Illustration for article titled Fly Away, Ryan

Illustration: Chelsea Beck (Gizmodo)

Editing Ryan has been one of the best experiences in my career as an editor. They can write about physics like no one else and have helped me understand concepts I never thought I could get my mind around, from dark matter to quantum computers to weather (actually, I still don’t understand weather). Perhaps even more importantly, they have taught me to love and appreciate birds, something that enriches my daily life more than I could have imagined. Ryan’s sense of fun and interest in the universe, from the smallest scales to biggest, is so inspiring. I will miss them terribly. Also, Ryan files stories with excellent typos. Gimzodo and scientits are two of my favorites. I am fully confident they will find a way to misspell IBM at their new job. Thank you for everything, Ryan! Rose Pastore, Science Editor of Gizmodo


Andrew Couts, Interim Editor-in-Chief of Gizmodo

Ryan is a very smart person—I’m not saying they aren’t. But whatever it is that makes them able to explain complex physics, quantum computing, or baffling math appears to have whittled away at their ability to write out numbers in any coherent, consistent, logical way. Behind Ryan’s back, their editor Rose has for years shared examples Ryan’s number-writing quirk with me. All the real examples have since been lost in some mysterious Slack purge that happened months ago, but they were all something like “1 million and 3” or “the year 2 thousand and seven” or “30 four birds”—just truly strange shit that makes you wonder what on earth Ryan was thinking when they wrote that. Why is someone so adept at writing about, say, dark matter theory fundamentally incapable of writing a simple number like any other over-educated human being? Like so many of the scientific mysteries Ryan has covered during their illustrious tenure at Gizmodo, this one will likely remain unsolved. Ryan, I hope your new corporate overlords are as forgiving as Rose.


Alex Cranz, Senior Consumer Tech Editor at Gizmodo

One time I loaned Ryan my torch for cooking and they never returned it, but the creme brulee they posted on Instagram looked really good.

Raju Narisetti, former CEO of Gizmodo Media Group

Ryan was among the first of many newsroom hires we made in the first year of Gizmodo Media Group. They had a whole bunch of quirky ideas during their chat with me and quickly delivered on several of them. Out of an innocuous AMA dare on Slack, we ended up heading to Union Square a few (three?) times for frozen yogurt in what were typical Ryan chats—an eclectic mix of their passionate ideas about science and the crazy cast of characters they would chase down for stories only Ryan and Gizmodo could tell so well. I look forward to more in their next professional adventure.


Kelly Bourdet, Former Editor-in-Chief of Gizmodo

Reporters like Ryan are a gift to editors. When someone is that smart, ambitious, and passionate, it’s best to let them follow their strange hearts. The most interesting stories are born that way. Ryan is one of the most talented quantum computing reporters working today; they’re also one of the most interesting bird reporters around. Ryan covered the quantum computing beat, filled with harrowingly complex mathematics and physics, in a way that lay people could truly grasp. They didn’t flaunt their expert knowledge through jargony, academic technical speak. Writing in a way that regular folks could understand and then share in their quantum fascination was the whole point. I once proudly texted Ryan a photo of a nice bird. They kindly, perhaps indulging me, responded to my picture of a robin (a very, very common bird) with excitement and admiration. It is a testament to Ryan that they follow their interests so fully and that they sincerely encourage others to explore them as well. Whatever the opposite of a shitty gatekeeper is, Ryan is that. Fly free, friend.


Jill Pantozzi, Deputy Editor of io9

Has there been enough bird mentions in this post yet? Ryan would drop by to blog on io9 once in a while and my favorite had to be when they tried to “birdwatch” Netflix’s Tuca & Bertie for us. Underrated show and blog, to be honest. We’ll miss you Ryan, despite the dead bird in the office freezer thing.


Joyce Tang, former Executive Managing Editor, GMG

I’m sure I won’t be the only person recalling the time Ryan brought a dead bird to the office and decided to store it (temporarily?) in the office freezer. Where people store stuff like their lunches? I think the plan was to keep the bird corpse safe and then transport it to a place where it could be disposed of humanely? Used for science? To just freak the hell out of the office??? The earnest commitment to birds and being a bird nerd is endearing and next-level admirable and it’s only fitting that Ryan is leaving Gizmodo to now become a bird. Fly away, little bird.


Charles Pulliam-Moore, Staff Writer at io9

Ca-caw. Bye.

George Dvorsky, Senior Science Reporter at Gizmodo

Ryan, I’m so delighted for you, and I wish you nothing but the best as you embark upon the next stage in your journey. But wow am I ever bummed out by your departure. The Gizmodo science desk will not be the same without you. Working with you has been an absolute joy, and I know for a fact that you’ve made me a better science reporter and writer. For that I’ll always be grateful. Your enthusiasm and passion for all things science—whether birds, quantum computers, or black holes—is infectious, and I now find myself looking at the world through a different lens. I will relish any opportunity we might have to work together again, and I look toward to reading your occasional science post at Gizmodo. Onward!


