Origins of NABA's Membership, etc.

Chris J. Durden drdn at
Fri Jun 18 12:39:05 EDT 1999

At 05:34  18/06/99 -0500, you wrote:
>Dear Lepidopterists,
>According to NABA literature, one third of their members came to the
>organization because of an inherent interest in butterflies; another third
>of the NABA members were first interested in gardening and secondarily
>acquired an interest in butterflies; and the final third of the members
>were birders first. If this is true, and I have no reason to doubt it, then
>I believe this gives NABA a strong foundation to build on. It's a bit
>ironic that the only opposition to NABA seems to come from other butterfly
  I think the only real opposition is not to NABA but to the policy against
collecting, or to restriction of activities. Do as I wish to do, not as you
have done.
>Dear John,
>I think that NABA readily does acknowledge that "butterflying" is in its
>infancy. In fact, Glassberg's editorial in the current issue of "American
>Butterflies" draws parallels between the start of "birding" and where
>butterflying is now.
>Dear Chris,
>Yes, there are a lot of soon to be lost places in the world, but are we
>reduced to thinking that collecting a handful of specimens is enough?
>Instead of 'collecting it before it's gone,' why not work towards saving a
>portion of these fragmented ecosystems.
  We must try to save what we can, but we cannot save very much if we keep
on developing as we are. I believe strongly in salvage biology. Scorched
earth collecting of the surveyed highway route, etc. I grew up in the '50's
and witheld data on mosquito ecology to protect my favorite ephemeral
pools, with their ostracodes, amphipods and conchostracans from eradication
by my neighbors. I think I single handedly saved 3,000 square miles of
uninhabited wilderness from industrial development by witholding
information on potential natural resources. Most of us have paid our dues.
 (Yes I did grow up in the 60's.) If
>I live to be 90, I don't want to say to a child just born, "look at this
>tiny insect that I saved for your generation from the last Red Wood Forest
>before it was cut down." Somehow, I don't think the child would be much
  I think the child would be more grateful for knowledge of a species lost
than for no information at all about what was lost. We treasure the
citations by other authors of books lost in libraries burned by history.

>I agree that collecting is a good way to get started in lepidopterology,
>but I am not entirely comfortable saying that collecting is "the best way"
>to enter this field of study. I've learned a lot from the photographs that
>I've taken. I often see something in the photo that I didn't notice while
>in the field. 
  There are many photographs that cannot be identified. They are forever
puzzles. There are a few specimens that cannot be identified - they are
treasures to stimulate the imagination and future exploration.
Also, one can not wave a specimen in front of a large
>audience full of novices and get the same effect that projecting a slide
>will give.
  Yes I love a great picture from life. (I hate a photographers setup of a
dead specimen, masquerading as live - which I see in too many field guide
illustrations). Pictures published with formal identification should be
documented with the specimen. Then if the taxonomy or systematic
interpretation is changed the picture will still be useful. Identification
is not forever, it is not right, it is merely one person's (or a
committee's) opinion. It is subject to revision after the acquisition of
new knowledge.
>Now if someone says that collecting is the best way to study beetles or
>micro-lepidoptera, they would get no argument from me. Collecting is nearly
>the *only* way to study these diverse groups.
  These diverse groups are as spiritually sensitive as butterflies and
should be treated the same way. To know an organism is to revere it. For
most groups this means collecting enough to understand it.

>Chris, please know that while I have argued these counter points
>forcefully, I have nothing but the greatest respect for your knowledge and
>opinions. I would venture that our opinions are more alike than not.
>Respectfully, Mike Quinn
  I think you are doing a great job with the butterflies and from your last
comment on collecting micros and beetles I know that we differ only in
magnitude not in quality.
  I am adamant in my arguments for collecting because of the damage that
the proponents of supression of collecting have done to the advancement of
exploratory science and to the education of our youth.
..........Chris Durden

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