lepidopterists have anything to learn from ... birders ?

Ron Gatrelle gatrelle at tils-ttr.org
Mon Apr 8 01:18:03 EDT 2002

----- Original Message -----
From: "Mike Quinn" <ento at satx.rr.com>
Subject: RE: lepidopterists have anything to learn from ... birders ?

> There is one tidbit of knowledge to be gleaned from 100 years of birding,
> and that is without the 100,000+ birders there would only be a few 100
> ornithologists.
> Take away the birders and there would be very little public support or
> funding for ornithological research and conservation.
> If funds were commiserate with need (instead of with popular appeal) then
> North American freshwater mussels would get the lions share of research
> funding, not birds.
> -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
> Mike Quinn

And this is our sad but true reality check.  That which is cute, pretty,
appealing to the public is indeed very often what generates the attention
that brings about the conservation.   If ants were gaudy like birds and
butterflies there would doubtless be an uproar over all the native species
that Fire Ants are displacing.  Government and private funding would be
more and the programs much more aggressive (and ecosafe).  This is an all
around life lesson not so much a birder lesson.  Although, as Mike states,
this is probably (by far) the best example of the way it is and the
disproportionate way it works.  If the squeaky wheel gets the oil, the
pretty thing get the conservation (sad little seal babies vs. disappearing
picnic poaching ants.)

Now, what was that logic about how that rather than searching for
undocumented subspecies of relatively well known things like butterflies we
(lepsters) should be shifting more attention to the species of other orders
not much is known about.   So if we apply that same logic/principle here,
we need to stop enlisting more and more people into bird watching - and
tell them to go where the need is - mite and fungi watching, field guides,
societies.   But that is not going to happen.  Thus, while hoping that more
people get interested in flies and mites, we at the same time should be
encouraging and thanking those working on tying up the loose ends and
working out the fine details of Lepidoptera rather than demeaning or
belittling them.  After all, compared to what we know about birds, leps are
still very under studied, plus, there are 20 times more people interested
in and working on birds than butterflies and moths.

"Popular appeal" vs. "need" a correct analysis .  Why can't what you have
just said  be taken to mean that many (most?) birders are more interested
in appeal than need?   Now, how about drawing that lesson from birders?
Ignore the mussels, let's have more about birds?  I would hope that if
there were 100,000 lepidopterists here in the US that we would be raising
funds for, and engaging on behalf of, our poor cousin disciplines that lack
appeal but have great need.  But that would not likely happen either.
Therefore I conclude that there is no basic difference between the average
birder and lepster as human nature causes us to become interested in and
support only that which interests us.

Our choice it seems is to light a candle or curse the darkness.  Be
thankful for all research, at all levels, and for all doing it.   Or, do
what you have done, belittle someone for compiling an non-line list of
common names for all taxa of butterflies and skippers - at their own
personal expense and time.  It does no harm and some folks actually
appreciate it - specifically those to whom it appeals.  (It does not appeal
to those who see no need for it - that is their right and no one is trying
to twist their arm or make them use it.)  You will never hear me complain
about you doing your thing, too bad you have to complain about me doing
mine.  And what irony,  I don't even personally like common names, but am
doing this to facilitate those who do -- and for that I'm getting snow
balls thrown at me.  Amazing.

Ron Gatrelle


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