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'Harrowing stories' on the Ebola frontline

The battle against the spread of the Ebola goes on in Sierra Leone with posters in the capital city Freetown providing information on how to reduce the chances of spreading the deadly virus. (Submitted photo)

While the Ebola crisis in West Africa has primarily disappeared from the headlines, the ravages of the deadly virus continue.

Mainstream media attention has moved on, yet the international effort to contain the outbreak continues and a Queen’s University professor is in Sierra Leone and Liberia working to improve the response to the disease.

Udo Schuklenk (Philosophy) traveled to the affected areas to produce a report on expanded access to experimental drugs for Ebola patients for Medecins Sans Frontieres. Dr. Schuklenk has done continuing research on the issue of access to experimental drugs for catastrophically-ill patients ever since he undertook his doctoral research in the 1990s.

It’s been an eye-opening experience he says. Hearing the stories from survivors first-hand and seeing the effects of the virus will certainly have a lasting impact.

“As part of the consultancy work I am undertaking I had to talk to a number of Ebola survivors. The harrowing stories of whole families being wiped out one after another is not something that I will forget for quite some time to come. Truly devastating experiences,” he says. “It will take a long time for those survivors’ wounds to heal, if they ever will.”

Those who enter the outbreak zone are walking into another world, one where nobody is allowed to touch another person. Dr. Schuklenk says the no-contact policy takes some getting used and affects daily interactions.

Also, to prevent further spread of the virus there are “endless disinfection rituals,” involving chlorine solutions of various strengths. Hand washing is so regimented and rigorous that it takes up a significant portion of the day. Even shoes are sprayed pretty much continuously, he says.

There are reminders that the crisis is far from over.

A day after Dr. Schuklenk sent his replies to the Gazette’s questions Sierra Leone’s vice president was put into quarantine after his bodyguard died of Ebola. On the same day in the capital city Freetown all public transportation was halted at 6 pm and parts of city were quarantined.

As he has traveled through the country he has also gained a better understanding of its people’s plight, even without the virus. Sierra Leone was devastated by a civil war and average life expectancy is around 40 years while basic necessities of life like reliable electricity or water supply do not exist in many parts of the country.

“One village we visited had neither electricity nor access to clean water,” he says. “People fetched their water from a nearby swamp. In that same small village 40 people died of Ebola virus disease. I met a few of those who survived it, all complained about their infection’s continuing negative effects on their quality of life, including severe joint pain, problems with their eye sight and other issues.”

Still Dr. Schuklenk says there are positives to be seen.

Despite all Sierra Leone has been through Dr. Schuklenk says he “can't help but feel optimistic about the country.”

Roadblocks where people are checked for signs of Ebola infection are everywhere yet infrastructure work continues. Schools have been closed for about 10 months due to the outbreak but the government is considering re-opening them by the end of March, he says.

And, amazingly, there are chance encounters.

Dr. Schuklenk met a Queen’s nursing alumnus, Rebecca Ngan (NSc’07), at an emergency medical centre near the village of Makambo where she was taking care of Ebola patients, donning her protective ‘space’ gear in temperatures over 30C.

Getting back to Gaelic

With St. Patrick’s Day around the corner, Danny Doyle (MAC’15) is reminding campus that we’re more Irish than we realize.

Danny Doyle stands in front of the official Gaelic translation of "O Canada". (University Communications)

On Thursday, March 12, he’ll be delivering a public lecture on the history of the Gaelic language in Canada, from its early spread and use, to the large influx of speakers during the Great Irish Famine and the causes for the language’s eventual decline.  

“It’s accepted in scholarship that people left Ireland speaking Gaelic, but what’s never been discussed is what happened to them when they arrived in Canada,” says Mr. Doyle. “It’s not as though they got off the boat and stopped speaking the language.”

On the contrary, Mr. Doyle says that Gaelic, in its various dialects, was once Canada’s third-most spoken language. One in 10 Canadians were fluent in Gaelic at the time of confederation and it was the mother tongue of many of the country’s political founders — Sir John A Macdonald himself spoke Scottish Gaelic. There was once even a bill in the House of Commons that proposed making Gaelic Canada’s third official language.

