Saturday, 30 July 2011

Saturday stuff: Websites to check out

One of the plenary speakers at the Behavior 2011 conference was the University of Cambridge's Nick Davies, whom I also heard give a plenary at last year's International Society for Behavioral Ecology meeting in Perth, Australia. Nick gives a fantastic talk--he sounds like the voiceover for a nature documentary on television. This year's talk was focused on the cuckoo (Cuculus canorus), whose singing is a harbinger of spring and who is therefore much beloved in Britain despite its nefarious deeds at other birds' nests. Unfortunately, cuckoos are on the decline in Britain, causing the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) to attach satellite tags to several migrating adults this year in order to trace their movements from afar. Hopefully this information will provide useful information for conservation efforts. According to Nick, the cuckoo tracking scheme has caught the imagination of the British public (although I'd not ever heard of it), in part because of the BTO's webpage devoted to the project. Each of the tagged birds (all males) has been named, and readers can follow their progress and read their "blogs" online. If suitably inspired, visitors to the website can also make donations to help fund future conservation work on this and other species.

While browsing through the Behavior 2011 conference website, I ran across a link for an affiliated organization--the ISAZ. It turns out that this acronym stands for "the International Society for Anthrozoology." In other words, this is a group of researchers and professionals who study the interactions between humans and people. This includes individuals who examine the utility of therapy animals, interactions between the blind and their guide dogs, the role of pets in the home, and many other relationships that many of us experience every day but probably don't often think twice about. In the "hard-core" animal behavior world, these topics, and the researchers who study them, frequently get a reputation for being a bit "fluffy," but anyone who is a pet owner knows what an impact these animals can make in our lives. I, for one, think this is a fascinating area of research, which you can read more about here.

Finally, I'd like to give a little plug for one of my friends and colleagues, Dan Blumstein. Dan feels that stimulating discussions in the home will help pave the way for a more thoughtful, progressive, problem-solving society, and what better environment to have these discussions than over a plateful of home-cooked food? When I last saw Dan at a conference in September 2010, he was just embarking on a project to write a book that provides guidance for people who want to host good dinner parties with great food and even better conversations. During Behavior 2011, I found out that the book has been completed and is now available for Kindle/iPhone/iPad download. It's called Eating our Way to Civility, and it even has its own associated blog. Here, Dan posts discussions on important "green" topics, such as eating sustainably and saving energy. Keeping with the theme of the book, he also provides some delicious recipes. "Food for thought" has never been a more accurate phrase!

Thanks to the following websites for the photos used in this post:

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