MARK CRUVELLIER: So again, my name is Mark Cruvellier. I'm the chair of the Department of Architecture here at Cornell. And it's my pleasure to welcome you to the second day of this year's Hans and Roger Strauch Symposium on Sustainable Design, this year titled, Sustaining Sustainability, Alternative Approaches in Urban Ecology and Architecture. And as I did last night, and I won't do so quite as extensively this evening, I wish to thank Hans and Roger Strauch for their gift to the department that has made this event possible. Thank you.
Last night, I think we got things off to a remarkably great start with a keynote lecture by Michael Hensel, whose big picture viewpoint I think sets the stage for today's series of presentations by speakers from both near and far, geographically, but also I think from quite different viewpoints and vantage points in their particular areas of interest and expertise. And so I think each individual presentation needs to be put in the context of that larger picture that I think Michael set for us yesterday evening. And all of this, again, is with the objective of reinvigorating, perhaps reframing somewhat, the discussion associated with that now slightly over word used of sustainability.
You have, in a moment, the schedule for today's sessions before you in your program as well. Basically, today will be broken down into four sessions-- two this morning, two this afternoon. And each session is, almost without exception, composed of two speakers. I think there's one session this afternoon that has three. But basically, two sets of presentations and then a break between each of those sessions.
So basically be two presentations followed by a break, another two, another break, et cetera, so you shouldn't feel trapped in here for too long. Opportunity for refreshment, stretching your legs, et cetera, throughout the day. And I do hope that you, and those who come after you, will be able to stay here for a good part of it because I think it's by listening to everybody talk that I think you'll be able to pull things together.
And to help do that, we've asked two of our faculty members here-- Jonathan Ochshorn and Jenny Sabin, who are on the department faculty here at Cornell-- to both introduce the speakers through the day, as well as to help frame and provoke some questions at the end of the day in a panel discussion after we're all done. So that will take place-- where is the schedule here-- at 5:30 this afternoon. And that will be followed by a reception in the dome for you to discuss more in a one-on-one fashion with the speakers if you wish. So there should be plenty of opportunity for you during the day.
At the end of each presentation, there'll be five or so minutes if there are any direct questions about that presentation that you wish to ask. And we will try and stick to the schedule, the announced times, just in case people are coming. We will stick to that schedule as we go along.
Just briefly-- and I'm going to introduce Jonathan and Jenny in the briefest of terms. Jonathan, again, has been my colleague here for quite a number of years-- too many that I think either one of us now care to say. His background is in structural engineering and urban design as well as architecture. He's an alum from this place.
His publications include studies on energy loss through tapered insulation, as well as the political and economic underpinnings of sustainable design. And he teaches in the areas of construction technology structures. And he's offering a course, which seems to be growing more and more in popularity and drawing people from around campus-- an elective course on the science and politics of green building. And that's only the beginning of things, but maybe the most relevant to the topic at hand.
Jenny Sabin is an assistant professor in design and emerging technologies in the department, and her work is at the forefront of a new direction for 21st century architectural practice, one that investigates the intersections of architecture and science and applies insights and theories from biology and mathematics to the design of material structures.
And just as a footnote, perhaps, Jenny was in the past month, two months, recently named a USA [INAUDIBLE] fellow in architecture, one of 50 artists and designers given that award nationally. And she was given that back in December.
So they're going to be alternating sessions, introducing the speakers, and then rounding things up at the end of the day. So I wish you a great day, and I look forward to today's sessions.
JONATHAN OCHSHORN: Thank you Mark, and welcome. David Zeigler is a professor and chair of the biology department at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, having taught previously at Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Texas. He received his PhD from the University of North Texas in entomology and ecology.
He has taught a wide range of subjects, including zoology, parasitology, animal behavior, evolution, and marine biology. And his interests extend even further than this, into the very nature of science, into phylogeny-- which is-- I looked up in a Google search-- looking at life over long periods of time, as well as biodiversity and cognitive science. He is the author of the book Understanding Biodiversity, and is currently working on a new book about evolution. Please help me welcome our first speaker of this 2012 Strauch symposium, David Zeigler.
DAVID ZEIGLER: And we're up and running, I guess.
All right. Thank you for coming. I only got this invitation about a month ago, and I was extremely surprised and honored to get that. Know that I'm here, I'm still a bit surprised and honored to be here, since my background has little to do with architecture or anything of that nature.
As an undergraduate, I did do a written report about Frank Lloyd Wright. That's about my closest brush with architecture, other than that I do design and build some of my own furniture. But that's about it.
I'm basically a biologist. And I did, as was said-- and as Michael showed the cover of my book the other day, Understanding Biodiversity-- that's apparently why I'm here. And I came up with the title of Living with Biodiversity, which I thought might be appropriate for this meeting.
I would start with just talking about the fact that, so far as we actually know, Earth is the only planet in our solar system, or body in our solar system, that obviously does have life. We've been to the moon a few times. Except for the astronaut up there, there's nothing alive on the moon. There's the little go kart they ran around on on the moon. I think we're fairly clear there is no life there.
Here is Mars. The question is still open as to whether they might be some subterranean life or life-- probably microscopic though-- in some areas. And I don't know if we'll ever know that. I believe I'm correct in saying there's a new probe on the way to Mars that has more capability than some of the past probes to discover some things, including the signature of life, biochemical signature of life. But right now, it doesn't look like much is going on there.
There's a small shot of the surface of Venus. I think this was a Russian lander. The camera only lasted about five minutes or so because it literally fried in the heat. Venus is an extremely hellish environment. And looking at that terrain, I would say the chances of life existing on Venus are pretty slim.
And so it goes. There's still a few other holdouts in the solar system. I'm going to actually come to one of those later in the talk.
But anyway, here we are on Earth with obviously a lot of living organisms that we share the planet with. And the saddest thing to me is that a great number of people living on our planet have no conception and no idea and no appreciation for the marvels of the living world that we do share with all of these creatures.
Another shot of another natural ecosystem. Lots of diversity there. Africa-- obviously, huge numbers of large herbivores and all kinds of other life.
This is one of those hydrothermal vent areas I hope some of you are aware of. These were only discovered in 1977 to have an abundance of life living down there. And it was quite a revolution because it took some years to work this out, but these were the only communities, or the first communities ever discovered, that were not based on photosynthesis.
All the textbooks up until that date, and some continued afterwards, said that everything on Earth depends on this process of photosynthesis. Well no, it doesn't. Because these animal communities deep, deep in the ocean where it's pitch black all the time are depending on bacteria which undergo a process called chemosynthesis.
And we've discovered similar communities around the world, and will undoubtedly discover many, many more. They're not all in the deep oceans. We've discovered some chemosynthetic communities living in caves that are supported by these bacteria. Just amazing, brand new, unexpected discoveries about life on the planet.
I mentioned 1977. Really, most of the major and interesting things I know about biology have been discovered in my lifetime. Science is still pushing ahead at a tremendous rate on all fronts. And it's just so exciting, but also difficult, to keep up with what science is finding out day by day.
The term biodiversity is just short for biological diversity, life and all of its diversity of species-- individuals, genes, ecosystems, and so on. The purpose of my book was basically to lay out the many parameters of life. It's not just this is a species; this is a species.
Ecosystems vary. Metabolisms vary. Behavior varies. So many things vary. And any parameter of variance within the living world is part of what we would call biodiversity. It's mind boggling.
We have discovered almost two million species. There probably at least eight million more that have not even been discovered. That might come as a shock to you, but most living organisms are small. Most of them live in out-of-the-way places like those hydrothermal vent communities that it took extreme technology to even locate and take samples and start to analyze what was going on there.
They are now saying that microbes probably live as deep as three or more kilometers straight down below our feet. Total shock. Total surprise. Revolution in our thinking about the places that life can live.
They can live in glaciers. I mean, within the glacier. Very small, tiny microbes that live probably some of the slowest metabolic lives of any organisms on the planet. But amazing discoveries there.
Let's see. Bear with me just one second. Allow me about a minute. I'm not even going to talk here.
Those were six species of beetles, hopefully five seconds per slide there. Oh, I'm sorry. I guess I only did five there. Miscounted. OK, there's the sixth one.
There are in fact, though, 350,000 species of beetles alone on the planet-- that we know of, and probably many more undiscovered. If we were to view a slideshow like I was starting there and time each one just to view it for five seconds, we would be viewing 720 per hour. Let's see. I think I wrote down a number per day somewhere. That would be 5,760 beetle species per day.
I think we would all be blown away even after the first day. But it would take 60.75 eight-hour sessions just to view the beetles. It would take 347.2 eight-hour days to view the two million known species of living organisms. And again, remember that's just the known species, and there's probably vastly more. All the true experts on biodiversity would say we only know, at best, a fourth of the species on the planet.