Hudson “Knifedog” Hongo, Culture Editor at Gizmodo

When I first moved to New York, Gizmodo’s entire 20-ish-person team worked out of a pod the size of a guest bedroom. One of those people was Ryan, who quickly gained top-tier coworker status by a) coming into work every day wearing an outfit almost identical to my own and b) never asking me to edit anything. In time, I would learn to appreciate ryan even more, enjoying their unique perspective on everything from smokeless tobacco (cool) to bugs (food).


I would also come to respect them far less after editing their unbelievably JACKED UP copy. Once I got past all the typos, though, I was able to admire what an incredibly clear and (more importantly) fast writer Ryan was. The best thing about Ryan, though, is their commitment to living like a human being in a world that constantly tries to stop us from doing that. At Gizmodo, they would practice this from the first thing in the morning, which they would waste chatting with me about nothing, to the end of the day, when they would leave work an hour early. The world would be a better place if more of us followed Ryan’s example. NOO YAWK, BAYBEE!

Eleanor Fye, Video Producer at Gizmodo & io9

Watching Ryan transform into a Bird Person reminded me that no one ever truly is in control of the darkness lurking deep within. The birds will come for all of us, in time. Good science reporter. Most science reporting is extremely bad. Ryan’s science reporting is very good.


Jennings Brown, former Gizmodo Reporter

What I miss most about working with Ryan—more than their bug snacks, alter ego, horrifying blogs, and incredible style—is their infectious enthusiasm for the wonders of the natural world. Ryan has an uncanny ability to inspire friends and readers to log off, slow down, and appreciate the world around them (but not in, like, a hygge kind of way). Thanks to Ryan and their Birdmodo coverage, my walks around the block have turned into mini birding tours. Thanks to their excellent and bonkers space writing, I look at the cosmos entirely differently. Sometimes when I realize I’m spending too much of my life staring at a screen and getting angry, I pull up on that screen Ryan’s blog You Should Look at the Moon. And then I go outside.


Yessenia Funes, Senior Writer at Earther

Ryan! Your face was one of the first I’d see when I’d get to work. Few are brave enough to be in office by 8 a.m. You and me, though? We don’t play. Not gonna lie: It took me a while to warm up to you. You’re pretty strange. Especially your love for birds. I don’t really like birds, but I’ve grown to appreciate them more thanks to you. I still think you’re pretty strange—ha!—but, man, I do love strange. Your make-up and accessory game was always on point even if your food experiments were not.


I’ll miss the shit out of you, your random bird facts, and your occasional Earther bylines. Birdmodo Forever.

Dharna Noor, Staff Writer at Earther

Ryan, I hereby pledge to pitch 50% more bird blogs to honor your legacy.

Chris Person, Senior Video Producer

This mfer’s always lookin at birds lol.

Marina Galperina, Features Editor at Gizmodo

In a way similar to psilocybin, my worldview has been uniquely opened up by working with Ryan on their physics features. They’ve stretched my mind to the far edges where science begins to break apart, tethered to what we understand as reality by tiny but strong strands of materials and experiments. They’ve taught me just how much and how little we know about our universe. They are truly a delightful person, so much so, I fully forgive them for Freezergate.


Tom McKay, Staff Writer at Gizmodo

Ryan, I will never forget the look of pure horror on your face when I told you about that parrot that tried to find its way into my cat-filled apartment.


I hope responding law enforcement exercises restraint when your new colleagues at the tiny computer factory inevitably discover rare songbirds in the break room freezer.

Sam Rutherford, Senior Reporter at Gizmodo

Even though Ryan is a self-proclaimed bird watcher (or is it birder or birdist? I never know.), I have obtained secret documents proving Ryan actually hates all animals, including humans.


Illustration for article titled Fly Away, Ryan

And when you combine that with the fact that Ryan is leaving us for IBM, it’s clear Ryan has been working undercover for our secret robot overlords all along. I think the real motivation behind Ryan’s birdwatching is to study them so they can create robotic bodies for AI bird brains and en route to becoming robo-bird Emperor, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Ryan was the original person responsible for starting the theory about birds not being real.


Brian Kahn, Managing Editor of Earther

Ryan once found a dead bird coming to work, bagged it, and left in the office freezer. It was for good cause (science, of course), but nevertheless sparked the last great meltdown in our office Slack channel shortly before said office closed due to the pandemic. Thank you for that, Ryan.


Maddie Stone, Former Managing Editor of Earther

Early on in our editor-reporter relationship, Ryan messaged me over Slack one day to say that they “blew it.” Just those two words. Immediately, panic started to swell in my chest. How badly had we botched a story? Were we about to put a very embarrassing BOLD CAPS correction at the top? Had we burned a source forever—were we going to need a lawyer?


My reply of “????” prompted Ryan to clarify that a scientist quoted in a recent blog was wondering if we could use a different university affiliation when we named him.

