Birder's Guide

DEC 2018

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 14 of 43

13 December 2018 | Birder's Guide to Listing & Taxonomy t a folding table between two long rows of primer-gray cases, each about the size of a washing machine and stacked two high, first-year college student Leeza Lu takes careful measurements of a pre- served specimen of a Spot-crowned Wood- creeper. This tan, speckled bird from Mexico, with a strong, curved bill and a stiff tail, is one of some 50 members of its species care- fully arranged on the tray beside her. Next door, in what we call the wet lab, recent graduate Maggie Schedl moves tiny amounts of clear liquid from one small plastic tube to another with a micropipette, which looks a bit like a syringe on steroids. If you arrived in this moment, you'd just have to be- lieve her that the orb-like drops the size of a pinhead contain DNA, the genetic code of the very specimens measured next door. For us, it's a typical day at the Moore John McCormack A Laboratory of Zoology at Occidental Col- lege, where our daily mission is to study the 65,000 preserved bird specimens left in our care—almost all collected before 1960 by people long since passed from this Earth— and translate them into research results rel- evant to our planet and its biodiversity. The story of how the specimens arrived at Occidental, a small liberal arts college in northeast Los Angeles and not exactly where you'd expect to find a large specimen collec- tion, wends its way through the history of two ornithologists. Robert T. Moore, the lab's founder and a gentleman naturalist in the Vic- torian tradition, was a poet and ornithologist who established a personal collection in his house in Pasadena. Moore set out to study the birds of Mexico, whose fauna was not yet well described in the canon of Western science. In 1933, he hired Chester Converse Lamb, an n A collection of Robert T. Moore's vintage maps, field notes, and equipment, and the type specimen of the Tufted Jay. Photo © Occidental College Los Angeles, California

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