I really wanted to entitle my book Comprehending Biodiversity. But I got into an argument with the publishers. They did not like that title for some reason. I thought it was perfect.
Anyway, I gave in because hey, they were going to publish my book. I did entitle my last chapter-- or one of the last chapters Comprehending Biodiversity because to me, comprehension is something different than being able to say a number like two million. We use these big numbers all the time, but they're truly beyond our comprehension. I'll show you some examples of how beyond our comprehension that actually is a little bit later.
Some new discoveries that have, again, taken place in my lifetime are just exactly how are all these organisms related? What is their history? Basically, they refer to this as the Tree of Life. I think Darwin actually mentioned that phrase in his book back in 1859, but it's become a buzz word today in biology and genomics and biodiversity studies.
The Tree of Life. How are all of these things related? Who are they? What is their nature? And how do they fit into the evolutionary scheme of things?
Well again, about 25 years ago-- well, it took longer than that to come out-- a guy named Carl Woese came up with the idea, through a lot of work, that there aren't just these bacteria and these things with complicated cells. There's another whole group that's vastly different from either of the two called the Archaea.
And of course, you can see, this is like the first living organism and supposedly, the branching pattern now. That's probably going to change a lot as we learn more about these organisms and their genomes, which means all of their DNA content. I know practically nothing about these two domains because I'm not a microbiologist, but there is a tremendous amount yet to be learned about these organisms-- their importance, where they live, their diversity, et cetera.
The eukaryotic organisms over here-- lots of one-celled eukaryotes. Here's animals on the whole scheme of things, which one of the important points there was to show that animals are just one little branch off of this gigantic tree of life, and a fairly recent branch at that. Plants and fungi. Plants and animals are the things we mostly see and talk about.
But look at all this other stuff that mostly is too small, that you're not going to be able to appreciate unless you have a microscope. But they're out there. There are far more microbes in this room-- I mean, millions of times more microbes in this room right now than there are people.
There are more microbes in and on your body than the number of people that have ever existed on this planet. Don't get upset. Don't get alarmed. It's not a problem, but they are there.
E.O. Wilson is probably the best known name in the area of biodiversity. He's written a good bit about it, and he primarily promotes the preservation of biodiversity. He's one of my true heroes not only for that, but for his other very important works within biology.
Each species is a masterpiece of evolution offering a vast source of useful scientific information because it is so thoroughly adapted to the environment in which it lives. Biologists especially study and want to know how organisms are adapted to live in their environment. And biologists do have a sense of aesthetics and beauty. And the beauty of organisms for a biologist is the perfection of their adaptations to their environment. Well, and several other things, I might say.
Now, if you don't see anything here, there is a seahorse right here. There's his two little eyes and the end of his nose. He's facing us there. That's his body. But look how perfectly he has adapted himself to be camouflaged among this one particular type of coral.
I believe this is out somewhere in the Pacific somewhere, or Indonesia or someplace. And this one was only discovered, again, within my lifetime. But I've never seen such a perfect example of a perfect camouflage that this particular seahorse has adapted himself to his environment.
You may not appreciate them, but I do. I teach a course in parasites-- which I'm teaching right now-- and I find parasitology one of the most fascinating areas of biology. More than probably 2/3 of all the species of organisms on our planet actually are parasites. Don't get too alarmed, again, but they're out there, and they're unavoidable, and they've always been a part of nature. And they do have some beautiful adaptations.
I'm showing you some you can obviously link in to-- hanging on. Tape worms, hook worms, both live in the intestines of vertebrate animals. And they've obviously both got some great adaptations for hanging on and not being flushed out of the digestive system. Hooks, and in the case of tapeworms, suckers. Perfectly adapted. And I heard a lady talking about these holdfast organs of tapeworms and how they were varied among species, and yet they were perfectly adapted to the particular type of animal that they lived in.
Warning coloration. Two beautiful nudibranchs. Nudibranchs are small little mollusk without a shell that crawl around, and they happened to be very bad tasting. They produce, or they gather from the environment, some very nasty chemicals that make them pretty much immune to predation. But occasionally a fish will nibble at one.
So like a lot of other things in nature, if it's very brightly colored and you don't know what it is, don't pop it in your mouth. Very often, the bright coloration is there as a warning to not mess with me because I'm dangerous. That's why a lot of bees have bright yellow and black stripes on their body and so on.
Obviously, one we all are aware of-- the beautiful hovering flight of hummingbirds, if you've ever had a hummingbird feeder or watched them in their actions.
Here's something about architecture. This is the larvae of a caddis fly, a type of insect that lives in streams and rivers. And most caddis flies do construct some kind of a shelter or housing for themselves. This particular one has done so out of grains-- mineral grains out of the stream bed. Other caddis flies actually construct theirs out of bits of wood. Very interesting structures that they build.
Adaptation of darkness-- the efficiency of adaptations. There are, of course, another environment that we're learning a lot more about are cave environments. There are fish, salamanders, and a variety of arthropods found in some cave environments. And if they have been in the cave for a very long period of time, they tend to lose their eyes.
These are blind-- looks like catfish, cave fish of some type-- and they also lose their pigmentation. There's no need for pigmentation or eyes in a perpetually dark environment. Natural selection will eliminate those things that are not useful. There will no longer be any selection for those structures, so any mutations that cripple those structures or prevent their construction will actually be favored because it's a more efficient way of living life in a cave.
A quote I really like here by Albert Schweitzer, the great humanitarian who did a lot of work with the people in Africa-- Man is ethical only when life, as such, is holy to him, that is, the lives of plants and animals as well as the lives of men. Kind of a mystical and spiritual statement, but I do find some value in that line of thinking.
This is out of my book. And I like to say this a lot since I found this line. It's a true statement that living organisms of this planet are the most complex and diverse known entities in the universe. I hope I'm talking to people that don't believe in ancient aliens and all of this other nonsense that's now perpetuated with all the other nonsense on our media.
There is no evidence of any life elsewhere in the universe. Maybe some day, and I'm hopeful that there will be some evidence later on. But right now, we have all of these riches right around us, and yet we're wondering is there life elsewhere, when most people don't know anything about the life that we share the planet with.
Every living species is the successful result of almost four billion years of evolution-- all fairly well adapted. And I put down here the questions, do they have innate value? Do we think this planet is ours to do with as we will for our needs? Or should we respect our fellow creatures?
I truly believe that we are just one species among these millions. We've already done vast, unimaginable amounts of damage to the planet. Isn't it time to stop And think about what we're doing and try to preserve the rest of the life of this planet? I most certainly think the answer is yes, yes, yes. It's time to make a difference and stop this destruction.
I do think that they have value. I do respect them. I do stand in awe of-- I've been learning biology for most of my adult life, and I am still awestruck when I read about some of these new discoveries. Even when I repeat to my students some of the amazing adaptations about some of the organisms I teach, I still get the hair on the back of my neck standing up because I am so awestruck that that's really true, that those organisms really have those abilities and adaptations.
You can read that fairly well, and so you'll see the point there. I am a biologist, and I do value all of the life on the planet. I know some things cause disease. We have eliminated smallpox, which is a virus, which some biologists say isn't really a living organism. We're on the verge of purposefully eliminating two animal species which both happen to be parasitic worms in Africa, and they may achieve that. And I have mixed feelings about this. I really do because it would be the two first-- well, actually, there's one other one that was, for the most part, purposefully brought to extinction. But this was by uneducated folks.
If we eliminate these two parasitic worms in Africa, it will be the very first time that we have purposefully caused the extinction of two animal species. And I feel that that's a precedence that I'm a little bit troubled by, even though they do cause vast misery to the people that they infect. So it's something to think about.
Far too many people in the world do and always have viewed nature as something that is there for our use, as a resource. Even the word conservation goes back to the idea that we're conserving these things because there may come a time we need to utilize them. Well, that's different from preservation. When you say we want to preserve this part of nature, you're kind of saying no, we don't ever intend to do anything with that nature. We just want to preserve it for its innate value. This is something I strongly believe in.
Now, not many people know that distinction. But again, conservation is prime-- you can conserve your forest. Why? Because we may want to chop them down some day and utilize the wood. That's different from, we want to preserve this part of the globe and the biodiversity within.
I just struggled with whether to put this idea across or not to you. I'm afraid it may throw a little troubling kink in the talk. But I have to tell you, because I believe in honesty so much, that the widespread idea is that nature is a well-balanced machine and that every species out there plays a very important role in the environment. And I have to tell you that's not really true.
