Later today I’ll be on the train from London in the UK up to Norwich where Dr Andrew Gosler and I will co-chair a session on ethnoornithology at the 9th Conference of the European Ornithologists’ Union at the University of East Anglia at Norwich, UK for the rest of the week.

The conference will cover the full range of ornithological research, including both basic and applied aspects.

The programme will be composed of plenaries, symposia, contributed oral and poster sessions, as well as, Round Table discussions.

I look forward to bring further information from this session in the next few days, particularly on Twitter – the conference hashtag is #EOU2013UK. Other useful hashtags for the conference – from my perspective at least – are #ethnobiology, #ethnoornithology and useful links include @IBIS_journal and @_BTO.

I’ll also use the Ethnobiology and Ethnoornithology sites on Facebook to discuss the conference proceedings.

You can read more about this meeting at the conference website here.

papers to be presented during the symposium include the following:

Symposium 8: European ethno-ornithology and conservation

10:30-11:00: Gosler A & Gosford R.: A brief introduction to European Ethno-ornithology and Conservation

11:00-11:30: Strazds M., Ratkeviča M., Mārdega I.: A history of bird names in Latvia: from folk songs to company logos and press-releases; do they reflect attitudes to the environment?

11:30-11:50: Vansteelant W., Verhelst B.: One million raptors over a Georgian village

11:50-12:10: Greggor A.: Cultural interactions between bird and human populations.

12:10-12:30: Hopper N.G., Reynolds S.J., Gosler A.G.: The meaning of magpies Pica pica – avian cultural heritage as motivation for avian conservation.

It is a great set of papers and as best as I can tell this is the first time that ethnoornithology will be the subject of a dedicated session at a major European ornithological conference.

Here is the symposium abstract.

A brief introduction to European Ethno-ornithology and Conservation

Andrew G. Gosler, Edward Grey Institute & Institute of Human Sciences, Oxford Robert A. Gosford, Ethnoornithology Research & Study Group, Australia.

Three issues of major strategic concern to conservationists in Europe and North America are: 1) a growing sense of human disconnectedness from nature as populations become increasingly urban; 2) that biodiversity loss globally parallels a loss of human cultural diversity; and 3) the `Shifting Baseline Syndrome’ whereby successive generations fail to recognise the scale of change in biodiversity that had occurred over a significant period greater than that of their own generation’s span (e.g. since industrialization).

Globally, the extinction of cultures and species share similar causes in globalization, and with the loss of cultural diversity goes a loss of ethnobiological knowledge, which may be uniquely valuable for nature conservation. Consideration of this issue also offers potential for addressing the first issue of human disconnection from nature, which in the West is reflected in a decline in peoples’ basic natural history knowledge.

Relevant to this complex of issues, is the growing recognition that birds are of unique value in addressing the need to reconnect people with nature, and indeed in many cases with their own cultural roots.

In this paper we present an overview of the recent international revival of interest in the ethnobiological sub-discipline of ethnoornithology.

Since the Australasian Ornithological Conference of 2005, which hosted the first day-long session dedicated to ethnoornithology at an international conference, numerous similar sessions and symposia have occurred at national and international conferences in a variety of disciplines.

We discuss some aspects of the growing interest in ethnoornithology as an area for study, with particular emphasis on the practical application of ethnoornithological knowledge to indigenous and non-indigenous land management, the relevance of ethnoornithological research to European birds – both migrants and endemic – and its potential value to European bird habitat and conservation projects.

As an example, a recent study is described which demonstrates how the 3,291 English folk names of 78 passerine birds collected by ornithologists in the 19th century demonstrates the intimate knowledge of birds held by lay people in England at that time, and how this provides a stable baseline against which the decline in natural history knowledge of the population since that time might be compared.

The conservation potential of this is described in terms of the three specific issues raised above. We shall also consider the opportunities that ethnoornithology can offer students, emergent and mid-career biologists.


I’ll post my thoughts here and elsewhere from time to time during the conference – if you have any queries about this most fascinating area of study or want to find out more about ethnoornithology and who does what where and how drop me a line or have a look at the many posts at the Ethnoornithology Research and Study Group website.