Woodpecker No, Gunfire Yes


Woodpecker No, Gunfire Yes

A real-life science puzzle resolved, perhaps

by Alice Shirell Kaswell, AIR staff

Science is often an adventure, and sometimes a scientific investigation has a neat, surprise ending. Here is a recent case, as reported by the Associated Press:

JUNE 10, 2002, NEW ORLEANS -- Researchers who thought tapping noises they captured on tape were evidence that a possibly extinct type of woodpecker still survives have had their hopes dampened: The sounds, it turns out, were just gunfire....

Scientists, unlike some other people, love to report the full details of their surprises. At least some of them do, at least some of the time. Here is a press release issued by Cornell University Lab of Ornithology. The press release begins:

FOR RELEASE: June 10, 2002

ITHACA, N.Y./ RICHMOND, Va. -- Since early January, bird researchers, conservationists and bird enthusiasts everywhere have been holding their breath for results of a series of cooperative expeditions conducted by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Zeiss Sports Optics and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries in search of the ivory-billed woodpecker. Although the species has been long thought to be extinct, recent reports suggested that a few could have lingered undetected in a remote part of Louisiana.

Analysis of more than 4,000 hours of digital data captured by 12 acoustic recording units (ARUs), developed by the Cornell lab's team of bioacoustics engineers, have shown no indication of the species' presence. "As you can imagine, this is not what we had hoped for," says John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and a leader of the expedition....

Note the skillfull presentation of facts, with the most interesting facts presented first and the least interesting (the gunfire) presented barely at all) The full details make fun reading, and we urge you to look them up and savor the full experience of this, yet another scientific tale of the unexpected!

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