Nature is, again, vastly diverse, vastly amazing, vastly beautiful in my eyes and in the eyes of a lot of other biologists. But it is not a planned thing. It is the result of evolution, chance. Opportunity is a big word that is now making its way through our understanding of evolution. Organisms find opportunities. They take advantage of those opportunities and adapt to those opportunities, not always filling any important role in nature.
Now, there are many organisms that do have important roles in nature. But there are many that don't. But I value all of them. It doesn't matter whether they play an important role or not.
You could ask your same question about humanity. Some people are very important people that are very positive influences in the world. Some people have no influence, or very little influence, or even negative influences in the world. But do we want to eliminate those, or do we not care about those people?
Ideally, we would like to say all people are equal and all people deserve certain basic rights and the opportunity to gain happiness and so on. I think we should extend this to other living organisms, this very same philosophy. But nature is harsh. It is selfish. It serves no ultimate purpose. But like I said, it's awesome.
And we are a part of that nature, to assert-- well, we are and we aren't. I'll get to something later in the talk that will make that point again. But fundamentally, we are one species among millions, and our origins lie within that tree of life just like all those other organisms. And at least, even if it is harsh and selfish and chaotic, nature does provide environmental services-- the air that you breath, or the oxygen that you breath, all came from living organisms.
You probably think most of it came from these plants out here, but that's not true. Probably more than half of the oxygen that you're breathing came from tiny little microscopic microbes living in the oceans of the world. And two of the most common species of these microbes were only discovered about 20 years ago. It had been missed all of this time.
And yet, what a great discovery because we discovered that the two things that were generating probably 50% of the oxygen in the atmosphere. Amazing discovery. Amazing revolution in our thinking there.
I was talking to somebody. I don't know how we got on Easter Island, but I had this slide in here. Easter Island is, of course, this island out in the South Pacific, and it does have a civilization of Polynesians who they think reached there about 400 AD. When they came to the island, all the evidence now-- and this is fairly newly arrived at discoveries about the history through the work of a lot of scientists-- the island was a very lush, tropical paradise. It had particularly large palm trees, lots of ferns, shrubs, grasses.
25 species of birds nested on the island, some wildlife, and so on. The people had, obviously, lots of resources to utilize, and they started utilizing those resources. And within about 1,000 years, they totally destroyed the ecosystem of the island. They cut down the very last trees. They killed off the very last birds. They killed off every species of bird that nested on that island.
Because they had no tree-- of course, the statue thing that Easter Island is famous for-- a lot of the trees-- not all of them, but a lot of the trees were cut down to make rollers to roll these gigantic faces out to the sites they were going to erect them and so on. And they also utilized a lot of the other plants for making rope, which was necessary in the movement of these structures and so on. That was part of the reason for their destruction of their environment.
They used to build canoes out of these palm trees and could go way off shore to the reefs surrounding the island and fish for fish. But after all the trees were gone, they couldn't make boats anymore. So basically, they-- well, the harshest thing here is they actually resorted to cannibalism because there was little protein left on the island.
And when they were rediscovered-- or I should say discovered by Captain Cook in the 1700s, there were only about 2,000 people still alive. They think the population was at least five times that at one time. And they basically were just living a miserable life, barely scraping by, because their environment was totally gone.
And this, of course, has been brought forward as an example of what we might end up doing to the whole planet. It's just a matter of size and time. Believe me. It's just a matter of the size, the scale, and the time.
Just show you three quick species. Of course, I could sit here for the next three hours showing you slides of things that have gone extinct, but one is called the Carolina parakeet. I live in North Carolina. I would love to have these birds flying around in my trees. But sadly, they went extinct. The last one died in the early 1900s. Cutting down trees, establishment of agriculture, spread of agriculture just basically eliminated their habitat.
They were also considered a pest because they ate some of the crops. They think that maybe even-- they don't know the exact reason, but they were hunted for feathers. They may have even acquired some of the diseases of our domesticated poultry. That's a hypothesis as well. But anyway, they're gone. Beautiful thing, gone.
These little frogs called the Golden Toads were discovered in-- let's see. I've got to look here. They were discovered in 1966 in some high mountain areas in Costa Rica. And beautiful little toads. There are a whole bunch of them there in a pond.
Not much was known of their biology. But the sad thing is that they're again, discovered in 1966.
Biologists, by 1989, could not find them anymore. And they've look for them again and again. They've apparently went extinct.
Now, in this case, we don't exactly know the reason here. Always, we suspect it was something to do with the human activities affecting the climate or something. We really don't know. There are natural extinctions as well. Could be. Don't really know the answer. But still, there's another interesting thing gone.
If you're not familiar with this animal, this is called the thylacine. It's a dog-looking animal, but it's not a dog. It's not anything close to a dog. It's a marsupial, originally living in Australia. They were eliminated in Australia quite some time ago, but a few held out in Tasmania. And the last one seen in Tasmania was in the 1930s.
There's a little clip of film of some of these moving around a little bit and a few still shots, and that's all we have left. Now, this very interesting animal, which, to biologists, would have been a very interesting creature to study and learn about its ecology and behavior and so on, but now don't have that opportunity anymore. It's gone.
I was once in the back rooms of the Smithsonian Institution. And in one, in a couple of drawers, I saw a scientific scan of that Carolina parakeet, and they had a scan of the thylacine. And just looking at it right in front of me there, it was almost like a religious experience for me as a biologist.
I was just awestruck that-- excuse me-- damn, there's the skin of a thylacine. I can't believe it. And there's a Carolina parakeet. And of course, they have lots of the remains of some of these extinct species. It's just incredible to me that these things are gone.
Since this is for the purpose of the meeting, I will say that in my mind, losing those wonderful, marvelous creatures would be like losing the Brooklyn Bridge. Whether you appreciate the Brooklyn Bridge or not-- I think most people do-- what if we didn't have that to appreciate, and to walk on, and to take photographs of, and to put in our movies and films?
This is the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, which I visited two or three times. Again, I don't know what architects think of it, but it's an amazing structure-- I think a beautiful structure. Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water house. I've never visited this, but I would love to do so. I'm just struck by the imagery of that construction and how he fit that right into the landscape so perfectly. There are places in the house where you're actually walking over a glass walkway with the water flowing beneath your feet.
That man was a genius in my opinion.
Obviously, this is not nature, nor that, nor that. We need these things to feed the world's population and our own population. Some of these things are necessary, but I'm just pointing out, there's nothing natural about these environments I'm showing you, and they take up a large part of the globe's surface now.
Even though there's a lot of greenery in there, that's not nature. There's no ecosystem there. There's not natural animals working out a natural life in that environment.
This is not nature. A little bit of greenery, but it's not native vegetation. I doubt there are even any squirrels in that neighborhood. Maybe a few birds can nest, and maybe a few insects. And I saw vast expanses of that very thing flying up here from North Carolina through the window of the airplane.
Big yard-- that's not nature. Nothing can make a living in there. Maybe a few insects and such, but depends on whether they spray their yard with pesticides and herbicides and things as to whether even that little part of nature is there.
I don't know where this is. So this is certainly closer to nature because it looks like there's a variety of plants, probably which were not all selected and planted, I'm guessing. These are native to the area and may have sprung up of their own accord. And that little environment right there, which seems to be the art of that house, could support small animals, a lot of insects. The soil there is probably really rich and healthy with organisms.
Two other examples up in the mountains. Really no yard at all; just the natural surroundings surrounding the house. Another one out in the desert. Now, I guess they might have positioned a few of those cacti there, but they're probably native to the area, and they haven't disturbed-- let me put it this way. They're not going to be going out there spraying the ground with all kinds of toxic materials. They're just going to let nature take care of nature, which is what they want around their homes.
In nature, there are no weeds. A weed is a human concept. Weeds are part of biodiversity. They're part of what sustain life on the planet. We're the ones that go, eew, I don't want that thing in my yard. They are hardy, competitive plants.
And some talk about certain animals as being weeds. Well, when they're invasive, I can see the argument of calling invasive species weeds. But they really are hardy organisms that have found an opportunity and are making a living.
And to point out again that much of nature is small and exists in the natural soil and water. A big part, I would hope, of future planning, in terms of building, would be to try to preserve as much natural soil and water and not make it so artificial.
I'm going to skip that because I see I'm getting short on time. I would like-- just read that and think about the point I'm trying to make there. I find that sort of ironic. No other species probably comprehends, certainly appreciates, nature in any way at all except for immediate use. We can do that. But we are, without doubt, the greatest destroyer of the planet.
I found this book somehow, just luckily stumbled across this book after I was invited, and quickly got a copy and read it. And I'm just going to say, I would recommend it to many of you who are interested in this whole topic. National Geographic. I'd never heard of this guy before, but this was a really great book where he talks about the problems that we face and what we could do.
