Brian Farrell has been obsessed with peregrine falcons since he was a boy. In 1978, as a University of Vermont undergrad, he spent a summer on Owl’s Head in New Hampshire, raising and releasing five peregrine chicks hatched by Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology.On Tuesday, 37 years later, he was on hand as Massachusetts wildlife biologists took a similarly important step in their reintroduction — this time on Harvard’s campus.“They’re the fastest creatures that ever lived, and range all over the world,” said Farrell, a professor of organismic and evolutionary biology, curator in the Museum of Comparative Zoology, and director of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies. “They’re masters. You can see they own the air. Other birds fly, but they seem to know they’re kings.”Farrell, accompanied by Jeremiah Trimble, a curatorial associate in ornithology at the museum and building manager Raymond Traietti, was at Memorial Hall on Tuesday when Thomas French, assistant director of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, and state wildlife biologist David Paulson installed a nest box high on the building’s tower in hopes that a nesting pair will one day make it their home.The falcons, which can dive at speeds greater than 200 mph, are on the rebound after their numbers plummeted decades ago due to widespread use of the pesticide DDT. The state still lists them as threatened.The last time peregrine falcons nested successfully at Harvard was in 1955, Farrell said. A clutch of falcon eggs discovered by Traietti last year at Memorial Hall failed, probably due to weather. The addition of a nest box with gravel should help to attract the birds next spring — this year’s nesting season is too advanced — and also increase the chances of healthy fledglings, French said.“This is an investment for next year or the year after that.”Tom French (top) and David Paulson are pictured on the Memorial Hall tower hoisting tools to help place the nesting box in place for future falcons. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff PhotographerNest boxes are important, Farrell said, because in nature falcon nests are built on cliffs, where the birds scratch out a hollow in dirt or gravel. Buildings are sufficiently cliff-like in their vantage point, but eggs laid on bare concrete or other roofing material tend to roll around and are hard for the parents to keep warm.Though Harvard Square is already home to red-tailed hawks, a conflict with peregrines is unlikely, Farrell said. The hawks feed mainly on squirrels, while the falcons ambush other birds in flight, stunning them at high speed before grabbing them as they fall through the air.French said the Boston region is the densest nesting area for the falcons north of New York City. Statewide, there are close to 30 nests, and the population is increasing rapidly.Welcoming the falcons to campus would be cause for celebration, said Farrell, and not just for biology students who wouldn’t have to leave home to study one of the world’s most fascinating predators.“It shows that a symbol of the wildest America — the peregrine falcon — which was extinct in the East, is able to nest here on campus, an urban site. I think it’s inevitable. They’ll be back.”
Tyler Langdon, a 2008 Notre Dame graduate, hopes that winning a 2010 Yahoo Hollywood Movie Award will jumpstart his acting career. Langdon is currently one of 10 nominees for Yahoo’s Hollywood Discover Award, in which aspiring actors submit monologues for voters to view and vote on the Hollywood Movie Award website. “The award is for up-and-coming talent in Hollywood,” Langdon said. A resident of Dillon Hall while at Notre Dame, Langdon studied business and thought his performing career was over. “I did a lot of acting before I came to Notre Dame.” Langdon said, “I absolutely loved speech, but as fun as it was, I had to be practical, so I went to business school.” However, Langdon couldn’t shake the acting bug. After graduation, he moved to California to attend a management program through Hillstone Restaurant Group. “All the servers and cooks in the restaurant were actors and they were always talking about auditions and roles they had,” Langdon said. “Everything I had done before rushed back.” Langdon decided to pursue his dream and quit his restaurant job after two months to begin auditioning for acting roles. “It takes a very long time to make it in this industry,” he said. “Most actors you recognize have been doing this for seven or eight years.” Even though his career has not followed a traditional path, Langdon said his parents support his decision to try and make it in the acting business. “My parents always support whatever I do that makes me happy as long as it brings respect to myself and my family,” Langdon said. “They just don’t want me to compromise myself for Hollywood.” His film credits include roles in “Pushing Daisies” and “The Pacific,” according to his website. He also hosted two different shows about Thai food. Langdon eventually hopes to act on a sitcom and work in both comedic and dramatic films. “I love the comedy on ‘The Office’ and ‘30 Rock,’ with more subtle humor and good writing and natural actors,” he said. Langdon recently landed a role for an upcoming movie about a man suffering from social anxiety disorder and his relationship with a female friend who studies his disorder for her graduate work. “He’s just a really dynamic character,” Langdon said. The transition from acting on stage and for speech competitions was different and a challenge for Langdon. “The speech and debate gave me confidence, but it’s just so big,” Langdon said, “Acting teachers kept telling me to relax my face and think and play my emotions.” Langdon hopes that someday he could work with Leonardo DiCaprio, his favorite actor. “He’s a fantastic actor and has had some amazing roles,” Langdon said. While still in the restaurant business, DiCaprio came into the restaurant Langdon managed and the servers sent him out on the floor acting like a bus boy so he could see him. “I was nervous just cleaning the table next to him,” Langdon said. Online voting for the Yahoo Hollywood Movie Awards started on Oct. 5 and closes Thursday.