We started our day today visiting Powdermill Nature Reserve, which is the research arm of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. In particular, we heard a presentation from Amy, a scientist who is studying bird calls–not songs, but the short (1 second or so) flight calls birds make when they migrate. So, they use micronets to capture the birds (there is a picture of one of those tied up below), band them, weigh them, etc., and then also attempt to record their flight calls. I won’t even go into how complicated the data compilation is–just say a short prayer of thanks for all the scientists doing very painstaking work all over the world, helping us learn more about the natural world–let alone how they even built up a data base of the calls in the first place (suffice it to say it involved some VERY patient scientists going out with hand-held microphones and recording the calls of birds they observed): I posted some pictures below of framed charts in her office, both describing the work and identifying the calls.
For me, what I took away from the whole this is first and foremost how important it is to recognize the face that all creation–all species–lives together in an interconnected web, and when any thread of that web gets weakened or cut (like, for example, when wind turbines are put up in migratory routes, or when they are erected without “wingtips,” which prevents a vortex being created, in which bats can get caught and causes their lungs to explode), we ALL are weakened. We all either thrive or suffer together, and we are fooling ourselves if we think humans can flourish apart from the flourishing of the whole cosmos. The other thing I took away is how detrimental feral cats are to the bird population–and outdoor domestic cats, too. We all should be working to make sure cats are spayed and neutered, and feral cats arent’t allowed to just roam free–that’s dangerous for the cats, too. Finally, the church needs to be in dialogue with science and scientists, and open to the conversation, and actively engaging them on their work. I think theologians can offer a helpful “mega-picture,” and answers to the “so what” questions, and scientists can offer helpful specific, concrete information that can inform theological reflection. Everybody wins when we live in community.