He's got lots of chapters on lots of topics. He's got one on land use, one on water, just a number of topics pointing out the problems and the possible solutions. I found it to be a very interesting book.
Here are a few of the points that he makes, and some of these are going to strike you as a bit odd.
We should increase our use of nuclear power because it does take up less of the environment and is less destructive of the environment than anything else. And I know we all go, oh, but nuclear power is bad. Well, I had mixed feelings about this myself, but I think his point is well argued that it is sustainable, much more so than oil and coal and things like that, and far less destructive and polluting than those sources.
And here's an interesting one. Urbanization is a good thing, in terms of conserving nature. And he points out-- and I understand now, and I agree-- that people that live in New York City are doing far less harm to the planet than people living out in rural areas. They're living on top of one another, stories high, and not taking up so much land.
They walk a lot of places and use public transportation to a far greater extent than most people across the country. They actually are having a far smaller impact. If we've got to have all these people on the planet, it's better to push them together into one area and not spread them out across nature, what's left of it, because they're going to destroy it. I can see that.
Since I'm rushed for time, I won't-- unless you want to talk to me later. And if you're one of those that disagrees with that statement, I'll explain that a bit later.
I just came across this construction in Denmark some place. And architecturally, I can't say anything about it since I'm not an architect, except that I do find it kind of visually striking. And there are some things that it does achieve there.
You do have a lot of people living in a small footprint, which is a good thing. It's utilizing, obviously, a lot of natural lighting. I didn't read enough about this, about the efficiency of energy use and so on. And you can just barely make it out that there right there, is the entrance to an underground parking area. So they've not even paved a lot of land, apparently. I'm guessing that's the case there, that a lot of the parking is underground. So they're actually producing this small footprint on the planet there.
Quickly-- I really need to wrap this up. Peter Raven is a very well-respected biologist. He made that statement.
The human population now-- I'll go through this really rapidly-- is the most frightening thing about our influence on the planet right now. I'm just going to go ahead and skip to this. 1950 is the year I was born, and there were 2 and 1/2 billion people on the planet.
And just this last year, we hit 7 billion. And to me, that is one of the most frightening facts I know about. Frightening. 4 and 1/2 billion extra people on the planet since I was born. An unimaginable number.
And remember, all these people need food, water, shelter, and room that must come out of nature in some way. And it's going to go on up, hopefully not more than nine before we get a handle on this and start to use some intelligence in our use of the planet. If not, we're going to end up like those Easter Island civilizations.
This is just my way of trying to get you to comprehend these numbers. I always use seconds as a measure of trying to comprehend these big numbers. What is that? 3,600 seconds in an hour. So many in the day, so many in the year. Ithaca, without the student population, 30,000. That's 8 hours and 15 minutes worth of seconds.
Just skip on down. Seven billion. The population of the world is 220 years worth of seconds. Now, if you can comprehend that number, you're doing far more than I can. And if you tell me that you can, I don't believe you. I don't think anyone can comprehend that number. It's unimaginable, the number of people that we have on the planet.
Just a simple statement to remind you of that, that these people all need things that must come out of nature, that reduces part of the living world that biodiversity has to exist in.
I've had some arguments lately about what the word natural means. I think I'd like to have that mean something. And for me the best definition of unnatural is something that humans have done. And again, you can argue this point because humans are a part of nature, but this building is not nature. A lot of those other environments that I showed you are not nature, and I call those unnatural. I don't know what else to call them but unnatural.
Now, the goal of this symposium is hopefully to pull more nature into our unnatural constructions. At least, I hope that's the point of this whole meeting.
This is just-- I'm again, a novice. I don't know much about architecture. But just in thinking about this, really for the very first time, here's a few points that I would think would be worth considering at least.
Really, the first one's most important. Before you build something, consult with ecologists about the area that you're going to utilize, if you're going to utilize some undeveloped land. A very important one if you can do it, use land already made unnatural, rather than going out into nature and destroying some more nature. And of course, we're at the point now that we can do that in a lot of areas.
[INAUDIBLE]-- you know all this stuff. You know about all that.
Here's one that's not often thought about. Build so that rainwater can soak into the soil to feed that soil community. Because again, there's a lot of nature in the soil. Build to last. Reduce maintenance materials.
A few buildings, real quick-- and I don't know much about these, but if you don't know, you might check them out online-- the California Academy of Sciences is supposedly a building finished recently that incorporates a lot of environmentally friendly solutions like, obviously, the green roof, using natural lighting quite a bit. Natural ventilation was discussed in the things I read about.
Natural history museum of Utah-- first of all, fits into the landscape kind of strikingly and uses-- you can't see it here, but there is a green planted roof there, lots of natural lighting, energy efficiency, and so on.
Even on my own campus-- although it doesn't look like much-- we are just completing an allied health building that, for a number of reasons, this is going to be the most environmentally friendly building that was ever built on our campus. I don't have time to go through any of those details there.
We always talk about being carbon neutral. You've all heard that. Well, we need to be biodiversity neutral in the sense that when we build, we want to not reduce biodiversity farther than it's already been reduced.
Let's read that for a second. I'm coming to the end.
Showed some planets earlier that do not have life so far as we know. This is one of the moons of Jupiter, Europa, and this is mostly, according to all the information we can gather-- this is covered with ice, water ice. We don't know exactly how deep this ice goes, but the suspicion is there might be liquid water underneath all of this ice.
And of course, the next assumption is there just might be living organisms on Europa. Well, it's a striking looking image, and I don't know that we'll ever get to Europa in our lifetime, your children's lifetime, your grandchildren's lifetime. But assume that there is life there. Would you want it just to be destroyed right now because it might benefit us in some way, even though it's not even there? I would not. I would want to save that for future generations to explore.
Right now, it means nothing to us, in terms of any functional necessity or need whatsoever, like a lot of the nature right here on this planet. But I think we have to try to preserve and respect not only our planet, but the universe, and not be the destroyers of everything that we come in contact with. So I know I've overstepped my time here. I will quit there. And I don't know if there's any time for questions or not, but thank you very much.
JONATHAN OCHSHORN: There is a question. I think we should at least have opportunity for one. Raise your hand if you have one, and a microphone will find you.
DAVID ZEIGLER: There's one.
AUDIENCE: So I guess my question is just, do you think that it's possible for humans to appreciate nature without somehow always reverting to some sort of utilitarian point of view? Because I think that when we talk about the need for wonder or awe, that those are also human needs. And so I'm somewhat doubtful that you can have a truly non-anthropocentric point of view. You can talk about Peter Singer and his mode of conceptualizing, where you draw the lines of value--
DAVID ZEIGLER: Well, I would answer that by saying two things. One is that when people's lives are harsh, and survival is their number one issue, no, biodiversity does not matter. But lots of people will never visit the Brooklyn Bridge, but I don't think they'd want it destroyed for some silly reason. I think they would want that to be preserved for maybe their children to go see.
And I will say that as we get people in better conditions, where they can start becoming happy and don't have to worry about survival and disease and all these things, of course, the next step is to become more educated. And I think all people need to become educated about the life that we share the planet with. That may be a pipe dream, but then I think we will have far more people concerned about what we're doing to these organisms that we share the planet with.
JONATHAN OCHSHORN: OK.
Yeah. Well, thanks very much. And we will have another opportunity to revisit some of these issues later in the afternoon.
So I think we'll move on to our second speaker of this morning's session John Marzluff is a professor of wildlife science at the University of Washington. This is the place that's actually in Washington, rather than in places like St. Louis.
He brings a behavioral approach to conservation issues such as raptor management and the management of pest species. He has written or co-written several books all with very provocative titles, including Dog Days, Raven Nights, In the Company of Crows and Ravens, and Gift of the Crow. In these books, biology, conservation, and anthropology are combined or blended to better understand the cohabitation of human and animal cultures.
Professor Marzluff has edited numerous compilations and is a member of the board of editors of Acta Ornithologica-- if I got that right.-- landscape, ecology, and ecological applications. He currently is the leader of the US Fish and Wildlife Services recovery team for Mariana crow, a critically endangered species.
He is also a member of the Washington Biodiversity Council and a fellow of the American Ornithologists' Union. Please welcome John Marzluff.
JOHN MARZLUFF: Thanks, Jonathan. Can you guys hear me OK back there? It's an interesting juxtaposition from David's talk. And to echo his words, I want to thank Mark and Michael and Hans and everybody who made this possible. It's enjoyable to come and learn from other disciplines as we're doing today.
So I'm also a biologist, and I have the same end, I think, in mind, in terms of trying to conserve and make people understand and appreciate biodiversity in its fullest extent. But I think you'll see that I'm coming to that end from a very different track than we just heard. And I firmly think we are part of nature. And I firmly think that if we we're to survive and to have biodiversity survive, we need to realize that, and work with that, and try to understand our role and our part in there, And as we just learned, our destructive as well as constructive processes.