The beginning of the decline in Gaelic’s popularity came with the Great Famine, a period of mass starvation that afflicted Ireland from 1845-52 when a blight ravaged the country’s potato crop.

“The famine did horrible things to the language, because it primarily affected rural farmers who were mostly Gaelic speakers. People’s opinion of the language was devastated. It was an ancestral indigenous language which people believed had been spoken since the Tower of Babel,” says Mr. Doyle. “Suddenly, after the famine, it became the language of death and poverty. Speaking English symbolized moving on with your life.”

Mr. Doyle is part of a small but dedicated group who are trying to revive Gaelic in Canada. As the group’s unofficial heritage officer, he began assembling a record of the language’s use, a project that grew and grew until he had enough content for a manuscript, which will be published later this year. Thursday’s lecture is culled from the content of his book, which brings to light information about the country as a whole as well as some places close to home.

“In 1847, more than 49,000 Gaelic speakers came through Kingston as they travelled along the Rideau Canal. They stopped here before redistributing to other communities, but Kingston became a big centre for Gaelic speakers,” he says.

Along with having a Gaelic newspaper, Kingston began celebrating traditional Irish holidays, and Mr. Doyle says the first recorded celebration of Halloween (derived from the Irish festival of Samhain) in North America was in Kingston.

By bringing to light Gaelic’s history in Canada, Mr. Doyle hopes to reignite people’s interest in a language that was fundamental to the country.

“It’s said that Gaelic culture is a tapestry that’s been ravaged by time, so we have to gather together all those threads lest we lose it,” he says.

Mile Mile I gCein: 500 Years of Irish Gaelic in Canada is Thursday, March 12 at 7 pm in 517 Watson Hall.

Putting the tech in technicolour

From left to right, Team Eye3: Zaeem Anwar (Cmp'15), Jake Alsemgeest (Cmp'15), Eddie Wang (Com'18)

Three Queen’s students have developed a way to make electronic technology more accessible for the 700 million people worldwide who are colour blind.

The technology, Ciris, took home first prize in the Microsoft Imagine Cup – an international technology competition.

The winning team, Team Eye3, represented Canada and was made up of Jake Alsemgeest (Cmp’15), Zaeem Anwar (Cmp’15) and Eddie Wang (Com’18). They received first prize in the Blueprint Challenge Phase for the World Citizenship category of the Microsoft Imagine Cup.

"The power of cross collaboration between faculties at Queen's University really shines here,” says Mr. Wang. “We are absolutely honoured to have been selected as the winners for this challenge, and we can't wait to show the world what's in store for Eye3 and the Ciris technology."

We are absolutely honoured to have been selected as the winners for this challenge, and we can't wait to show the world what's in store for Eye3 and the Ciris technology.
- Eddie Wang, Com'18

Ciris is a real-time colour augmentation overlap for desktop computers and mobile devices that allows colour blind people to see more clearly contrasts between different colours. The team has already enabled Ciris on a video app for mobile devices.

"We're really excited about the positive feedback from our professors and the community,” says Mr. Anwar. “We have a real chance to do something helpful for the world and are looking forward to the work ahead."

Using colour in charts, pictures, graphics and clothing can mean that colour blind individuals miss out on valuable information. Team Eye3 wanted to be able to provide them with a way to translate hard-to-see colours into a visual equivalent that is easier for colour blind individuals to identify.

“We are extremely excited and thankful for all of the feedback from the community, professors and colleagues,” says Mr. Alsemgeest. “Our team is very excited to continue pushing our limits to have a finished product we are proud of.  We hope to make the world a better place and hope to achieve it through Ciris.”

The team, which also received a $3,000 prize, was coached by professors Brent Gallupe (School of Business) and Patrick Martin (School of Computing).

“This is a very talented team.  I think that their combination of technical and business skills helped them win,” says Dr. Gallupe. “Ciris addresses an important problem affecting millions of colour blind people around the world who can’t distinguish colours on their smartphone, tablet and laptop screens.”

