When is a Raven not a Raven? Learn from Field Naturalists’ next lecture
By Cathy Keddy
The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ (MVFN) 2013-2014 public lecture series, Knowing and Caring Connect Us with Nature, continues April 17 with its final presentation, “When is a Raven not a Raven?”. Anyone who possesses a curiosity or appreciation for wild nature will enjoy these lectures. Parents, teachers, cottagers, hunters, fishermen, canoeists, hikers, campers, artists, and seasoned field naturalists alike will find something to interest them as we explore Lanark County’s natural heritage and how best to protect it for future generations. Refreshments are offered at each lecture.
The speaker at MVFN’s next meeting will be Dr. Jeff Skevington, a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and an adjunct professor at both Carleton University and the University of Ottawa. Jeff is a taxonomist—someone who describes and classifies new species. Taxonomists classify and organize species in an orderly way which helps us to understand how they are related to one another. They also inform us about the key features of each species that help us identify them.
An Araripe Manakin—a spectacular new bird species discovered in NE Brazil and described in 1998. We have described 1.2 million species of living things, but millions more await discovery and description, many even in our back yards (photo courtesy Ketil Knudsen)
Jeff will take us into his world to explore just what is involved with discovering and describing new species. From field work to microscopes to DNA sequencing, the study of taxonomy (the science of naming organisms) and its related discipline, phylogenetics (the science of reconstructing the events that have led to the distribution and diversity of species), have changed a lot since the days of Darwin or Linnaeus. Despite hundreds of years of history, there remains a lot to be discovered and sorted out.
Did you know that over 1500 species of new birds have been added to the world list in just the last 20 years. That is not all. The number of discoveries in other groups such as insects is several orders of magnitude larger!
Consider the local scale—our own gardens or acreage. Believe it or not, even here there are still new species to discover. All observers of nature are well-positioned to contribute as citizen-scientists to the study of systematics (the general science of working out the relationships among organisms).
Find out how you can get involved and perhaps even name a species yourself, or better yet, have one named after you! Come to MVFN’s next lecture, “When is a Raven not a Raven?”, where Dr. Skevington will divulge this secret, Thursday April 17, 7:30pm at Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte. All are welcome ($5 fee for non-members). For further information please contact MVFN’s Program Chair Cathy Keddy at 613-257-3089.