So I'm going to emphasize a variety of positive and negative things we do. But I need to know how to switch this. Sorry. Just push the button? So if you need to contact me, that's my contact information. And again, I'm going to talk to you from a bird's perspective because I study birds, and that's the view that I have, basically, of how we interact with nature.
And I would start with a couple of premises. The first, I think, is that if our goal is to sustain vibrant avifaunas, or vibrant communities of birds in urban areas and in our developed areas, I suggest we need these three things-- we need a diverse community, which we heard a lot about just now. To have that diverse community, we need viable populations, those that can sustain themselves via their survival and reproduction.
That's a hard goal to get as a wild animal living with people. That's a really tough standard. But I'll show you some of the ways we're starting to investigate whether that's possible.
It's hard to measure, unfortunately, as a biologist. And I think something that's very relevant to all of us here is that we need a public that's engaged by birds or nature, to use the previous talk more generally. But in my example, we need you guys to be engaged by birds if we're going to have a chance at doing anything about them.
And I think if we have these qualities, we'll have resilience, which is a goal that I would shoot for, in that our natural ecosystems can adapt to changes. And I think that we have resilience, because birds in those situations would have the options to adapt, basically, and humans would have the interest and also benefits of that adaptation.
So I'm going to take you back to Seattle for most of the empirical work. I'm going to give you a lot of data. We can talk about it in as much detail as you want. But I want to run through a variety of the ways we go about trying to get this information, understanding communities and populations and our interaction with them.
So Seattle is where I'm from. Is there a pointer on this?
Sorry. Oh, OK. I was probably blinding somebody the whole time. I didn't know it.
So anyway, this is the Pacific Ocean, the Puget Sound. And Seattle is the gray land cover here, basically. Gray in this scale is built land, and green is forested land. And what we have is a strong gradient where I live-- from the ocean, where the city also sits, through several big lakes, much like around here-- to the mountains and foothills of the Cascade Mountains, where we have mostly forests that are varying degrees of working for us to preserve national parks.
There are three large national parks within this photograph and a large city of about 3 million people. And our study sites are these little white, 1-kilometer square places. And the little white dots within those are chunks of forest that we concentrate most of our bird studies within. And we look at several of these that are shown here in great detail. And many others, the little dots up here, we look at in a large extent to get a feel for the overall relationship of birds to this environment. And more details in the squares that are shown there.
And some of these squares-- just a little bit of the background on the study. Some of these squares, we look at our reserves of forest. Those are second-growth forests, about 100-year-old Douglas firs, Western red cedar-types of forests.
The red squares here are places where we went in while or before development was occurring, before a neighborhood was sighted there, and it was basically forest. We'd go in and measure birds and things and then watch that transition over the next decade as that area was developed. And then we've got a bunch of controls for that, which are these developments or suburban-- almost all what I'm going to be talking about is single-family housing suburban developments, what many people would consider urban sprawl.
And what we see in these places is much like David described, and that is the change in these places is very rapid, and it's extreme, as you know. This is a point where I count birds, and this is what it looked like in 2000. And in 2009, it looked like this. And again, the same point, facing a different direction in 2000 and then nine years later. So we can compare birds, and we compare small mammals, and we can compare whatever between these sorts of settings.
And here are the main points I'm going to leave you with, in case you drift off before I get to these. But hopefully, you'll see that where colonization outpaces extirpation, or creation outpaces extinction, we can have high diversity, even in the most urban areas. To maintain that diversity, a key rule that I would say for all of you is not to do the same thing everywhere-- whatever it is, whether it's the kind of building, the arrangement of the buildings, which is more what I'm focused on. Whatever it is, vary it. Make it different from place to place so that when you fly up from North Carolina to Ithaca, you don't see the same sort of landscape below us everywhere. The more variable, the more variable the biological response will be.
Determining how much to do, whatever it is you're going to do-- that's a difficult question. How much is too much, or how much is enough to have a creative influence is difficult, and I'll give you some examples of how we get at that. But as a biologist, I want to know are the populations that remain in these things we've done-- a type of development, or a type of building-- are they viable? Can they replace themselves? Are they able to move around in that area? And do they interact with other species in that area in a meaningful way? Those are my criteria for success.
And then, I think much of what we're going to do, whatever it is, is going to fail if people don't appreciate it. As much as that might be out of the realm of what a typical biological perspective would be, it's not going to last under our influence if we don't appreciate it and are interested in it. So I'll show you some ways-- very different ways, I think, than we've been thinking-- about how we can engage people in what we've done.
So first off, here's the response of bird diversity to urbanization. And I've plotted it here as a function of the amount of forest that's in those white squares I showed you of our study areas. But the converse of that is how much of it is built? In our situation, it's either secondary forest that's left, or it's a development of a single-family housing in that square kilometer.
And the surprising thing about this graph-- when I started this study 15 years ago, I expected this line to go up. The more forest, the more diversity. That's what biologists will typically say. The more of the natural system there, the more the bird responds to it.
But it's not true in a suburban setting. It's a humped distribution. And this distribution has been found in many different environments, not just Seattle, which is-- Seattle is probably a bit unique.
And one thing to keep in mind comparing, for example, New York to Seattle, the influence of people in developing the surrounding landscape has been a lot less in Seattle. Again, I've got three national parks surrounding my study areas, where a lot of these sorts of birds can come from and survive in great numbers and come into the city and influence them. Much different than places where we've been on the ground for 300 or 1,000 or 2,000 years. It's going to be different.
But the same response, a peak in diversity at some intermediate amount of settlement, is pretty typical. It's even been called the intermediate disturbance hypothesis, in general, in describing what happens in tropical rain forests or coral reefs. It's not an unusual phenomenon. I shouldn't have been surprised when I found it, but my training as a conservation biologist said the more forest should lead to greater diversity.
But the reason it doesn't here is because we've got a great mix of things. We haven't done the same thing everywhere in that place. We've got forests. We've got lawns. We've got shrub layers. We've got places that are variously influenced by people and by forest.
If you look more more closely at the kinds of diversity that's in those places, you do see some different responses. So again, this is just the number of birds that we count as a function of how much forest is in that landscape or how much building is in there. And if you look at extinction here in this top curve, this is loss of native forest species.
And with more forest, you have less extinction. Less species are lost in this graph. And that's what the typical conservation biology approach would have expected to see. But that's a relatively few number of species that we're talking about here.
And we also have two other processes, or the two other versions of colonization, which is the opposite of the extinction I'm showing here. We've got colonization by some birds that are dependent upon people-- things like starlings, in our case, that basically live only in built areas where lawns are provided and houses are provided. But also things like house finches, some native species, not just exotic species or non-natives like starlings. In fact, we only have two non-native species in this graph.
But we have some animals that are only found where there isn't much forest, where there's a lot of humanity. And we've got the bulk of species-- the largest group that we've got here is what we call early successional, or colonizing species that need disturbed settings-- young forests, or grasslands that are regrowing, or shrub lands. In our situation, in our neighborhoods, and I think in many others, those shrubby situations, those weedy, unkempt places in the neighborhood are places of high bird diversity.
There's a lot of food there, and there's a lot of interesting all-native species that are responding to this. These are things like grosbeaks, for those of you who know, or pine siskins, or some of the thrushes. In our case, Swainson's thrush is a species that responds quite strongly to this mixture of edge type of habitat, basically, where you've got fruiting bushes next to the forested or built areas.
So if you add these three curves up, you get the curve I showed you. It's the same data. I just split it up three different ways. And this is the function that's driving it, is this colonization, not extinction. Colonization of early successional of species.
And you get some natives, some purely human-derived species, and some colonization of these early successional species at those intermediate levels of development. And that's why we have high diversity there.
We can study this process through time. You can see that some species-- here's my favorite, the American crow-- increasing in abundance through time at developments after the development is started. So here is a forested condition, and here is the increasingly built condition of the same places through time. And you have colonization by some species; you have extinction by others.
Here's the winter wren, which is a species that's very dependent upon understory complex vegetation and downed woody material, and they drop off in developments. And I'll come back to this species quite a few times throughout the talk, so just keep in mind that the winter wren-- or actually, it's completely extinct. It doesn't exist anymore in the west because it's been renamed to the Pacific wren in the west.
So actually, it was a burst of biodiversity where we split the winter wren into the winter and Pacific. You guys have the winter wren here or a little further north. We've got the Pacific wren now. So you'll see in my slides that it changes names a few times. But it was the house wren-- or it was the winter wren when I made this slide.
