There are many things in the world that we cannot see with our eyes, including the hundreds of millions of birds that migrate in the spring and fall under cover of darkness. I wrote about radar ornithology, a field of study that uses weather surveillance radar to track birds at night, and a group of scientists who are using artificial intelligence to try and interpret the data and glean the relationships between ecology, climate and migration for the goal of conservation. The piece is here at Nautilus magazine's issue on "Dark Matter."
Hummingbirds, owls and finches are some of the 130,000 bird specimens preserved at University of Washington's Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. The 125-year-old museum continues to preserve whole specimens but it increasingly focuses on its Genetic Resources Collection, one of the largest in the country. Today the museum maintains tissue samples from some 50,000 birds that are cryogenically frozen and kept in deep freezers. I've been visiting, reading and researching "frozen zoo" initiatives around the world and one of the best perspectives I've found on them comes from the anthropologist Tracey Heatherington. Here's an quick excerpt from her essay, "From Ecocide to Genocide: Can Technoscience Save the Wild?"
"Mundane monitoring of population health and protection of habitats is necessarily the mainstay of wildlife management for most biodiversity conservation programs. Yet the moral terrain of extinction is tremendously evocative for the genetic imagination, defining the frontiers of capital investment in both technoscience and biodiversity."