The phrenologist’s guide to ecological competence

Since Darwin, scientists have been theorizing as to why there is variation in brain size between species and individuals. Does a larger brain, in say humans, indicate advanced cognitive abilities and complex language processing? Or is a smaller brain, such as the Olive-backed thrush’s, adapted to weigh less to accommodate lengthy flights?   In psychology, the field of phrenology has generally been dissolved, and with it, the idea that...

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From the Community: Pika population sees a boost, birds not spreading West Nile and five women honored for their role as environmentalists

Pika are thriving in the Sierra Nevada region. Pika found to be flourishing in the Sierra Nevada region, bird migration patterns suggest mosquitoes are to blame for spreading West Nile and mice courtship rituals could shed light on autism. Here are news stories and studies on ecological science from the first week in March:    Pika populations perking up: At least in the Sierra Nevada and southwestern Great Basin where American...

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Can birds affect tree growth?

Grasshoppers are one type of herbivorous insect Bridgeland et al. surveyed Growing conditions, such as water and nutrient supply, are the major determinates of tree growth, but insectivorous birds can also play an important role, say scientists in a study published in the January issue of Ecology.  Under the right conditions, birds contribute to whole tree growth by preying on herbaceous arthropods, such as leafhoppers, caterpillars...

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Laser-imaging bird habitats

A paper out in the October issue of Ecological Applications puts forth a new use for light detection and ranging technology, or LiDAR: the prediction of bird habitats. LiDAR technology uses laser imaging techniques to develop maps of forest vegetation structure by sending laser beams from aircrafts that fly over a study area. In this case, the scientists sampled the Cosumnes River Preserve in central California.  They then can use...

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The state of the union’s birds

A comprehensive analysis of the current condition of birds in the U.S. was released yesterday by The Nature Conservancy, USGS, the Audubon Society, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and many other non-profit groups. Dubbed The State of the Birds, the document reports that of the nation’s approximately 800 bird species, 67 are federally listed as endangered, 184 are of conservation concern and many others are declining due to...

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