We can use these sorts of things to envision the future. We were talking a bit about this, these future scenarios last night with my colleagues in urban planning, Marina Alberti and others-- Jeff Heppenstall. We've done some projections of how diversity might change in the Seattle area through time.
Given that the mixture of forest and built environments will change, it's pretty easy to predict, spatially, where change is going to happen. And we expect to see loss of bird diversity in places as we moved down that humped distribution, away from a mix to mostly urban. And we expect to see gains in some areas where we increase the diversity of the forest and built environment as well.
The point of all of this is, again, to make the point to you that we can't do the same thing everywhere and maintain this high diversity. If we do, we will end up with a very small set of the species that are possible to occur in a larger landscape. We could increase local diversity if we manage just for these early successional species. But we would lose out on some of these species that are highly dependent that go extinct in this graph quite quickly in response to loss of forests, and we would lose these species that require areas devoid of forests and that really require built environments in our situation.
So if we instead maintain some fragmented suburbs for these sorts of species, some dense urban areas for these, and some forested reserves in this larger landscape planning, then we can maintain all of these different species. Because each of these dots are not just numbers of species; they represent distinct groups of species as well. Is that clear?
All right. So again, moving to the next question. How much do we maintain in an area? We've asked this question with respect to how much forest do we maintain on the landscape. I think from our talk last night, from Michael's talk, you could ask how much of a given type of building might we maintain in an area to keep some of these species around that might use the skin that you're definitely modifying?
We do the same thing here with just respect to the amount of forest cover. But I think the concept can be applied in any of those scales that you laid out there to think about how many buildings, how many types of buildings, how much of a building should be adjusted to allow some of these species to occur.
So what we've got here is just a starting point. And that is, it's just a matrix that shows as a function of the amount of forest in a patch that exists in a suburban neighborhood, what species are able to be maintained at these different sizes of patches? And the grayed-in squares are ones where-- these are all study sites. Every square on there is a study site-- every column. And the rows represent the occurrence of a given species of bird.
And this vertical line, or 45-degree line, basically, shows the threshold at which the species occurs versus doesn't occur very consistently in the type of forests we leave. So if we were to tell developers, which we have done, maintain a reserve of about 30 hectors within these developments. That's a scale that's reasonable for the developer to maintain.
And from our standpoint, that would maintain all of these birds, which are all forest-- these are all the forest dependent species. It would maintain these birds upon the landscape. We'd maintain our wren, which is very sensitive to loss of forest, if we maintain small patches of forest, because they have small territories. They're very tiny animals, this big. And they can live in small places.
But to maintain some of these other animals that need bigger areas-- some of the woodpeckers or jays, or some of these species that need very large amounts of productive insect infested forests, basically-- because that's what they eat-- we need larger areas. We need areas of hundreds to 1,000 hectares, which is impractical within a development. But with some of these planned developments, you can intensify development in some areas and leave relatively large areas nearby.
So the planner can start with this and say, well, I've got 50 acres, or whatever it is, to work with. So I'm going to shoot for maintaining Stellar's jays on up in this ability. And they have some tangible targets they can shoot for. And our planners do use these sorts of guidelines now.
But that's just a starting point. That would get them there. We could get a winter wren on a place. But is that winter wren sustainable? Is it going to survive and reproduce and replace itself, so that there's always a winter wren there throughout time? Or is it just going to come in, settle there, and never be able to attract a mate or reproduce?
I've had many birds that we go out-- and the way we study these sorts of things is to usually catch birds, mark them so we can identify them, and then follow them throughout their lives. I've had many marked birds where I'll go year after year and watch. And it's one in particular, a song sparrow, a small bird that you have around here, singing every year for eight years. It never got a mate.
It was just there wasn't enough of the habitat there to allow that bird to be able to sustain a population of any meaningful type. There was always one there, but it wasn't viable. So that's what we're trying to get at.
How do we get things to the point where we understand what resources the animal needs, how big of a population it needs? How does it engender human interest? Those are the questions I want to address now with you. And to do that, we need long-term, and I would say mechanistic, study to understand those relationships. And I mean long-term, decades, to really get at these sorts of answers.
So let me give you some examples of the sorts of things we do. This is very disjunct, but it'll give you some idea of the sorts of things we do. One of the species we're fascinated with is the pileated woodpecker.
The reason I'm fascinated with this bird in an urban area is that it's this big. It needs a lot of space. And it needs big trees to drill big holes this big around in to then have a cavity to live in and raise its young in.
And it needs to eat ants, although we found it eats a lot of suet. It actually spends a lot of time-- here is a development. This is the typical ecosystem that we work within. And these areas here are places where radio tag pileated woodpeckers have moved around in.
So I have a student who's got radios on these birds. We follow them around, and we plot their location on a map every time we see them. And the darker the red area here is where they spend most of their time.
When we started this study, I thought they'd spend all their time here in the forest. They don't. This bird never goes in the forest. This bird lives in people's backyards full time, and it spends most of its time at their bird feeders eating suet that they put out. And the people that put out the suet, they love these birds. They didn't really want us to catch them and radio tag them, of course, but they were up for it.
And so what we've learned by this detailed following of individual animals is the resources they require are not always what we think. It's not always this deep forest. But they can adapt and survive and reproduce within these human-built areas. But they need particular resources when they do that.
One of the things we found most generally is that oftentimes, the populations that are in these areas, although they are adapting, they're pretty small. And for example, here's pileated woodpecker populations. And in our study areas, the mean number of pairs is quite small relative to nearby forested areas. That's because they have larger home range size requirements.
Although now that we've radio tagged these, actually, this result may be overturned. Jorge, my student who's studying these animals, just showed me a graph right before I came that the home range size of these pileated woodpeckers, like the one I showed you that's really adapted to the neighborhood, is quite small. And basically, because they just stay in people's yards. And they just have a very small area where they do, because of our supplementation, get enough resources to survive there.
So this is general, a study we did a while ago, and maybe that will be changing. But the other responses are pretty similar. Small population size is a rule that we're finding. And small population size is bad if you want to evolve, if you want to adapt to the environment.
This is a complex graph that makes a simple point. Here's our urban environment. These are all the selective features of it that we heard something about just a bit ago. The poisons and activities and changes in the land cover that we put on that environment are strong selective pressures on animals.
And animals can adapt to selection. That's what we always do. That is what animals do, is they adapt to selective pressures. But they can't do that if their population is small.
The population is very small, they don't adapt; they drift-- it's called. So just randomly, they are selected which ones survive and reproduce. It has nothing to do with how well they are fit to that environment. If you're down in the fifties to hundreds of individuals, you cannot respond to selection. It can't mathematically be done. So that's a real problem. And that's been more the interest of me in the respect now is that we have a population big enough to respond to this. This is bad. In many ways, it's a challenge, I think we could say.
But animals can handle that challenge. Plants can handle that challenge if there's enough of them to allow natural selection to work. But when it's small, you get genetic drift that's occurring instead of natural selection, and those two are opposing. And so you also get these random extinction events, another sort of random factor that comes into play here instead of local adaptation, which is what we'd like to see even in urban area.
All right. So evolution may be constrained by small populations, so my survivorship and reproduction constrain those population sizes. So what we spend an awful lot of our time doing is tracking around these individual birds we've tagged to see are they reproducing and surviving like they would in other places? And we use that to basically define whether these populations are growing or replacing, or at least stable.
This would be exactly-- this is the line of sustainability, if you want to think of it as that way, for an animal population, including humans. And that is, is the average annual population change-- population size from one year to the next, is it the same? Or is it increasing? This is a growing population. Or is it decreasing? A declining population.
And to do those calculations, you have to know how long an animal lives, how many young it produces in that lifetime, and how well those young survive and are able to move around and colonize new areas on the landscape. So you need to know survivorship, reproduction, and dispersal. Tough things to get at with animals, especially ones that go to South America for half the year that you might not see again.
So we try to do that. We tag them. We follow them. We calculate these statistics out. And we basically find that for some animals, like robins in this case-- actually, they're more abundant in reserves. They're more sustainable, their populations are, in reserves than in the built areas, the developments that we're looking at.
And others, like Bewick's wrens, even though the confidence interval here doesn't quite meet the stable population line, they tend to do better in the developed areas than in the reserve areas. Juncos-- these are the kings of development in our areas. The small bird with two white outer tail feathers. They do very well in developments. They do pretty well everywhere, but especially in these developed areas.
And then other species-- here's a Swainson's thrush, which which survives well in forested areas, but not so in developed areas. And then here's our wren, this kind of perplexing result that I'll come back to in the next slide. The wren seems to do very well in forests as we expect. It's a forest-dependent species. But it also seems to do very well in development. That's, I think, something to think about.
