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IVORY-BILLS  LiVE???!  ...

=> THE blog devoted to news and commentary on the most iconic bird in American ornithology, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (IBWO)... and... sometimes other schtuff.
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"....The truth is out there."

-- Dr. Jerome Jackson, 2002 (... & Agent Fox Mulder)

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

-- Hamlet

"All truth passes through 3 stages: First it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident."

-- Arthur Schopenhauer






Tuesday, April 20, 2010

 

-- Geoff Hill Interview --

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Online interview with Auburn's Geoff Hill from Birder's World magazine here:

http://tinyurl.com/y84yfdl

Mostly covering his new volume for National Geographic on bird coloration (his academic specialty, and interesting stuff in its own right), but at the end they do review the Ivory-bill scene, including this:
"...the whole thing is going to change overnight as soon as we get a clear picture of these birds...
The thing is, if we’re wrong about this, it’s already being forgotten, it’ll fade away and be a footnote in history, but if we get a picture of one of these birds — definitive, you know, there’s no doubt — everybody’s going to have to rethink all of this certain skepticism.
Everyone who thought for sure it was extinct is going to wonder, How crazy is it that this bird could avoid detection all these decades? It’s going to be a really interesting thing. It’ll be humbling in a way because we’ll see that we don’t quite have dominion over nature like we thought. "
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Comments:
if
 
"It’ll be humbling in a way because we’ll see that we don’t quite have dominion over nature like we thought."

That sums up pretty precisely what defines an Ivory-bill skeptic: that we can know it all. Funny how they don't know what goes Double-Knock in the woods, though...
 
"It’ll be humbling in a way because we’ll see that we don’t quite have dominion over nature like we thought."

Wait, what?
How would another "rediscovery" show that "we" don't have dominion. Seems to me that the current mass extinction (that unfortunately included IBWO) is a clear sign that "we" have dominion over, but little respect for, nature.
Is he saying that because some species still exist we should be humbled since we haven't wiped them all out already? Just wait a few decades. We'll get them all.
 
I find the 'if' element perplexing.

Especially as these pages: http://www.auburn.edu/academic/science_math/cosam/departments/biology/faculty/webpages/hill/ivorybill/

and especially this one:
http://www.auburn.edu/academic/science_math/cosam/departments/biology/faculty/webpages/hill/ivorybill/Sightings.html
'documents' sightings and evidence and doesn't seem to be very 'if' at all, in fact the latter page matter of factly details the months of 'Ivorybill sightings'.

And now he says "If we were wrong"?

Second thoughts? But a brave comment nonetheless.
 
I should have specified the "if". I was thinking, in particular, of this one:
...but if we get a picture of one of these birds — definitive, you know, there’s no doubt — everybody’s going to have to rethink all of this certain skepticism.

Here's another notable quote:
I mean, these documentary film guys seem to get pictures of everything — snow leopards in Tibet and stuff. But there have been a few professional videographers who have gone after Ivory-bills and failed. So that means they can’t get everything.

Or it could mean there are no Ivory-billed Woodpeckers left to document. (Just a thought.) As he said, they are good at getting everything, even rare, nocturnal mammals in remote areas.

Interesting, too, that people mention how the Bermuda Petrel was undocumented for hundreds of years. True, it was "lost", however it is seen, and photographed, frequently now. I was on a pelagic trip a few years ago out of Hatteras, NC, and the captain had posted several excellent photos of that species (see here, several photos, 1996-2002). The few remaining birds range over millions of square miles of ocean, but they have been documented at sea several times by the same person. I think this shows how the availability of digital recording technology has changed the game. But I guess "definitive documentation is just around the corner" for the IBWO.
 
In fairness to Geoff, I'll just say that I assume this was a taped face-to-face or over-the-phone interview (speaking in a conversational style), and that in such settings people don't always use the most refined, precise wordings (as they might if writing and editing their answers). So I think some of this nitpicking over the words is a bit unnecessary, but whatever... (it's one reason a lot of scientists don't even like to talk to the press).
 
However you interpret the interview, he does concede that they could be wrong. This is the first time I've heard it in connection with his IBWO search and it is in stark contrast to the claims of definite IBWO sightings etc made in the past few years.

I don't think he deserves a hard time for this. As he says himself, it is quickly fading and will soon be forgotten.

With Hill's shifting ground and 'disappeared' birds, Cornell's 'lack of a recoverable population' and no subsequent sightings, and Collins being out of the game, where will the next 'hot zone' be and how long before it becomes tepid?
 
actually, spat, Dr. Hill has previously conceded (I think it may have been in another BW article), that there was the possibility they could be wrong, he just found it difficult to explain how they could be wrong (but also admitted he never thought getting a photo in his constrained area would be so difficult).
But this is nothing new; any scientist worth his salt, will admit they could be wrong about something. Feynman used to say that he didn't "KNOW" ANYthing; he simply had a preponderance of evidence for various things.
 
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