Dr. Douglas Causey, doing some field research. (courtesy npr.org)

Douglas Causey [above] is a professor of biological sciences at the University of Alaska at Anchorage. Causey’s area of interest: how seabirds are adapting to global warming. He does his research with two tools not often seen in the hallowed halls of academe: a hunting license and a shotgun. NPR has the story . . .

On a rare sunny morning in the northern Pacific Ocean, biologist Douglas Causey takes to the sea to conduct his research — binoculars in one hand, and a shotgun in the other.

As he bounces around in his boat, Causey, a researcher at the University of Alaska, has got an eye out for the little dots on the water in the distance: seabirds. They spend 80 percent of their lives on the open ocean, which makes them especially sensitive to changes in the environment. By the time they fly back to their nests at the western tip of the Aleutian Islands off Alaska, Causey is dying to know what those birds have been up to.

When he spots a pelagic cormorant, he lifts his gun and takes aim. Two shots ring out, the bird falls from the sky and Causey moves in to collect the body.

Most scientists don’t kill their samples, but Causey, who has a permit, says it’s necessary for his team to find out how seabirds are adapting to global warming. They’re at the top of the food chain — so any changes in the environment will show up in their diet. Different parts of the bird contain atomic signatures of what it ate and when, a bit like a food diary.

By looking at the bird’s blood cells, he says can actually tell what it was eating a few weeks back. Beyond that, researchers can see how much herring this bird ate, as opposed to crab or shrimp. That can indicate what’s actually available in the ocean — and how it’s changing as the ocean warms.

After Causey shot down the birds and vivisected them, he found that diets for seabirds are apparently shifting;the critters tend to be ingesting more plastic lately. What does this mean concerning climate change? Heck if I know – I could barely keep my head above water in the introductory Biology course at Dear Old State, and climate predictions seem to me to be so much witchcraft.

But it is good to see a researcher who is willing to head out with a shotgun to do his work, regardless of the prevailing winds of political correctness in the academy. Given the deranged reaction to that hunter who bagged some lion while on a hunting trip in Zimbabwe, and the cretinous levels of ideological puritanism that prevails in the academy (which even some ideological leftists are finding hard to excuse,) I hope this doesn’t end badly for him.

DISCLAIMER: The above is an opinion piece; it is not legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship in any sense. If you need legal advice in any matter, you are strongly urged to hire and consult your own counsel. This post is entirely my own, and does not represent the positions, opinions, or strategies of my firm or clients.

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36 Responses to Alaskan Biologists: They Shoot Seagulls Don’t They?

    • We’re wondering how seagulls are adapting to “global warming”? WHAT “global warming”? How they are adapting to rising temperatures, I could understand, except there aren’t any rising temperatures. How they are adapting to looney-tunes PREDICTIONS of rising temperatures? Who informed them, so that they could begin to adapt? Most of all, who is FUNDING this “research”.

      • Michael Crichton said it nicely in State of Fear; btw great book.(I’m paraphrasing) If you want to study for example seagulls nesting, call it “How is global warming affecting family life of seagulls” and just watch the grant money flow in.

  1. What does it have to do with global warming? I have two responses to that: 1. If there are changes happening, whether a natural cycle or anthropogenic, they should, and will be monitored to see how they affect habitats and food availability. 2. There isn’t much question that there is a LOT of garbage out there in the Pacific. A recent privately funded study found tons of the stuff. Large pieces are being found inside of many marine animals and in the guts of seabirds that are dissected or simply found dead on islands. Apparently mechanical, solar and chemical action break the stuff down into increasingly smaller pieces, which means it will be harder to clean up, and easier for it to inflitrate the food chain. I’m really glad that there are some cleanup projects that are moving ahead – they’re privately funded, as well.

    • There’s a huge wad of garbage afloat in the Pacific that was washed out from the tsunami of March 2011 in Japan. Satellite images showed a debris field the size of Texas floating out to sea…

      • Yup… I would say that tsunami debris accounts for a lot of it. But it has a lot to do with winds picking up lightweight plastic from land-based trash dumps and boats that illegally dump their waste. A lot of discarded fishing line and fishing nets are mixed in, too – but in fairness at least some of those were severed and set adrift by passing ships or simply by wear-and-tear.

      • I’m not saying it’s not out there, but something that size should be able to be seen using Google Maps, and therefore pics and coordinates all over the interwebs. So until I see pics(evidence) I’m going to question the claim, much like claims that Russia is invading Ukraine.

      • The increase in ocean plastic has nothing to do with anthropocentric ‘climate change’.

        It has everything to do with the plastic’s specific density.

        The plastic has a lower specific density than the water it floats in.

        Why is it lighter then?

        Simple. The lighter the plastic, the cheaper it is to ship to the companies that use it.

        BTW- Folks on the west coast are cautioned if they come across any tennis shoes they may well find a skeletal foot in it.

        15,000 Japanese were washed out to sea during their tsunami and never seen again, and tennis shoes tend to float…

        Happy beachcombing. 🙂

  2. How you can conflate a legitimate scientist conducting legal research with a poacher stroking his ego is mind boggling.

    • Define “legitimate scientist.”

      When I see some science PhD employed at a university performing some study only tangentially connected with “global warming” or “climate change” these days, I’m increasingly suspicious that they’re just milking the system by trying to ride the fashionable and trendy cause of the day.

      And there can be no doubt that “climate change” is the highly fashionable cause in academic circles today. It has moved beyond statistical correlation computer-modeling-posing-as-science to a new-age religion.

      • Had a rolling argument (a fun one, not a stupid one) with one of my old friends about this a few weeks ago, and this was exactly my point. Global warming is more like a political religion than science these days. It’s an interesting hypothesis, which may yet prove to be valid, but for some reason we have to pretend that every new prediction is God’s own truth. When skeptics are damned as heretics, you’re practicing religion, not science.

        Having said that, I’ve seen the hoops a herpetologist friend of mine has to jump through to get research funding. Never mind that his research can stand on its own merits and isn’t really about global warming; if he can plausibly relate his inquiry to the effects of global climate change, he’s going to do so. The grant funding goes to someone else if he doesn’t.

        • between 1895 and 1980 everyone was convinced North America would be an ice covered wasteland by the year 2000. Gore said NYC would have to be evacuated because the streets would be flooded by 2000. Since almost none of the so called climate scientists papers are being peer reviewed they can say whatever lie they want and cite each others work which were never reviewed.

        • “When skeptics are damned as heretics, you’re practicing religion, not science”

          I am stealing that.

  3. Causey presumably dissects the birds, since they are dead by the time he retrieves them. Not “vivisect,” which would be cutting them up while they are still alive.

    This may be the biological equivalent of clip vs. magazine, but even so, saying a scientist (or anyone else, really) is “vivisecting” animals could be quite an insult.

  4. Recall wildlife biologists were the biggest predators of the California condor. They “researched” enough to that they decided to capture the remaining birds.

  5. ” I could barely keep my head above water in the introductory Biology course at Dear Old State, and climate predictions seem to me to be so much witchcraft.”

    Thats because it is. Science that isnt clear isnt real science.

  6. we have to, uh, test the specimen, with uh, a variety of of test mediums, to include, uh, Iron Chef Sauce, Teriyaki sauce, and Barbecue Sauce. For science!

  7. Nitpicking: “After Causey shot down the birds and vivisected them”
    You can’t “vivisect” something that is dead. The word means to dissect a living animal.

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