This response and this response of the robin, I'll talk about now. Because sometimes, when you look at the demographics like that, it's again, a little bit misleading. You need to look at abundance and demographics to really understand whether a bird population is sustainable.
Here's that wren. So what the wren population does-- this is just the number of wrens as a function of time-- in this case, going to the same place and measuring the populations. And in the forested areas, they're quite abundant. They're actually the most abundant bird if you go to just a forest and count birds. The most abundant is the wren, and here he is. And that's also where they were sustainable, demographically-- I just showed you.
And here's where they were also appearing to be sustainable demographically. But their populations are so small that what happens here is you have one or two animals that do well there. But I don't think it's a population big enough to evolve and adapt to that environment. So eventually, they are lost. And I'll show you an example of that.
The opposite extreme is where you see the robin, which I just told you did very well in these reserved areas. But they're not all that abundant there. The black dots here are the abundance. And where they're actually most abundant is in these developments. You all know this. All of you who live here in the US know this. You see a lot of robins. It would be like seeing blackbirds in Europe. Basically the same species almost. And what you see here is that they're very abundant, but they're not sustainable here because of low reproduction or survivorship.
So you need to look at both to understand whether that's going to be sustainable in the long run. Probably not for winter wrens. And is it sustainable even on the short term? Maybe not. It might be what we call an ecological trap for robins.
Now, moving around through this landscape, these are the data that are most difficult for us to get and where our knowledge is the least. And that's why, when I showed you this previous slide here, I didn't get too concerned about species that are fully below this line of one. And that's because we know all of our estimates here are biased low because we aren't fully accounting for the movement of animals between areas. We can only monitor them in a place and know do they come back and survive here-- which adults, they do, or they are dead. But young birds might come back, or they might go somewhere else, or we'll never see them again. Right?
So I know those are biased low, and it doesn't bother me. But we can study that movement for short periods of time and try to understand is that a limiting force? A lot of what's been done with landscape ecology in the urban areas to think of the matrix, what we think of as the built environment around our forests as being a barrier to the survival of these animals. They fly through that matrix, and they get eaten by a cat, or they get hit by a car, or a kid shoots them with a BB gun.
Those are the things that happen in the matrix. And they all happen. But the question is, how bad is it for these birds?
So Kara Whittaker, again, put radio tags on young robins in this example and followed them and saw how quickly they moved through these environments. And in fact, where there's more forest, they in fact do move more rapidly here. And where there's more urban area, they slow down. They can't move-- literally can't move through that environment as quickly. So there are barriers to movement in there. It doesn't seem to affect survivorship very much, interestingly, but that's another story.
And another thing to think about-- another student, Thomas Unfried, did work on the genetic differentiation across this matrix. And just focus on this graph. And all it shows is that the amount of genetic differentiation here increases as the urban matrix is more resilient to moving-- more resistant to moving, I should say.
So by slowing down song sparrows, in this case, by moving, you increase the genetic differentiation among nearby song sparrow groups. Now, that could be bad. It could be that they will go extinct because they're not exchanging genes enough. But it can also be creative. It can lead to different races.
And in San Francisco, for example, the San Francisco region, there's like nine different races of this same species around the Bay. And it was there before San Francisco was built. San Francisco might have accentuated or changed that. But this disruption of gene flow-- as much as it can be bad for diversity, is also it's the creative force of speciation and local adaptation to an area. So think of it as both ways.
Then, not only do we want to have viable populations, we want to have them interacting with the other members of their community well. And that's what this graph shows, is just within our urban communities, what are the birds-- how do they interact with one another? And each of these stupid little acronyms are species name.
So here is pileated woodpecker, northern flicker. These are all cavity nesting woodpeckers. These are birds that use the cavities that these birds make. So there's facilitation as a process in a urban ecosystem. Woodpecker's facilitating these other birds that need their cavities.
There's predation. Here are things like cowbirds that are parasites on birds. Here are squirrels and jays that eat birds-- and hawks and owls that eat all these other birds and have a predation influence upon them. And then, here's all the birds I've been talking about mostly. Here's our winter wren and how it interacts with being eaten by garter snakes or jays, and how it interacts with another wren that increases-- the Bewick's wren increases with urbanization.
So there's a complex interaction. And going back to our talk from last night, it's this sort of complexity that we'd like to maintain. For me, to think about having a really well-suited development or building, it's not just maintaining even the individual or a sustainable population of that, but it's this interaction. I'd like to have these sorts of things going on. I'd like to have predation
I remember going to one resident's yard, and she was so upset that the garter snake in her yard had just eaten a brood of juncos that she and her kids had been watching. They were devastated by this loss. I was like, that's really cool. That's exactly what you want. You had predation in your yard.
How much better than that can it get? She didn't see it quite that way. But that's what we're striving for, is that interaction, not just having the animals there as decoration.
All right. So one of these interactions has been facilitated by development. And in this case, it's competitive exclusion that's occurring, which in our case, is not a good thing that we would like to see happen. But one thing we've learned by studying these little Bewick's wrens is that they kick butt on winter wrens that are there. Winter wrens will be in; they might even have a viable population. And in the reserves, as I said-- this is their abundance in reserves. They're extremely abundant, and they're rare in developments.
But when you start developing an area, you start off with a lot of winter wrens, and their numbers gradually and quickly decline. And in contrast, you have a general increase in the abundance of Bewick's wrens. And so first off, development reduces the population in abundance of these specific or winter wrens, and it also brings in this other species that does well with people and uses our yards and woodpiles. And it comes in and it competitively excludes the other wren.
And here are some territories that we've mapped out. Here's that wren. Now it's the Pacific wren. Just think it's a winter wren.
We've mapped out where they occur at the start of a study, and then you get these Bewick's wrens that come in and start setting up their territories and overlapping. And if you play them each other's song-- if you play the winter wren a Bewick's wren's song, they shut up. They are quiet. They leave the area. And they're excluded by this interspecific territoriality, this Pacific interaction in this case reduces-- it actually doesn't reduce diversity; it switches the identity of the two wrens that are there. You still end up with a wren, but they're different ones in developed and undeveloped areas.
So there's a lot of complexity to these interactions. It's not just that one comes and one goes, but they fight it out for a while. And some win, some lose. Some adapt, some don't.
So let me get to the human engagement part of this story for you, because I think, really, that's what we can do the most with here. And I think not only thinking about how buildings can provide habitat directly for these animals, but how do they increase the ability with which humans can interact with the animals that are going to survive and be able to live in those areas with us? That to me would be a goal to shoot for with our architectural designs.
This one is great, where you're sitting out in a open-- to me, you're basically sitting right out in the environment looking out all above, below. Everywhere around you, you can see the crows, or robins, or whatever the animals are, the squirrels, that can survive in this environment. You can see that.
So what we've got here is just basically this-- Sorry. It's a set of feedback loops. This is an example from house sparrows in Europe. But basically, humans and house sparrows interact in a diversity of ways.
We provide housing and food for them, for the sparrows. They provide humans a view of nature. Some of the ways we influencing them are indirect through affecting their habitat or their predators-- much like the winter wren, Bewick wren example I just gave you-- that influence them. But there is this feedback plus and minus that's going on between us and these animals.
And we've seen the same thing in our studies. These are examples that Barbara Clucas did, where she looked at Seattle and Berlin as two different cities, examples of this sort of relationship. And what we found is that the amount of people that are putting out food or nest boxes is quite low in the center of those cities. And it increases as we go out to the less densely settled areas.
So the engagement in this measure is lower in the city than outside of the city, and that's perhaps something that you can think about, how would you increase this engagement by the type of building that you provide? And it does matter to the birds. Here's just the correlation between the number of birds that use nest boxes and how many people provide nest boxes.
It's a strong relationship in both cities. So the more people that are engaged, the more birds that are responding to that. So there's that positive feedback. Same thing with those that eat the food we put out.
And sometimes, these interactions are way out there. So now, this is going to be a part of the talk where you're going to go, this guy is crazy. Why did they invite him to come here?
Sometimes, the way these birds engage people is much more direct than you might ever imagine. There's a guy, Gary Clark, who emailed me one day. And he feeds crows. He's into crows big time. He provides chicken and all kinds of food for them every day.
And one day, he went out and fed his crows, and he looked up, and he said, I give you food every day, but you never give me anything. Why don't you give me something? And on his feeder was this candy conversation heart with the word love that afternoon.
So I went through a variety of hypotheses. I won't list them for you here, but you can imagine some of them. And I couldn't reject the hypothesis that the birds, in fact, gave him that heart. I don't think they did it purposely, although I can't reject that. But I have a lot of other cases of crows giving people things, lots of weird things. Nothing with writing, but things-- these are other things Gary got. He got this neat little butterfly and a stick and all sorts of things.
