Saturday, September 27, 2014

Passenger Pigeons: Extinction on exhibit

Today, I'm taking my geology students on their all-day field trip.  One of my usual stops is the MSU Museum, as I detailed in Field trip notes for April 2013.  Unfortunately, today is a football Saturday in East Lansing, so the museum is closed, just like it was last year as I mentioned in A Day at the museum--not!  Too bad, as it has a really cool exhibit about extinction that my students and I saw this summer.  Here's the write-up from MSU.

'They Passed like a Cloud' traces abundance to extinction
June 9, 2014
Despite such incredible abundance in the past, the Passenger Pigeon is now extinct. 2014 marks the 100th year of their disappearance, and it is perhaps better known today as a cautionary tale prompting a call-to-action for environmental awareness.

The MSU Museum presents “They Passed Like a Cloud: Extinction and the Passenger Pigeon,” open now through Jan. 25. The title comes from Chief Pokagon, last chief of the Michigan Potawatomi people, in 1850 as he observed their massive presence, passing through the skies and tree branches.

Easy to hunt and harvest in large numbers, the birds were pushed to the brink. The last documented mighty colony of Passenger Pigeons was in Northern Michigan.

“This exhibit provides a great opportunity to get people to think about our impact on the environment,” said MSU Museum assistant curator of ornithology and assistant professor in the Department of Zoology Pamela C. Rasmussen. “This cautionary tale about our ancestors eliminating one of the world's most abundant birds in a few decades is more relevant now than ever. We tend to take the natural world for granted, but we really can't. Hopefully this exhibit will help create awareness that translates into positive action.”

Exhibitions like this mark the anniversary, promote the conservation of species and habitat, strengthen the relationship between people and nature and foster the sustainable use of natural resources.
Not to be outdone, the University of Michigan has its own exhibit.

Art exhibit marks 100-year extinction of passenger pigeon, adds to events planned at U-M
September 11, 2014
ANN ARBOR—When artists across the country were invited to be part of a traveling exhibit to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon, many had no idea of the story they were about to hear.

"As I began my research about the passenger pigeon, and rapidly began to understand the radical, abrupt and total demise of this beautiful bird, my heart ached," wrote Karen Rand Anderson of Connecticut in her artist statement, upon hearing about how the actions of man had killed off this bird that once roamed the continent freely, in abundant numbers.

"The facts are stunning: a population in the billions eliminated in a few decades. This is an idea I am still processing," said Eileen Hout of New York.
Unfortunately, it's a football Saturday in Ann Arbor, too, so my students won't be going there, either.  I will pass along to my students that they can to go both locations for extra credit.

On that note, I'm going to bed, as I have to get up early to lead the field trip.  Good night!

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