This was quintessential Ryan, and it’s why they were such an editor’s dream: Their facts were always perfect, except on the rare occasion that they weren’t, in which case they owned up to their mistakes readily and with alarming gusto. Once you realized that Ryan’s idea of ‘blowing it’ was the journalism equivalent of getting called out for jaywalking, these vaguely ominous Slack messages were no longer a blood pressure accelerator—just another part of working with Ryan. Ryan’s commitment to accuracy also made editing their blogs on particle physics and quantum mysteries far less intimidating because you knew that 1) even if you hadn’t the vaguest clue what Ryan was talking about, they did, and 2) if, in your attempt to simplify Ryan’s PhD-level explanation to conform with your baby clown-level understanding of the universe, you wound up butchering it, Ryan would be sure to let you know kindly. This was supposed to be a roast, but I fear I’m just owning myself now.


Despite the fact that Ryan was clearly the smartest person in the room, they also wrote blogs with ledes like “The ocean is full of mystery. It is also full of penises,” and produced essential service journalism on how Uranus smells like farts. Thanks for never intentionally making me feel like a dimwit, Ryan, and thanks for helping Gizmodo’s science section earn its reputation as the “rudest science website on the internet.” And, of course, thanks for the birds.

Beth Elderkin, Editor (Video) and Staff Writer at io9

I’ll always remember the time Ryan and I ran into each other at a Homestar Runner burlesque show. That’s when I knew I’d met a kindred spirit—at least someone who likes weird old web cartoons as much as I do. Fly free, young birb.


Ed Cara, Science Reporter at Gizmodo

My fondest memories of Ryan are as follows:

  • Wiping away Ryan’s crumb-rusted laptop as they once again left their interview notes in their work laptop so I could email them back. Several times a year.
  • Placing not-first in the nerdiest trivia contest I’ve ever had to participate in: science journalist trivia.
  • Seeing bird-related content slowly seep from their mind into the deepest crevices of Gizmodo, and eventually, Edmodo.
  • Getting those sweet cream-filled fish pastries they brought into the office every blue moon.
  • Ryan getting mad at every new moon-related event that some company or the weather channel made up.


Alas, none of those memories will live up to seeing their consistently great reporting up close and personal five days a week. Here’s to Birdmodo, may it ever live on!

Matt Novak, Editor of Paleofuture

Aside from being a kickass writer who wrote some of the most fascinating articles to appear on Gizmodo, Ryan developed what I believe was the smartest strategy to deal with our current dystopia. Rather than watch the news 24/7 helplessly, they decided to take up birding, a hobby that, as I understand it, is like a video game where you identify birds, but you do it in real life. I’m a little hazy on the details, but I’m very happy for them. Ryan, I hope you find fulfillment in your new job, but most importantly, I hope you spot a lyrebird one day.


Bryan Menegus, Senior Writer at Gizmodo

“What a weirdo,” was my first impression of Ryan, when we first met at what I think was the last ever Gawker holiday party. This turned out to be an accurate assessment. They fit right in on our little isle of misfit toys and helped build the science desk into what it is today: a scrappy, talented team that punches way above its weight. During that first conversation, Ryan—who definitely name-dropped working a CERN—also came across as the sort of person who was probably too smart to be blogging for a living. Now, the inevitable has come to pass, and we’ll be the worse for it. Why they’re quitting in the middle of a pandemic and devoting themselves to (and I’m quoting here) “the complete annihilation of all birds and bird-adjacent species” is puzzling, but like all things I’m sure Ryan will succeed with flair and grace.


Here’s to clear skies forever buddy.

Jody Serrano, Gizmodo Weekend Editor

Dearest Ryan, most of what I know about birds I learned from your articles and your Twitter! Also, I’m sure I’m not the first person to write that. Probably number infinity. Your passion for writing about the things you love has always been inspiring and a joy to read. Thank you for sharing that with us. In addition, thank you for always being kind. I’m sad we didn’t get to say hi in Madrid because of corona, but I’m hopeful that perhaps another time! I wish you the best of luck and hope your new adventure brings you lots of happiness, and, of course, lots of birds.


Shoshana Wodinsky, Staff Reporter at Gizmodo

The worst part of Ryan peacing out on us is the fact that there’s still so many questions their (very good) blogs left unanswered. Is their TV haunted? Is this bird kinda weird or just really horny? What about this one? Why are we fucking with eggs when we all know they’re a delicious breakfast food on their own? And perhaps the biggest mystery of all, who will maintain Birdmodo?


It’s kind of funny that the journalist who made a name for themselves illuminating the weird, dark, and unknowable corners of our universe (and beyond)—and doing it better than anyone else in the business—is also the one that leaves us wondering if the Donnie Darko rabbit is skulking around their apartment. Someone should get to the bottom of that.

Anyway this is just a long winded way of wishing Ryan the best of luck at Audobon dot com.


Victoria Song, Consumer Tech Reporter at Gizmodo

I never got to work with Ryan directly, but I knew who they were before I ever joined the Giz team. Mainly, via the bagel blog. Not going to lie, the bagel blog was one of the big reasons I agreed to come work at Giz, so thanks Ryan.


I’m sure they’ll do an amazing job at IBM doing quantum blah blah stuff. But I’m mostly sad that G/O Media is losing the type of intrepid reporter who will nonchalantly announce to a companywide Slack that they put a dead bird in the company freezer. Honestly, a Top 10 G/O Media moment that I will cherish until I too, am a dead bird in a freezer. Birdmodo forever.

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