And I can't reject the idea that, in fact, these birds do that perhaps to reinforce that giving from the humans. To get more food, they give something and get it back. It may just be chance. They were carrying something around, saw food, dropped it. But it's also possible that they learn these things.
And oftentimes, we respond to these birds as if they are pests. And much like a lot of the small biodiversity that we were just talking about, crows are an example of biodiversity that a lot of people don't value. And in fact, what we have seen is that if you ask people, do they discourage birds, this is much more common outside of the city than inside the city as well.
And this behavior is translated into the behavior of the birds themselves. Here is how close you can get to a crow in areas where people are discouraging their occurrence, versus how close you can get to a crow much closer in an area where people are not doing that. So behaviorally, these birds are adjusting, maybe by giving gifts and also by adjusting their movements.
The last thing-- I've got a couple more things. That all right? Couple more things to go through here.
The last thing they do is they remember. And they respond to us in much the same way that we respond to them. That's the last message for you here.
This is an example we've done on campus, where we caught birds-- crows-- and then we tried to see do they recognize us as an individual after that fact? So we catch them with a net. We wore this crazy mask when we caught them so that if they ever saw that mask again, we would know, did they respond differently to it?
And we found they did. They respond very aggressively when they see this mask on campus. So that when we wear it, they come down and dive and scold and chase us around and get us out of the area.
And that's interesting in itself. But two other things are interesting. More and more crows do it all the time. So now, when I wear this mask on campus, I have like 30% or 40% of the birds I encounter are chasing me.
And they're not the same birds I caught at all. I only caught seven birds, and I did it six years ago. So they're remembering for six years to harass this guy who comes out once or twice a year. As soon as he steps out of his office, he's attacked by these birds. And they're passing this information on socially.
And we were interested in trying to understand, how do they do that? That's a kind of memory feat that humans can do. But do birds think like we do? They don't have complex brains like we do, do they? Well, of course they do, or I wouldn't have told you that.
So what we've been trying to do is to scan their brains as they're seeing those dangerous and friendly people in the environment. And the point of this side track is to show you that by understanding the mechanism sometimes about how nature works, you can get excited and interested, and people that don't care at all about crows can look at this and go, whoa, that's weird. And they can get some ownership in trying to maintain this sort of diversity in their environment.
So what we do is we catch birds. We catch them with a mask again. We bring them into captivity. We give them a radioactive tracer. We put them to sleep. We scan their brains after they've looked at us and taken up this tracer. And then you can look at their brains and say what part of it is active, and how does that compare to what a human would do if they saw somebody who just caught you and let you go?
So this is what you see when you look at the brain of a crow who's been seeing a dangerous and a friendly person. First off, this is just a weird view of the brain. Here are the eyes. In here, this technique we use allows us to see the areas of the brain that are most active. We see that there are parts in the forebrain that are active and parts more in the lower parts of the brain that are active.
I just want you to focus on just this pattern. These are just MRIs. The gray areas and the red areas here are the average response of crows that have seen that person that caught them, versus no person in an experiment. Or they saw the person that had cared for them for about three weeks-- fed them food, clean their cages-- versus nothing. And this is just the subtraction of those that saw the dangerous versus a caring face.
As weird as this is, it's exactly the same way that humans would be looking at a dangerous or a friendly person. What you see here-- even though the brain of a bird is very different-- is that they're part of the forebrain-- and now we just tell our cortex, our forebrain, that considers the information coming in, considers the visual information.
And there are places that are analogous-- they're the same as our memory stores, the hippocampus-- which influence that sight with past memory. And there's emotion. This part of the bird's brain is the amygdala. This is the part that is the response that the human response to a fearful stimulation. Same thing in the crow.
So they're using thought, memory, and emotion to respond to this threatening face. They're using thought, memory, and emotion. But here, it's the emotion that we would use when we see a caring face, a caring person, or our spouse, our social companion. This part of the brain is the same place.
And it's even the same hemispheres of the brain that humans use-- right hemisphere for dangerous, left hemisphere for friendly. So these birds are using thought, emotion, and memory in the same way that we are to survive in their world with us. So they're seeing us as we see them.
What does it mean? Why should we care about this? I've gone through a lot of different things, hopefully just to let you know the sorts of things we do first off and how we might use them to change our world so that it's more in harmony with some of the other species that we share the planet with.
So these urban areas-- I think they're capable of extraordinary diversity. I think they're natural. They're just an extreme form of nature where human influence is very strong, but it still can be very diverse, and we might have to understand ways in which we arrange built and nonbuilt areas to maintain certain kinds of diversity. But even if we do nothing, there will be some extremely common and interesting organisms that use that area with us.
And I think it's a worthy goal to try to maintain diversity in those areas, not just to write them off, but to celebrate that diversity and let people know about it, and understand even the way that these animals might use it. There may be some homogenization. It's something we worry about as conservation biologists, that we end up with the same animals in cities everywhere.
But those of you who have been to many different cities, although you will often see pigeons and starlings and sparrows and a crow, there's also flamingos in Madrid, and there's cormorants and things here that you don't see there. There's a lot of diversity that is still distinct among our largest cities. So some homogenisation is inevitable-- and it might be OK; it's still things that interact with people and we're interested in-- but we can minimize that by not doing the same thing everywhere.
And finally, in these urban areas, that's a place where people are most likely to encounter biodiversity. And if we don't have them interested in biodiversity there, they're not going to be interested in it places they don't go. So I think by showing them some of these interesting, positive interactions-- like way of crow's brain responds to something in its environment, whether it's a person or not-- it helps us put a face on biodiversity. It makes it personal to the people that are involved with it and can, in that way, allow them to feel more responsible for it and perhaps do more about it as well.
So I think drawing these parallels increases our appreciation for biodiversity and hopefully, results in our ability to conserve it more. So with that, thank you for your attention. And if we got time for a question, I'm glad to answer one. Or if you want to move on and catch up, that's fine.
JONATHAN OCHSHORN: --one question, and the microphone people will find you.
AUDIENCE: Thank you. My name is Jennifer. I'm a CRP student here at the college. And my question is regarding something I've been thinking about for a while, which is, do you think it's possible in an urban environment over time to effectively teach or train a certain species in order to allow them to better live and cohabitate with humans and increase their affective density in a zone?
JOHN MARZLUFF: Yeah, I think it is possible to do that, but I don't even know that we need to. I don't think we need to actively teach or train them. I think the way natural selection works is to do that for us on these animals.
And I think, for example, the crow response-- they are very dense in urban areas. And nobody went out and taught them to avoid people that harass them and not to avoid those that don't. Natural selection did that for them. That's the way they adapt.
But I think rather than-- although in some special cases, maybe you want to actually train animals to act in a certain way so they can live more closely with us. The simpler way is to allow some populations to, in fact, be quite large so that they can adapt to us. And again, I'll come back to the crow example because people don't like big populations of animals where they live, whether it's crows or bats or cockroaches or whatever it is. If there's too many of them, we tend to try to get rid of them. But if we do that, then the species will never be able to adapt to us.
So if we allow some of those large populations to occur, during that process of interacting with us when it's a large population, they will also adapt to us. And some of that adaptation can be to not be where we don't want them, or to not come into our house, for example, but to remain in the parks outside of it.
So some of that adaptation that we enforce upon them can be teaching them, selecting them, to live in the places we will tolerate them. But the only way you're going to get that is to initially allow them to be everywhere in a large population so that you can select for the ones that you want to do or be in a particular place more effectively. Otherwise, they're going to likely just go extinct locally in the area because they basically can't track our desires.
So yeah, I think you could do that. But I think it'd be better just to allow it to happen as a natural process. Maybe something like Carolina parakeets. If we ever get species like that back, that's a situation where you would want to train species to, say, come to feeders and be able to survive in our built world because their other area isn't available.
So it's possible to do that sort of thing, but I think that's an extreme case where we don't need to do that yet. It would be better to allow selection to work on the species that are abundant with us first.
JONATHAN OCHSHORN: Thank you. It seems like the species that may need the most--
--the species that may need the most training are actually the human species.
I suggest we take a break and maybe extend it five minutes longer than planned, to come back at about five after 11:00 and find some coffee and food somewhere back there, back under the dome. Thanks.
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John Marzluff, professor of wildlife science at the University of Washington, gives a presentation at the 2012 Hans and Roger Strauch Symposium on Sustainable Design, "Sustaining Sustainability: Alternative Approaches in Urban Ecology and Architecture," February 4, 2012.
The symposium was organized jointly by the Cornell University Department of Architecture and the Oslo School of Architecture and Design Research Center for Architecture and Tectonics.