written and directed by Christine Nielsen

World Broadcast Premiere
CBC TV and CBC GEM, The Nature of Things
November 12
9:00 PM ET


You’d expect a sharp decline in human activity to have an environmental upside. But scientists studying the effects of our absence have been surprised at how quickly and dramatically animals reacted.

As seen in Christine Nielsen
’s ambitious and provocative documentary Nature’s Big Year, lockdown helped turtles nest more successfully on Juno Beach, Florida. When humans changed their habits, wolves and their prey shifted theirs. Sea lions basked on the streets in an Argentinian port, and wild goats romped through the streets of a Welsh seaside town.


Even the birds were talking louder and prouder. Chris Watson, David Attenborough’s frequent nature-sound recordist, noticed that the blackbirds on his property were, “singing more vigorously,” without human noise. His observations are bolstered by animal acoustician Miya Warrington, who analyzed the avian “conversation” on Watson’s property, comparing it with pre-pandemic levels.

An unprecedented study at the University of Manitoba revealed that many species of birds were attracted to communities with stronger lockdowns and a team from Laval University found that lockdown led to a fitter, fatter flock of migrating snow geese in 2020.


One of the film’s most surprising revelations – atmospheric scientists were shocked to discover that those beautiful blue skies during lockdown were hiding a deadly secret. Ground level ozone, a harmful invisible gas – accelerated as other pollutants dropped off.

Nature’s Big Year
follows the scientists through the pandemic, as they discover the effects of the biggest controlled experiment of our time.  “It demonstrates the tremendous impact humans have on the world,” says writer/director Christine Nielsen. “It’s also a wake-up call. It proves that nature can rebound and we can shift our behavior when we absolutely must.”


Written and directed by Christine Nielsen, Nature’s Big Year was filmed in 11 locations under challenging pandemic conditions, from the Canadian wilderness to urban America and the backyards of Britain.

The producers are Nielsen and Diana Warmé.

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