The Big Picture on a Big Tern

After more than a decade of research I am among the world's foremost experts on a one of the world's most cosmopolitan birds - the Caspian Tern.

I study the diet, behavior, and movement ecology of this species around the world, especially along the west coast from British Columbia, Canada to the far end of Oaxaca, Mexico. I use old school ‘bird watching' as well as cutting edge satellite telemetry and Web 2.0 peer-to-peer sharing technology to create discoveries that merit external grants and publications. I am searching for collaborators outside of the sciences to help me interpret and analyze a complex story of how a fairly uncommon seabird may be an especially compelling ‘narrator' of climate change. I believe Caspian Terns are ‘a canary in the mineshaft' in search of composers, painters, photographers, sociologists, creative writers, historians, journalists, or philosophers who can give context, and original interpretation to the conflicts and patterns around this bird today.

What can I provide?

I have 25 years of experience in the field, hundreds of professional connections, and all of the necessary permits to live on and visit remote and restricted sites used by Caspian Terns. Since 1997 I have been part of a diverse team of scientists and policy makers trying to understand why this bird, the world's largest tern, has established the world's largest colony at the mouth of the Columbia River. A primary prey item in the diet of these terns has been juvenile salmon trying to pass through the estuary. The islands the terns breed on were created to deepen the river channel to keep Portland a competitive ‘seaport', the salmon are born in hatcheries to compensate for the damage of dams and the cheap power we enjoy from hydropower, and the terns have aggregated at one place because we have taken the water from their historical wetlands of the interior West. The ‘simple' conflict between birds and fish has a complex origin. The real and perceived intensity of the conflict has yielded 13 years of journalism including coverage from the NPR, OPB, CNN, KATU, Wall Street Journal, Outside Magazine, National Geographic, High Country News, The Oregonian, Seattle Intelligencer, San Francisco Examiner, and countless local papers along the West coast. Millions of dollars have been spent, new islands created, old islands modified, as the government has tried to manipulate Caspian Terns to breed where they are ‘not a problem.' Every year the terns have done something unexpected creating a ‘new problems' and Summer 2011 has the promise to be especially exciting.

What am I searching for in Summer 2011?

I want hard working creative partners with who will bring big epistemological turns to my work on big terns. As graduate of the liberal arts myself, I have conducted research constantly considering connections to other disciplines. My 2011 LARC partners need to have demonstrable talent in their selected field which will make them an authentic partner. For students this might include a great paper or creative project created in a recent class. I will connect my LARC partners to my circle of non-Willamette friends and colleagues which includes journalist, novelists, free-lance writers, film makers, painters, sculptors, mixed media artists, composers, sociologists, historians, policy wonks, educators, and anthropologists. Students who are considering post-graduate training are of particular interest to me.

What do I hope to produce by Winter 2011?

My partners and I will create work that is explicitly on a trajectory to be published or displayed in some external peer-reviewed product of scholarship or outreach within 3-18 months. I have a wide variety of collected historical and creative material from the arts, humanities, and social sciences that I hope to share with potential partners to give them a sense of the possibility for originality when the work of scientists is critically considered by nonscientists.

Willamette University

Liberal Arts Research Collaborative

900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.

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