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Announcing the Winner of the McMath Woods P.A. Fall 2020 Scholarship

Published on Oct 23, 2020 at 2:40 pm in News.

We’re proud to continue the McMath Woods P.A.’s annual scholarship campaign aimed to help first-year undergraduate and graduate students. We were humbled by the amount of responses and applications we received. The quality of the essays was outstanding.

We’ve chosen a winner for Fall 2020!

Congratulations to Lora Haas of Georgia!

Lora will be attending Georgia State University, College of Law, and is interested in becoming an environmental lawyer.

This was the essay topic:

If you had the ability and means to create and produce a film about any topic (based off real events or fictitious), what story would you tell and why?

This was her winning essay:

This story begins millions of years ago when the dinosaurs still roamed the earth, Pangaea was the only continent, and humans were non-existent. This film will detail the rise of birds as well as their current status in a world that is increasingly subject to anthropogenic influence. Like many films, there will be triumphs. Over time and through evolution, birds have developed many phenomenal characteristics exclusive only to their taxon. The cinematographers on set will have the opportunity to capture intricate flight sequences and crisp shots of freshly molten plumage. These scenes will lend themselves to a film of epic cinematic proportions, comparable to any color-infused Wes Anderson movie. Unfortunately, the film is also a tragedy. As humans, we don’t fully appreciate birds for the dimension that they add to our lives. Not only do we take their songs, energetic movements, and brilliant colors for granted, but we also exploit their resources. Most importantly, the film will serve as a call to action. Birds are in peril as a result of human intervention; we must change our actions or we will lose them.

“In order to see birds, it is necessary to become a part of the silence.” — Robert Lynd

In many ways, the story of how birds came to be is a mystery. Even today, scientists are still debating the exact origin of the subject of my film. The process of evolution that dinosaurs underwent was one of the world’s greatest scientific mysteries but, over time, it was solved piece by piece (or, rather, fossil by fossil). While many scientists agreed that birds were closely related to dinosaurs, the exact evolutionary pathway was still vague. Gaps in knowledge related to the ancestors of modern birds were further complicated by “clues” that seem to contradict one another. The most conclusive evidence supporting the suspected lineage of birds came in the form of major paleontological discovery. A fossil named Archaeopteryx was found in a German swamp in the 1800’s, providing scientists with the missing link between dinosaurs and modern birds. It was almost as if they had stumbled upon the ornithologist’s answer to the Holy Grail, Rosetta Stone, or Fountain of Youth. A mysterious subplot in addition to an already fascinating storyline will certainly give the film an edge during the awards season.

“Everyone likes birds. What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird?” — David Attenborough

After their cretaceous counterparts were violently wiped out by a meteor, avian predecessors reigned over the prehistoric animal kingdom. They thrived during this period of biological development, outcompeting their mammalian contemporaries. After periods of natural selection and evolutionary change, the first true bird appeared on earth. These changes did not happen overnight; it was a gradual process, but certainly worth the wait. Birds boast an impressive amount behavioral and morphological diversity, much of which can be attributed their unique divergence patterns during this time. Perhaps the most novel development in avian evolutionary history is that of flight – no other group of animals does this is as well as our feathered friends. This advantage allowed birds to migrate thousands of miles around the globe and inhabit virtually every niche. Every person, regardless of where they live, is graced with the presence of birds. You will find them in densely populated, urban areas as well as a desolate woodland. For children, especially those who don’t have access to the outdoors, birds are their first introduction to the natural world. Birds are great equalizers, accessible to all of those who have a desire to interact with wildlife. This film will touch on a universal theme and resonate with those who look to nature for inspiration.

“A bird is three things: Feathers, flight and song, and feathers are the least of these.” — Marjorie Allen Seiffert

Historically, birds have been paragons in the field aviation because of their physical attributes. In fact, engineers studied their flight behaviors and anatomy in order to develop some of the first planes. The Peregrine Falcon is the fastest creature on earth, flying at speeds in excess of 240 MPH, and continues to inspire aircraft innovation. Another notable characteristic of birds is song. Some believe that humans may have learned how to sing after hearing birds communicate with one another. Their songs, trills, and calls have inspired musicians for centuries. Most notably, Beethoven used birdsong to compose his third symphony. In addition to the value that birds provide as specimens of flight and song, they are responsible for a myriad of ecological services. They are early indicators of environmental change, promotors of thriving vegetative communities, and an important source of recreational opportunities. Birds gave us reasons to look to the sky – they inspired us to learn how to fly, create art, and make steps towards creating a better world for future generations. These accomplishments warrant deeper examination, and a film will do exactly that.

“The other creatures with which we share this world have their rights too, but not speaking our language, they have no voice, no vote; it is our moral duty to take care of them.” — Roger Tory Peterson

Without birds, walks in the forest would be less colorful and uncomfortably quiet. In their simplest forms, birds have aesthetic, recreational, and sometimes spiritual value to those who take advantage of their benefits. There is no way to be certain of the exact role they play in our success or what combination of species in an ecosystem is necessary for our survival. This is precisely why we must do all that we can to protect them and bring awareness to their plight. A film will encourage understanding of what we do that contributes to a decline in the health of the world’s wildlife populations. It is my hope that this film will shift the currently held passive attitudes towards ones that inspire action. Unfortunately, a sequel to this film isn’t guaranteed. The success of these animals is contingent upon the health of our planet. If natural resources continue to be overextended and inappropriately managed, this story may end up as one of history’s greatest tragedies.


We’re pleased to announce that we’ll be continuing it for 2021 and beyond!

For more information on our next scholarship period which will be for Fall 2021, please see our law firm’s scholarship page. Congratulations again, Lora! May all your dreams come true.

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