Next up for the team is the Imagine World Cup Semifinals, where the team will compete to win a trip to the finals in Seattle in July. A $50,000 prize goes to the winner at the World Finals.

“The Microsoft Imagine Cup is a great opportunity for our students to challenge themselves and to apply what they are learning here at Queen's,” says Dr. Martin. “Team Eye3 demonstrated great skill and innovation in coming up with their project and winning the Blueprint Challenge phase. Their project definitely fits the world citizenship theme of the competition.”

Visit the Ciris Facebook page for more information about the app.

Gathering the threads of Indigenous culture

The path that led Armand Ruffo to his position as Queen’s National Scholar in Indigenous Languages and Literatures didn’t follow the traditional academic route.

Armand Ruffo is Queen's National Scholar, and teaches in the Department of English Language and Literature and Department of Drama. He was recently featured in (e)Affect. (Photo by Bernard Clark) 

A lifelong passion for creativity has seen Mr. Ruffo produce poetry, plays, biographies and a feature length film, even as he’s written literary criticism.

“It’s always a juggle to work in so many modes,” he says. “I have to wrestle to find the time to do it all.”

It was just that type of wrestling that led him to produce his most recent work, Norval Morrisseau: Man Changing Into Thunderbird, a biography of the innovative and controversial Ojibway painter. He researched and conducted the interviews for the book over the course of years, finding what time he could from his teaching position at Carleton University and the production of his film, A Windigo Tale.

Driving Mr. Ruffo’s creativity and productivity is a desire to share the stories and histories of Canada’s Indigenous peoples.

“I’m very interested in the idea of Indigenous history being silenced for so long,” he says. “Indigenous culture — the Indigenous thread — is part of the greater Canadian fabric. Telling those stories is a way of gathering the threads together.”

Support to tell those stories is something Mr. Ruffo says he’s seen great improvements in, especially as the study of Indigenous literature took off at Canadian universities in the 1990s.

“I’ve seen the steps that we’ve had to go through to get to where we are now. I have a long enough view back to see that people have been working on this for a long time,” he says. “There are a lot of positive things happening and the fact that I can be here at Queen’s, teaching these Aboriginal literature courses is amazing.”

Since starting at Queen’s in 2014, Mr. Ruffo has continued the multi-disciplinary juggling act that he does so well. He’s teaching classes in the Department of English Language and Literature and Department of Drama, and has become active with Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre. At Four Directions he’s led writing workshops and serves on their Aboriginal Council. He’s also completed a book of poems inspired by the work of Norval Morrisseau that will come out later this year.

Though Mr. Ruffo wrestles to find the time to do so many different things, he balances the mental challenge of being creative and being a scholar with a simple trick: he doesn’t think about it.

“It’s a different hat that I put on when I’m working in the creative realm. If I did think about it, I’d probably stop writing creatively. I do try to bring my creative side to teaching though, along with my interests in Indigenous aesthetics and epistemology. Those things help me,” he says, adding with a laugh, “but, I try not to teach my own work.” 

One size doesn't fit all

Short, high intensity workouts have the same impact on reducing our waistline as longer, lower intensity workouts, according to new research out of Queen’s University. However, the research revealed high intensity workouts have an added benefit of reducing two-hour glucose levels.

The findings are significant because two-hour glucose levels, are a risk factor for diabetes and heart disease.

“We showed in our research that short, higher intensity exercise is different than long, slow exercise,” says study lead Robert Ross (School of Kinesiology and Health Studies). “Both methods show substantial benefit in respect to reducing abdominal obesity, a condition associated with great health risks. Only high intensity, though, had an impact on the ability to manage blood sugar.”

The study examined 300 abdominally obese adults and how their waistline and glucose levels reacted to either short, high intensity workouts or long, lower intensity workouts. All participants also ate a healthy diet during the study but participants did not reduce their caloric intake.

Dr. Ross and his team found a reduction in waist circumference in all individuals but only the high intensity group shows a nine per cent improvement in their two-hour glucose levels. They also found to the greatest increases in cardio-respiratory fitness in the high intensity group.

