Becoming Wild

What Animal Cultures Can Teach Us

Carl Safina explores how animals raise families, create beauty, and achieve peace

On Thursday, October 13th, the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum will host Carl Safina, a MacArthur “genius” prize-wining ecologist, for an evening lecture on the cultural lives of animals.

Safina’s lecture will draw heavily from his years of field research and from his acclaimed 2020 book Becoming Wild: How Animal Cultures Raise Families, Create Beauty, and Achieve Peace (Picador). In that book, Safina explores how new research in the fields of animal intelligence and emotion transforms our understanding of animal behavior and inspires us to think about the dynamics of non-human cultures. “Culture,” Safina explains, “is information that flows socially and can be learned, retained, and shared.” Building on reports from his travels with leading wildlife and conservation biologists, his lecture will focus on three special species—sperm whales, scarlet macaws, and chimpanzees—with cultural habits that are as thought-provoking as they are remarkable.

As Safina guides us through these encounters with the inner- and social lives of animals, we might take several lessons from our non-human neighbors. In doing so, the hope is that we are compelled to become more considerate stewards of the natural world. Most importantly, we will be moved to ask, “who are our travelling companions in the journey of this planet—who are we here with?”

Becoming Wild was named a best book of the year by The New York Times, Kirkus Reviews, and Christian Science Monitor. It also won the 2021 Nautilus Book Award in the category of animals and nature.

The lecture will take place at 7:00pm in the Museum’s Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium. Tickets are available online at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum’s website.

Carl Safina’s work has been recognized with MacArthur, Pew, and Guggenheim Fellowships, and his writing has won Orion, Lannan, and National Academies literary awards and the John Burroughs, James Beard, and George Rabb medals. He has a Ph.D. in ecology from Rutgers University.

Safina is the inaugural holder of the endowed chair for nature and humanity at Stony Brook University, where he co-chairs the steering committee of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science and is the founding president of the not-for-profit Safina Center. He hosted the 10-part PBS series “Saving the Ocean.”

Address: 180 Little Neck Rd., Centerport, NY 11713

Date & Time: Thursday, October 13th (10/13/2022) at 7:00pm Website & Tickets:

Press Inquiries: Patrick Keefe, Director of Communications,