Wednesday, December 5, 2012

John and Colleen Marzluff

John M. Marzluff is a highly regarded scientist known for his work on the ecology and behavioral biology of jays, crows, ravens, and their relatives. He is professor of wildlife science, College of the Environment, University of Washington, and the author of four books, including In the Company of Crows and Ravens and Gifts of the Crow. Colleen Marzluff trained in wildlife biology, worked as a research technician, and is an expert in the raising and training of sled dogs and herding dogs.

From a Q & A at Yale University Press about their book, Dog Days, Raven Nights:

Yale University Press: Your book strongly advocates that students pursue what they love to do. Even doing what you love, there are always…unfavorable conditions. What were the best and worst parts about the long, sometimes fruitless days, in the observation hut [studying ravens]?

Colleen Marzluff: It was “Torture in the Hut”, as the title of the chapter says… Boredom, stiffness, frustration—they were all there. Sometimes you would think, “I got up before dawn for this!?” We couldn’t talk, let alone argue, or the ravens would hear us. We sometimes wrote notes to each other, but for the most part, it was a lot of waiting for something to happen. We couldn’t really read a book or play cards because we might have missed something. A real lesson in patience—sometimes like watching paint dry—solitary confinement with a silent partner.

The best was when an experiment yielded results, expected or unexpected; when other critters visited and helped break up the tedium; when we would imagine the birds behaving more like primates we could laugh (silently). Best part is that we survived it. I suppose that could have been a very difficult thing to do for most couples, but we made it!

John Marzluff: Because we had to be quiet, Colleen couldn’t argue with me : ) . Actually, to me once I was in the hut it was always good. The birds were constantly doing something, either the juvenile flock or the adult pair kept me engaged because you never knew WHAT they might do. One day they would catch a mouse, the next they would play with a toy, or they would utter a vocalization never yet heard. Their activity was constantly amazing to me. Of course the very best times were when an experiment actually worked. For example, when we were investigating the meanings of various vocalizations we would put a loudspeaker into the aviary and broadcast the call of interest. Begs by juveniles under attack, for instance, we believed did two things: cooled down aggressive adults and recruited additional hungry juveniles. With this hypothesis in mind we played begs and other control sounds throughout the aviary expecting to lure our captive juveniles toward the speaker. Sure enough, as soon as the begging began it was as if a dinner bell was rung; the juvenile horde hopped, ran, and flew toward the speaker. If only we could have ...[read on]
Read--Coffee with a Canine: Colleen and John Marzluff & Reese, Digit and Bellatrix.

--Marshal Zeringue