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.
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