[CT Birds] From Recent Science Journals

ls.broker ls.broker at cox.net
Fri Jan 9 14:25:43 EST 2009

 From Steve Broker (Cheshire):

(1) The 1 January 2009 issue of the journal Nature has an editorial  
on the National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count [457(7225):   
8].  The editorial says, in part:
"The 5th of January marks the completion of the 109th Christmas bird  
count, a yearly rite in which groups of North American bird-lovers  
pick a day around the winter solstice, fan out in teams to their  
designated areas, and count every bird that they can see.

"Held every year since 1900, when the National Audubon Society  
proposed it as an alternative to the then-popular Yuletide activity  
of competitively shooting birds, the count is the longest-running  
volunteer science project in the world.  Its data have informed reams  
of peer-reviewed work, such as an ongoing effort by Audubon  
researchers to predict how birds will adjust their ranges in response  
to climate change.

"Volunteer science is a win-win situation for all concerned.   
Scientists get to take on projects that would not be feasible for  
even the largest research group, while helping to increase the  
public's understanding of, and support for, science.  And the  
volunteers get to have fun, while experiencing the satisfaction of  
defending the environment, fighting disease [a reference to other  
volunteer science efforts] or expanding human knowledge.

"In the Christmas bird count, the most skilled bird spotters and  
identifiers are inevitably the non-scientists; professional  
ornithologists spend too much time doing paperwork."  [Our  
professional ornithologists in Connecticut have long since taken the  
editorial's advice that "while they are at it, perhaps they should  
also consider joining one or more citizen science projects themselves."]

(2) The 19 December 2008 issue of the journal Science has a  
Perspectives article by Rick Prum, "Who's Your Daddy?  
(Evolution)" [322(5909):  1799-1800].  Rick's Perspectives article  
comments on the report by Varricchio, et al. in the same issue:   
"Avian paternal care had dinosaur origin" (pages 1826-1828).  "Who's  
Your Daddy?" discusses parental care in theropod dinosaurs (including  
male-only nest care).  It concludes, "Scientists are now identifying  
the dinosaurian origins of many of the formerly unique features of  
birds.  Are there limits to ornithological revelations that the  
theropod origin of birds will yield?  It seems not.  Focused research  
and lucky paleontological discoveries may someday uncover the  
theropod origin of bird song, avian respiration, and more."

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