Date: 10/4/19 6:31 pm
From: Richard Fried, VMD <rfried...>
Subject: [nysbirds-l] Linnaean Society of NY Program, October 8th, 2019, at the American Museum of Natural History
On Tuesday evening, October 8th, 2019 the Linnaean Society of New York 2019/2020 Speaker Program will feature two new presentations sure to be of interest to New York birders:

6:00 Shawn Billerman – “How Hybridization in Birds Can Teach Us About Biodiversity, Climate Change, and Evolution”

Hybridization occurs when two different species interbreed and produce offspring. While we often think of hybridization in animals as something that’s rare, or something that is a reproductive dead end, it is actually fairly common, and an important tool to help us understand how and why species evolved in the first place. In the bird world, it’s estimated that hybridization occurs in 10% of all species. Hybrid zones, geographic regions where two species overlap and interbreed, have been particularly important in shaping our understanding of evolution. Billerman’s research has focused on studying hybridization in the Great Plains of North America, where multiple pairs of species hybridize, including Eastern and Spotted Towhees, Indigo and Lazuli Buntings, and Baltimore and Bullock’s Orioles. Using these species as a guide, we will explore ways in which hybridization in birds, when combined with recent advances in genetics, museum specimens, and climate change can teach us about biodiversity and the evolution of species.

Shawn Billerman currently works at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology where he is a Science Editor with the Birds of the World Project. Shawn has also studied hybridization in birds, including between Red-naped and Red-breasted Sapsuckers in the Pacific Northwest, and in towhees, orioles, and buntings in the Great Plains.

7:45 Thomas Gray – “ Conserving South East Asia’s Elusive Rarities”
South East Asia is at the heart of the global extinction crisis containing more threatened species and experiencing higher rates of forest loss than any comparable continental area. As a result of the region's rapid population and economic growth many of its unique and threatened species are being pushed into deeper and remoter corners of the region. This poses a quandary for conservationists—how to find, and then protect, some of the planet's most elusive and poorly known species? This talk will discuss some of the approaches being used by conservation biologists in Asia to find, monitor, and conserve threatened wildlife. These include analyzing DNA contained within blood-feeding leeches to help track-down saola (the Asian Unicorn), interviewing rural Cambodians about the majestic giant ibis, and extracting water from the Mekong River to find shed skin samples from the planet’s largest freshwater fish: the Mekong Giant Catfish.

Tom Gray is the Director of Science for the conservation NGO Wildlife Alliance. He moved to New York, in August 2018, after 15 years in South East Asia. A keen birder since childhood, he followed his passion and undertook his PhD research on the conservation of the Bengal Florican, a threatened species of bustard, in Cambodia. He subsequently worked for WWF and WCS in Cambodia and Laos, leading work on monitoring threatened species and helping governments with protected area management. He joined Wildlife Alliance, the leader in Direct Protection of Forests and Wildlife in tropical Asia, in 2016. He has authored more than 50 peer-reviewed papers on the conservation and status of threatened species in Asia and is a member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission.

Both presentations are free and will be held in the Linder Theater on the first floor of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Enter at West 77th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue. All welcome!

Complete details of these exciting presentations and the rest of the 2019/2020 program can be found here:


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