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Weekend Reading | July 2016 Edition

Welcome to the weekend and here’s another installment of weekend reading for you. It seems like every time I do this, the list of articles I want to include gets longer. What can I say? I like reading about natural history and current events surround nature. I hope you enjoy my curated list below.

Every May I (try to) go to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to visit old friends and a beautiful place. When it was under bombardment from a gaggle of morons this past winter my friend Dan Barton wrote three pieces about Malheur area, focusing on its personal significance and history. There’s three parts, read them in sequence and in one sitting. Much of the press about the area wasn’t from people very familiar with the location, this is very different and well done.

On that note, some people really want to get rid of public, federal land. They’re insane, greedy, and they have power. It’s scary as hell.

As we discuss federally held lands (ie OUR land), we should always keep in mind that we weren’t the first people here. This piece is worth a read, because horrible things have happened to make our federal lands (and not to cattle ranchers). While nothing new, it’s a good thing to consider in tandem with our celebration of the National Park Service centennial.

In Malaysia, they’ve created a new marine park, which presumably protects a million hectares of marine habitat. However, they’re still allowing commercial fish harvesting and there’s a lot unanswered in terms of real conservation efforts there. And along the lines of the piece above, I worry what it means for the people that have lived there traditionally. I never really got to see or meet the Bajau, or sea gypsies that live in this area of Sabah in Borneo, but I don’t know that tourism will help them. More than likely it will continue to marginalize their way of life. However some protection is probably better than none for our tropical seas, whose health the Bajau rely on.

While we worry about extinction, even tracking the extinction of birds we never really knew were there, an extremely rare bird was rediscovered; and found to be extremely rare.

It’s very difficult to cover all your bases in research. Many bird population studies don’t do a good job of looking at species across their seasonal gradients, most focus only on their breeding season. Two new studies, one looking at wintering birds, suggest that a third of all North America are in decline, and that without action they could face extinction. It’s scary to think I could witness the loss of so many species within my lifetime. (I was, however, proud to see a fellow I know quoted in the article).

I keep coming back to the notion that we need more general natural history study. What do we do with this? How do we fix it? We just don’t pay enough attention, especially to dragonflies.

As if in response to the outcry for more natural history studies, the National Science Foundation decided to not take away funding for natural history collections completely. They’re just taking some money away, you know, because studying dead animals doesn’t typically create billion dollar drugs.

We try to get rid of fat, which the weekends seem to bring more of. Birds need fat, and it seems that having excess fat when arriving on breeding grounds is beneficial and may be a tactic for success in songbirds.

As every new AOU supplement is passed lately, it seems I gain a life bird or two. This year is no different; I have now seen four species of scrub-jays. Do I get to count Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay even if it’s been a few years since I’ve seen one? I love this stuff, even if lumping and splitting can seem pedantic.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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