Rural System's

An Avifaunal Center

Where should a serious graduate student go to become a world-class ornithologist? This question was posed in mid-October, 1992, to a group of Virginia Tech faculty. The answer was not apparent. There were experts here and there, and notable, single professors, projects, and departments (some with waning reputations). Perhaps there were places overlooked or rejected on the basis of inappropriate criteria, but the question suggested the possibility that such a place, several such places, might exist. The ensuing discussion led to the awareness that such a place could readily exist. . . at Virginia Tech perhaps, as they might conduct studies, and teach classes, but at a private enterprise center with diverse activities and world scope and interests..

From one perspective the place exists; from another, place is not critical, only the concept, but it needs work and development. This brief paper suggests that second viewpoint and related ideas, and is intended to become a basis for discussion leading to forming an alliance and developing a profiatble bird-related business.

My observations mixed with assumptions are listed. I suspect general agreement but they seem worthy of discussion for they are the basis for my concept of Flights and its life.


1. Students do seek to become ornithologists; some aspire to become superior.

2. Excellent students in a rich, diverse academic environment have a greater potential of becoming superior than those working within a single-professor environment.

3. Superior ornithologists are and will be needed.

4. There are many types of emphases taken by and specialties of ornithologists. Flights might participate in education, product development, tours, studies, demonstrations, product sales, and media development, collectively, a new type.

5. A large number of faculty and graduate students on campus and on nearby campuses now participate in one or more aspects of ornithology (e.g., biology, wildlife, veterinary medicine, poultry science, psychology, ecology, etc.).

6. There are many, local, non-university related interests in birds and growing numbers of bird watchers and elderly bird-feeders.

7. Continuing some recent traditions, it seems likely that alternative funding of research in this area will be needed.

8. Some new funding initiatives may emerge (e.g., for work with neotropical migrants).

9. It appears to some faculty that the rate of advancing ornithological knowledge has slowed, at least as related to the rate of emerging problems.

10. Opportunities exist to harness the energies and resources of a growing number of people interested in birds and their ecology.They form several distinctive markets.

11. Interest in international bird work is great. Tourism with birds as a focus are common.

12. There is a tradition of single-faculty, highly independent research. This may continue and an alliance of such people, hopefully and by stated intent, may seek to encourage and in no way retard such efforts.

13. Potentials for "economies of scale" are apparent at some points.

14. Flights, an alliance among faculty students, departments, and Rural System entities may allow us to increase our conspicuousness index, a well known ornithological figure of speech.

15. Conspicuousness may increase the chance of us attracting superior students, research funds, new faculty, and collaborators.

16. Conspicuousness of effort is little more than display behavior, but it can have survival value and expand the influences of oUr ideas and findings.

17. The proposed alliance is seen as having many potential benefits, resources, or novelties. These include:
a) a new regional organization
b) a new international game of bird watching
c) new employment opportunities for our graduates
d) a new pet bird program to participate in CITES bird problem solutions e) new computer data banks and mapping capabilities
f) new international affiliations
g) new access to shared resources
h) new affiliations for seeking grants
i) new inputs from seminars
j) new library affiliations
k) new computer-aided instruction
1) new access to select study areas with large ancillary GIS data bases
m) novel direct uses of research findings.

The Alliance might be a voluntary alliance of people and agencies interested in all aspects of the avian resources of the world. Cooperation and collaboration are encouraged but not required. Providing potential contacts is the major emphasis for those in the research part of Flights, anticipating that, once contacts made, positive relations, perhaps synergism, and at least coordination can occur. The Alliance seeks to announce the presence of a group of faculty who meet together and share a common interest in birds, all aspects. The Alliance is joined by those who have developed or are exploring ways of working together - businesses, agencies, departments, ornithological centers, students, and others - to develop capabilities not otherwise available. The Alliance is a complex "adhocracy" unified by little more than an idea, a willingness to work in the same area, a newsletter, and occasional, irregular meetings and seminars.

Secretarial support is provided by the Rural System and Official Avi. Private contributions have provided for some initial documents. In general, the Alliance is akin to the genetics program on some campuses. Not a new institution, a center,or other administrative layer, it physically unites and works toward achieving athe profit objective. Very brief comments on each part of the Alliance are provided. Readers are invited to expand on one or more of these to share their insights, ideas, and fears.

  1. Tours
  2. Official Avi
  3. Publications and Media
  4. Quail System
  5. Sculptures
  6. Guide services
  7. Birders a federation of existing clubs, new memberships, newsletter, phenology interests, sales, seminars. expeditions and outings, contracts for grants and bequests, land use planning, Nature Folks affiliation
  8. Pet bird program.

Perhaps you will share ideas with me about some of the topic(s) above .


Rural System
Robert H. Giles, Jr.
July 3, 2005