> I have a few posts in the science section of my blog if you are interested.
> Also note that Charles Sturt Uni has a Graduate Certificate of Ornithology
> available to amateur bird people which covers these subjects comprehensively.
Who knew? Thanks for the tip.
For anyone interested in more, some readings:
"On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection"
Darwin is incredibly readable and lucid. Some of what he wrote back
then sounds completely bizarre today (he didn't know about genetics)
but much of what he describes is still directly applicable. At a
guess, I'd say this is the most important book in the last 200 years
as far as modern though goes...so it's worth a read. And enjoyable!
"The Song of the Dodo"
This is a fantastic, popular science read - very interesting. It
covers biogeography from Wallace forward. Unlike "Origin", Wallace's
"Island Life" isn't really as useful to read today. I've read "Dodo" a
couple of times - it's a pleasure.
"The Speciation and Biogeography of Birds"
A comprehensive, modern text book on the subject.
"The Birds of Northern Melanesia: Speciation, Ecology and Biogeography"
Ernst Mayr and Jared Diamond with (beautiful) plates by Doug Pratt
If you know the careers of the authors and illustrator, this book
makes a lot of sense. It's a comprehensive study of the birds of the
Solomons and Bismarks that attempts to map out the mechanisms of
speciation that were in play for the whole avifauna of the region. A
unique effort, at least for birds. Mayr is popularly know as the
father of "the modern synthesis" (when Darwin was combined with
genetics and brought back in from the cold) and is easily one of the
most important names in 20th century evolutionary biology. He also had
an astonishing record of field research - going to places very few
people have ever been, even now. (He wandered around New Guinea back
when they were still eating people.) Jared Diamond is well-known for
authoring "Guns, Germs and Steel" and "Collapse". He's also prominent
in New Guinean ornithology. Doug Pratt is one of the world's greatest
field guide illustrators and a prominent ornithologist for the Pacific
(his field guiide for Hawaii and the tropical Pacific is great and his
monograph on the Hawaiian honeycreepers is the more authoritative to
date.) Anyway, the point is that some fairly serious people devoted a
long time to creating a book about the birds of a region very few
people will visit. Why? From the introduction:
"In this book we present a comprehensive, detailed study of speciation
for all resident land and freshwater bird species of Northern
Melanesia...What is the need for a new book on speciation?....Darwin
did not solve the problem of speciation-namely, the problem of how
multiple daughter species originate from a single ancestral species."
They go on to explain the history of the question(s), their answers,
and lingering area of scientific disagreement and debate. (Creationism
isn't part of scientific debate but there's plenty disagreement about
the shape and detail of evolutionary theory all the same.) They go on
to explain that Northern Melanesia's birds are an ideal study group
because of the numerous key similarities (such as climate, habitats)
and differences (such land area, relation to line of march direction
of likely colonizers) that make is an ideal laboratory. The relative
isolation of the region from modern-industrial human settlement is
also a huge plus.
I'm sure there are other great books - recommendations welcome!
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