I’m at Cherokee in North Carolina for the 37th annual Society of Ethnobiology meeting and, as I’ve done on a few occasions before, I’ll be chairing a session dedicated to current developments and research on the subject of ethnoornithology – the study of the relationships between human cultures and birds.

This year’s meeting will be the first joint conference between the Society of Ethnobiology (SoE) and the Society for Economic Botany (SEB) in Cherokee, North Carolina, from May 11-14, 2014.

The theme for the upcoming conference will be “The Energy of People, Places, and Life.” It will be a fully blended conference that builds on the energy sparked by each membership.

This is the 37th annual conference of the SoE and the 55th annual conference of the SEB.

Cherokee is the home of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and is adjacent to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in western North Carolina.

Here are the abstracts for the papers to be presented during the session, which will run on Wednesday 14th May from 2pm.

1 – Bob Gosford, Ethnoornithology Research and Study Group

John Gilbert: The first Australian ethnoornithologist

John Gilbert collected bird, mammal and plant specimens in Australia for the eminent British ornithologist John Gould between 1838 and the time of his untimely death in 1845.

One as yet unappreciated aspect of Gilbert’s time in Australia is his work with Aboriginal people around the small colonial settlements of Swan River and King George’s Sound in Western Australia, at various locations in New South Wales and South Australia and around the small military outpost of Port Essington in the Northern Territory.

Gilbert recorded the local Aboriginal names and information about many bird species. Much of that information was later published in Gould’s seven volume “The Birds of Australia“, which remains to this day the most comprehensive record of Australia-wide Aboriginal bird knowledge.

I will examine Gilbert’s two volume “Ornithological Notes“, the unpublished personal record of his work in Australia, and other published and unpublished sources recording Gilbert’s work and his influence on Australian ornithology and the potential for further research on Gilbert’s contribution as the first Australian ethnoornithologist.

Andean Condors in Relationship to Place and Others in a Cycle of Transformation

2 – Nicole Sault, Sally Glean Center for the Avian Arts


Andean Condors in Relationship to Place and Others in a Cycle of Transformation

The dynamic nature of the condor challenges our assumptions and understandings about the Andes.

This is because the meaning of the condor varies by time and place, and because the condor is so much more than an isolated thing or being. The condor above all represents relationship with other beings, places, and qualities in a cycle of transformations.

To break apart the condor from relationship is to destroy its integrity and remove it from the sacred, to be manipulated for political purposes and economic benefit with no associated responsibilities.

This paper will discuss condor history and meanings as a condensed symbol, a central point that connects with the main aspects of Andean cultures, even as these meanings change.

The focus is on Peru, but evidence from other countries will also be considered in the discussion, which is based on contemporary anthropological research as well as historical and archeological data.

3 – Andrew G. Gosler, Felice S. Wyndham, Karen E. Park, Ada M. Grabowska-Zhang, University of Oxford

The Ethno-ornithology World Archive (EWA): an open-science database for bird and biocultural conservation

The EWA project seeks to engage indigenous and local peoples, members of the public and private sector, community leaders, and researchers in bird—and more generally, biocultural—conservation, through the recording, researching, dissemination and application of ethno-ornithological knowledge world-wide.

Presently in early stages of development, we outline four areas of the EWA user-created online database to open discussion and invite feedback from the ethnobiology community: 1) conservation priorities; 2) intellectual and cultural heritage issues including ethical considerations; 3) comparative and collaborative research; 4) tools for teaching and learning.

With this compilation of culturally relevant knowledge of birds, we aim for more robust partnerships between conservationists and local people, and greater understanding of the cultures of all stakeholders.

In so doing, we explore and implement best-practices for building reciprocal, respectful relationships between communities of knowledge-origin and outsider researchers in digital environments.

The potential for comparative ethno-ornithological research using the EWA database is great, and it is envisioned as a rich resource for transformational teaching and active learning.

4 – Al Keali’i Chock, Botany Department, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa

The Ethnobiology of Pre-globalization Hawaiian Feather Cloaks and Capes

The Hawaiian feather cloaks were a distinctive, pre-contact artifact, a symbol of rank.

Although untold labor and thousands of bird feathers were involved, they were freely given as a mark of respect to the voyage leaders, beginning with Captain Cook in 1778.

Voyage logs, native Hawaiian papers, and biological literature were examined for my Hawaiian Ethnobotany course, and another project.

The bird specialists went into forests, wearing leaves rain capes as camouflage.

Sticks smeared with plant “bird lime” snared the birds. The yellow feathers found under the wings of the ‘ō‘ō and mamo were plucked, the feet washed with kukui nut oil and released.

The ‘i‘iwi and ‘apapane bodies were completely covered with red feathers, so were killed.

The birds were packed for the trip down in banana petiole sheaths, skinned, and then cooked and eaten.

The endemic olonā’s fiber were processed to make the garments’ netting.

5 – Bob Gosford, Ethnoornithology Research and Study Group

Towards a Cherokee ornithorium – realising the value of historical and contemporary bird knowledge

The recognition and application of traditional knowledge of birds is increasingly appreciated as a valuable tool for contemporary societies to re-engage with the knowledge of past generations and to provide opportunities to inform modern land and species management for the benefit of species, landscapes and societies.

Across the world, local language and cultural groups are recognising the value of ethnoornithology and ethnobiological methodologies, including as tools for inter-generational transfer of knowledge and engaging mainstream land managers with indigenous cultures and societies.

In this presentation I will discuss Cherokee bird knowledge and examine available research material, including historical sources and more recent research.

I will discuss tools and techniques used to collect and collate historical and contemporary bird knowledge, future prospects and opportunities for early and mid-career ethnobiologists looking to work in this area and the application of ethnoornithology at local and regional scales.

I will also present the results of my own research to date and make some tentative recommendations for future research.