lives? Join Professor Angelo Spillo on Monday, April 9 at 10:00 a.m. for a presentation on some simple lifestyle changes that can improve our lives and move us towards a more environmentally friendly future. RSVP to

Hydraulic Fracturing Forum
Join the Pace Community on Monday, April 9 from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the Student Union on the NYC Campus for a discussion on hydraulic fracturing: the facts, the myths, and the role of the university.

The Hudson River School
On Tuesday, April 10 at 10:00 a.m. come and see the beauty and splendor of the early American wilderness as painted by these artists to be a lasting icon of American identity. Professor Mark Cassata will give a PowerPoint presentation as he discusses the essence of their vision, and the changes in American values which eventually eclipsed the Hudson River School. For more information contact Angelo Spillo at or call at (914)773-3530.

Forum on Hydrofracking
On Tuesday, April 10 at 12:00 p.m. on the PLV Campus, Pace will host the  Forum on Hydrofracking, co-sponsored by the Peace and Justice Studies Advisory Board and Frances Delahanty’s, PhD, class in Introduction to Peace and Justice Studies. It will be a community gathering organized at Pace University to support our working together to intensify efforts to bring clean, safe, renewable energy to our state, and to save our NYS water and our environment from permanent damage. All are welcome! For more information contact Frances Delahanty at

Tree Planting Ceremony
As a part of Pace University’s Earth Month Celebration, ENV 140 students in partnership with the Alliance for Climate Education will host a tree planting ceremony on Monday, April 16 to promote awareness about deforestation and recycling issues. The ceremony will include a Native American ritual, a presentation on deforestation and recycling, and of course the planting of a tree. For questions contact Donte Kirby at or Angelo Spillo at

Flipping the Switch in the Solar Classroom
The Solar Classroom opens on Thursday, April 19 at 2:00 p.m. Con Edison has provided funding to enable the existing Environmental Center classroom to go solar. The single room building will have six solar panels installed on the roof and a battery system that will allow for the building mainly run on energy from the sun. On April 19 we will “flip the switch” and the classroom will become a working model of an alternative to fossil fuels. A brief ceremony will be followed by a presentation of how it all works. RSVP to Angelo Spillo at

Wild World of Animals
On Thursday, April 19 at 5:00 p.m. N.A.T.U.R.E, Pace’s environmental club, will sponsor Wild World of Animals. This group has appeared on national and local television shows such as David Letterman, FOX, Good Morning America, and Pittsburgh Today. The show includes about 14 different animals. Some that may be included are a scorpion, alligator, legless lizard, parrot, bearcat, skunk, opossum, fox, and a large cat to name a few. For questions contact Jessica Moitt at

Perspectives: Environmental

Andrew Revkin is a journalist and author who has been writing about the environment for more than 25 years. In addition to being the senior fellow at the Pace Academy for Applied Environmental Studies, he continues to write his “Dot Earth” blog for The New York Times opinion pages.

What are some of the environmental challenges the Japanese will be facing as they begin to rebuild?

Fears of radioactivity (even if levels end up far below background levels) are likely to have a profound effect for a very long time on everything from agriculture to property values in the northeast of Japan. That’s probably the biggest impact.

Will this disaster have global environmental implications?

The damage to the Fukushima nuclear complex has already greatly blunted prospects for expanded nuclear power generation using established reactor designs in developed countries and perhaps even in China, according to recent news reports. That is the main implication, given that nuclear power was increasingly seen by many experts, and more than a few environmental groups, as a necessity if greenhouse gas emissions are to be limited even as energy appetites rise.

How will this impact what you teach Pace students in the future?

It’s affected what I’m teaching them now. Just this week in the communication course I co-teach with Cara Cea for graduate environmental-science students, we spent a half hour exploring the challenges in communicating scientifically based views of health and environmental issues like radiation risk when fear and dramatic circumstances tend to distort how the press and public handle them. The students watched video of a CNN encounter over radiation risk in the United States between Bernie Rayno, a meteorologist, and Nancy Grace, a lawyer in the anchor chair. Then I had Rayno speak with the class via Skype. It was an eye-opening session!

What do you think is the greatest impact on the United States and the world?

The biggest impact should surely be a prompt examination of preparedness for earthquakes and tsunamis in regions facing similar, if not worse, risk—including the Pacific Northwest, as I’ve repeatedly written. I don’t anticipate a lot of concrete action, though. It seems countries need direct experience with such catastrophes to shift practices. I wish that weren’t so, and this is one reason I’m at Pace to work on boosting students’ “environmental understanding.”

What methods of support, aside from financial, can we lend to Japan?

Japan really doesn’t need our help nearly as much as other countries in poor regions afflicted by disasters—or facing impending ones. Padang, a city of half a million in Indonesia, could easily see nearly half its population die in the inevitable tsunami that is coming there, almost certainly in the next few decades. This post on the “seismic divide” around the world includes sobering details on Padang from Brian Tucker. I encourage readers to have a look.

How far reaching are the effects of this disaster and how might this change Japan’s environmental strategies going forward?

As I said before, the two big issues revealed here are: the deep potential vulnerability of some of the aging fleet of nuclear plants around the world (a different issue than the overall issue of supplying energy with nuclear power in years to come) and the reinforced picture of a world that needs to seriously act to limit losses—both human and economic—from inevitable disasters.

The Indian Point Energy Center is located just 38 miles north of New York City. In addition to being close to the Pace campuses, the Ramapo Fault line is a mere mile from the facilities. If a situation similar to Japan’s were to occur here, how might our experience differ from Japan’s?

I’m in the process of finding out, although there’s no geological evidence at all here of the potential for an earthquake anywhere near the size of the 9.0 shock off the coast of Japan. I’ll be visiting Indian Point within a week. The big issue, to my mind, is not one of engineering, but attitudes. Whether in the BP disaster, the loss of two space shuttles, or the failures at the Fukushima complex, it seems we still have a big challenge in sustaining a culture of vigilance and proactive risk reduction. In a recent post, I included a link to my long 1995 article on efforts to shift the culture at Indian Point. I’ll let you know what I find out.

What are your thoughts? We want to hear from you, so be sure to comment in the box below.

Working Toward Greenness

Earth Month brings a variety of interesting and informative activities to the Pace campuses. Read on to learn how you can do your part this April.

April showers bring May flowers… or so we hear. To find out what else April has to offer the Pace Community, check out our numerous events celebrating Earth Month. Join us for a month dedicated to raising environmental awareness on and off campus. Here are just a few highlights:

Birds of Prey Presentation Wednesday, April 27, 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. in PLV.
Join James Eyring, for an unforgettable evening with hawks, owls, and falcons. Learn about the role these predators serve in the natural community and the Environmental Center’s work with birds of prey. Be prepared as several of these raptors zoom past you in free flight!

Breakfast with the Birds Wednesday, April 27, 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.
Pace University and Rockefeller State Park Preserve invite you to enjoy coffee and bagels before heading out on the carriage roads of the Preserve to see what birds are active in the woodlands, fields, and wetlands. So bring your binoculars and a field guide to birds for a fun morning of birding. The Preserve is located only three miles from Pace, and directions will be provided. Please pre-register by sending an email to

Get Fit With a Nature Walk Thursday, April 28, 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Get outside and get some exercise while enjoying the natural beauty on campus. Hiking boots or sneakers, long pants, sunscreen and drinking water are recommended. Refreshments will be provided at the end of the walk.

Remember folks, there are plenty of other events taking place throughout the month as well, so click here to learn more.

In addition to Earth Month, Pace has a number of sustainability initiatives in progress year-round. To learn more, visit: