blogging from the student's perspective

Archive for October, 2010


The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is a non-for-profit organization that, as the name sounds, centers on maintaining and helping conservation efforts for birds. Their main purpose is maintaining habitat and the environments that allow for birds too not only survive but to thrive. They work mostly through contacting and direct action engaging people in groups in various areas that are affected bird habitats. As a non-for-profit agency, they accept donations. For their marketing and public relations goes, they produce magazines and hold forums. But if you are like me, you have never heard of this organization before.

While working for the public group, the lack of knowledge by the public has been the biggest hindrance to making progress. This has lead me to question, why is the public so unaware of conservation efforts like this. I mean sure, things like recycling has become so engrained in our society but why haven’t others? Beyond that, what have the successful, well-known efforts done that others haven’t?

I think the issue, at least for birds, is that people see their lives as superfluous, like they don’t really matter. I feel that people don’t really see the effects that birds have on the environment or their lives. It would just be very eerie to live in a world without birds. Although this isn’t going to be the case anytime soon, people don’t seem to think about birds and their well being. Many people, even after hearing about the effects that buildings have on bird deaths, don’t seem to care. I have tried to discuss LOI with my roommates, but mostly I get laughs. The just don’t seem to care about LOI. I think the way to convince people is to explain that all we are asking is to turn the lights off or down. Once I fully explained what we were asking, my roommates thought that it all made sense and questioned, as I had originally, why people wouldn’t turn off their lights. As far as the public group goes, I believe that we need more conversations like these to truly effect change. Now, how do we do that….



Woods Lecture Very Eye-Opening

After going to the Woods series lecture, I definitely have a new perspective on things.  The lecture consisted of two speakers followed by a Q and A session.  The speakers were Bob Berkebile and David Orr.  Bob Berkebile is a principal at BNIM Architects in Kansas City, MO.  He is a founding member of the US Green Building Council (USGBC) and helped develop the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system.  He discussed opportunities to make developments in different areas.  Additionally, he talked about how Oberlin, OH (home of Oberlin College) is working to recreate part of downtown Oberlin in a fundamentally green manner.  He discussed elements of designs where roads are designed for pedestrians rather than for vehicles, buildings generate their own energy, landscaping is environmentally useful.  His talk was really informative and exciting to see developing research in a field that will most definitely need to implemented in the coming future.

The other speaker, David Orr, discussed more logistics and had a very serious tone.  He discussed the problems at hand with global climate change and how we as a human population are fundamentally responsible for it.  He discussed his role and the success of a town in northern Kansas City.  A few years ago it was a dying community once founded on industry and railroads.  However, it was recently hit with a devastating tornado storm that wiped out the entire community.  The city, rather than move to surrounding communities, decided to rebuild the city using green technologies.  They sought advice for Orr and Berkebile and were both advisors to the project.  The new town is one of the pioneer communities that fully utilizes LEED and green buildings.  The town has taken off and has become surprisingly successful, especially after such a drastic tragedy.  This city has become an example, of how to build cities using green design.

This presentation was very insightful and rewarding.  This field has been something that I have been interested in but new little about.  However, after learning about up and coming projects as well as challenges that the human population will surely face in the coming future it is imperative that we consider implementing these new concepts into our building designs.  Although it is scary to consider where we will end up if we continue on the road we are going now, after attending the lecture it is easing to hear the work being done and how it has been effective in the small percentage of buildings that have chosen to implement these concepts. 


It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It

Ladies and gentlemen…I think I’ve been enlightened, and it’s only right that I share the wealth. This semester I am enrolled in a 300-level course called Rhetoric in Science and Technology. In this class we discuss the use of rhetorical language as pertains to scientific and technological research (yes…just as the title describes). It may seem vague to you, perhaps even trifling; after all, these were my first impressions of the subject. Ask yourself this though. What if you discover the cure to AIDS? In theory, money, fame, respect, accreditation, and all that other jazz would be yours to boast. Right? Well consider this, what if you discovered that cure to AIDS but couldn’t convince a soul to believe it? That necessary persuasiveness is found in a mastery of the use of rhetorical elements, and that is what our class is studying. In essence, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

I’m saying all of that to say this. It is generally understood the literary arts and the scientific arts are two very distinct disciplines that are relatively unrelated. Collectively, we need to rid ourselves of this incorrect notion; the two are very much intertwined. Scientists would be ineffective if they could not communicate the fruits of their ingenuity to not only their educated peers, but to the uninformed, to the general public, to financial donors. They must demonstrate the ability to make their research compelling to different audiences. Consider that certain scientific journals cater to audiences of varying education. Some cater to professionals; others relatively uninformed students or otherwise. If I scientist cannot make his or her research not only understanding, but also interesting and relevant to all of these audiences, then he or she cannot attract attention from these demographics. While this attention, or the lack thereof, does not necessarily differentiate fact from fiction, it is vital to plausibility. Plausibility is everything to a research scientist.

Environmentalists are at a disadvantage because their science is very much undervalued by a large portion of the population, which happens to be highly concentrated in urban areas. The issues that environmentalists may deem as relevant may be viewed as unimportant to many others. I am theorizing that if environmentalists were more learned in the art of rhetoric, then the issues of the environmental science community would be of more importance to the general population in its entirety. For example, this claim translates directly to the Lights Out Indy initiative, which faces the obstacle of trying to persuade stakeholders that efforts need to be made to combat the issue of bird deaths due to window striking. The general public, and many other stakeholders, view this issue as irrelevant. Support would be garnered much more easily if those involved in the LOI efforts had a thorough understanding of rhetoric, the art of persuasion.

If scientists, primarily environmentalists, would stop regarding literary disciplines as taboo, perhaps support from the “non-scientific” world would come easy. See title of post.

The Big Picture

Extreme environmentalists are worried about the apocalypse. The end of the world. Human kind destroying themselves. I just watched “Planet of the Apes” in my Apes on Film class that I am also blogging for. Its message was that humans destroyed their planet and themselves through not recognizing how destructive they are. I don’t see our actions being the end of the world now, but I do see how these actions could leave long-term effects.

We often talk about sustainability, but I think a big problem with the general public is that they don’t understand what this means.  It’s imperative to educate them on fundamental ecological processes, thinking about the future, resources, and even recognizing that money is something that must be saved as well. We can’t go around using everything up.

I believe helping Lights Out Indy is my first step to helping reverse my effect. I’m never going to be able to repay the earth for what I have used from it, just like I won’t be able to repay my parents for my college tuition, but I can show the earth (and my parents!) how much I appreciate the help by giving back. While I have never considered myself a huge conservationist, my friends and family see me as one because I am out collecting birds, spreading the word about LOI for this class, and being in an Ecology class AND a class about primates at the same time. My interest in human medicine has shifted to a broader interest in biology and life in general. I finally understand the (and I never use this term because I hate it!) BIGGER PICTURE, and I am so glad I do because being my senior year, I don’t have much time left before I’m sent out into the real world.  This class is helping me to get a grasp on everything I need to know about working with others, getting my ideas across, and being a successful scientist. I used to think that the only things that mattered were humans, but its bigger than us. We depend on our environment for our resources, and that right there is enough to get me wanting to save energy, money, and as a consequence of this, bird lives. If we can get the public to understand this, then our endeavor will be more successful.

Living Buildings

When I went to the environmental speech on Thursday at Clowes Hall, There was a discussion about living buildings. I was surprised to find to that the LEED Platinum buildings were not 100% environmentally friendly. The discussion continued to say that the living buildings were environmentally friendly and sustained the local population because there were features such as water filtration and recyclable renewable sources of building materials. This got me thinking that if we can get these living buildings as the new standard on the LEED scale then maybe more people will strive for this standard. One thing that disturbed me was how many windows that a living building had. I thought this would cause a higher amount of bird strikes per window which is contrary to Lights Out Indy.

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A Night with Visionaries

If you did not attend Friday night’s James Wood Lecture Series, you were missing out. I had to opportunity to introduce the guest speakers, Dr. David Orr and Bob Berkebile, both sustainable architects respected  nation wide. It was a great evening to be able to listen about what we are facing now, their past and current work, as well as what we need to expect in the future.

 Dr. David Orr really wanted to tell us that we are creating a black swan effect that is going to be ultimately detrimental to our ecosystems and our environments if we don’t look at it now and act. Dr. Orr helped create a 7.2 million dollar environmental studies building at Oberlin College where he teaches.  It amazing as to how sustainable the building really was and the materials that they used in order to create a building that didn’t give back any emissions.

Bob Berkebile as also quite interesting and was one of the founders of the LEED (Leadership in Education and Environmental Design) rating system that our Pharmacy and one of the fraternities on campus have been recognized. Bob has done so much to work towards a more sustainable practice of city living and even helped reconstruct a whole city in Kentucky after a tornado completely destroyed everything. They started a new with LEED platinum as their standard for building construction. It has become a beautiful town devoted to the community that dwells within it. 

Both speakers had so much passion about what they do and it gets me thinking… when you are truly passionate about something, you want to go share your ideas and make sure that you accomplish your goals. I have always been passionate about sustainability and health practices and I think that it definitely ties in with my interests because a strong sustainable community is a healthy one. If we continue to use our resources in a non-efficient way, we are going to create a black swan effect that will affect us in the long run and even sooner at the rate at which we are going right now.

Lights Out Indy is trying to combat this as well. Birds a great environmental cue as to how healthy our ecosystem is and with dead birds lying around our cities, it doesn’t promise the best results. They are indicators of good habitat and they will continue to deplete if we don’t do something about it. Don Gorney is very passionate about what he has been doing with the program and by helping him in  as many ways as possible its a great way to also help the community.

If you have a chance, check our Dr. Orr and Bob Berkebile’s architectural work and how they have succeeded in changing the way we look at building design. They are absolutely correct in saying that we need to start acting now in order to keep our resources around.

– Ashlee

A New Outlook

It all really started with the class field trip to Eagle Creek. After our tutorial on bird watching, I realized that I had a narrow view of the world. How often, really, do any of us look up when surveying our surroundings? I may be the only one, but my scan usually stops at the horizon line. Studying biology has definitely forced me to look at the world differently—observing the countless interactions that exist among individuals and groups has really changed my view of the world. This started with my botany course. I paid more attention to trees and other plants than I ever had before; yet, I still did not pay much mind to the birds that live in the trees.
I also didn’t appreciate how HUGE a business bird watching is. The gentlemen at Eagle Creek had stories of patrons coming from all over the world to see ONE bird. While this may seem crazy to some, I think it speaks to the passion with which people dedicate themselves to their hobbies. Some just have hobbies that seem “strange” to some people.
So, as I continue on in my senior year, I am trying to take time to survey the skies. While I may never be a full-fledged “birder”, I can appreciate and learn from the dedication of others.