Dr. Ross explains that high intensity workouts don’t have to be extremely taxing for the participant. “Higher intensity can be achieved simply by increasing the incline while walking on a treadmill or walking at a brisker pace. Participants were surprised by how easy it was for them to attain a higher intensity exercise level.”

The new research shows people have options when it comes to exercise and can tailor their routine to the health outcomes they wish to achieve.

“The type of exercise you choose to do may depend on the health outcome you are looking to improve.  For reducing your waist line and weight the study clearly shows that people have options. This is good news for both the practitioner as well as the general public. For managing your blood sugar, our results clearly show that higher intensity exercise may be required,” says Dr. Ross.

The study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Mass appeal

[Queen's in the World]
Queen's in the World

First-year students at the Bader International Study Centre (BISC) recently visited the archives at The Keep. Among the material housed in The Keep is the University of Sussex’s Mass Observation Archive, rich and unique personal accounts of everyday life in the U.K. during the 20th and 21st centuries.

[Jill Kirby]
Jill Kirby worked on Observing the 80s, an extensive project that examined the lives and opinions of British people in the 1980s. She draws on that experience as a faculty member at the Bader International Study Centre. 

To navigate the vast archive, the BISC students received expert guidance from their professor Jill Kirby, who gained extensive experience working with material from the Mass Observation Archive as the project manager for Observing the 80s. Using material from the Mass Observation Archive and the British Library Oral History collections, the Observing the 80s project created open educational resources that offered insight into the lives and opinions of British people in the 1980s.

Dr. Kirby, who is also a research fellow in mass observation studies at the University of Sussex, says she enjoys introducing BISC students to the Mass Observation Archive.

“When my first-year seminar groups visited The Keep, I was able to contextualise the material they looked at, and now some of them are planning to use the material for their current assignment,” she says. “I was really happy to see that they can access the digitised collection via Queen’s Library as it is an amazing resource for historians and social scientists alike.”

Dr. Kirby’s first experience at the BISC came in the summer of 2014 when she visited the Field School in Digital Humanities and gave a lecture about her work on Observing the 80s. Soon after that lecture, she joined the teaching team for BISC100/101, a core course that’s part of the new first-year program at the Castle. “Thinking Locally/Acting Globally” provides students with key skills and theories from across a number of disciplines. She also teaches an upper-year course on British culture that allows her to draw on a wide range of historical and cultural sources.

Dr. Kirby believes her work on Observing the 80s gives students a deeper and more nuanced understanding of British culture.

“For our students, respondents and voices from the Mass Observation Archive and the British Library Oral History collection help them unpack the mythologized version of the 1980s that abounds in popular culture,” she says. “The participants in these projects related the everyday, what was important to them, which is often at odds with the overarching narrative of politics and disasters.”

In addition to her work at the BISC and the University of Sussex, Dr. Kirby is continuing to research her book on stress in Britain in the 20th century. Part of that research includes looking at the Mass Observation Archive to better understand how people’s attitudes toward stress moved from stoicism to victimhood.

LIVES LIVED: Intellectually challenging and a force of nature

Ron Weisman obtained his PhD from Michigan State University in 1964 and was hired as Assistant Professor of Psychology at Queen’s University in that same year. Ron was promoted to Associate Professor in 1970, Professor in 1977, cross appointed to the Department of Biology in 1993, and finally promoted to Professor Emeritus in 2000.

In sum, Ron was a professor at Queen’s for over 50 years.

Ron Weisman

He is well known for his numerous significant contributions to our understanding of animal learning, cognition, and behaviour. Maybe more important, but not so easily tallied with facts and numbers, are the more qualitative and impactful contributions that Ron made to the research areas in which he was so totally and passionately invested during his long and productive career but that escape the accountant’s ledger.

Of these less quantifiable, but absolutely important contributions, one cannot hope to produce a comprehensive report here. And Ron himself would not want such a thing. “Too many words that no one is likely to read or care about” would probably be his quip in response to such an idea.

No, the manner in which Ron operated and conducted himself is best described using the words of those who have commented about his influence in the days since his passing. Strong themes like “force of nature,” “intellectually challenging,” “passionate,” “inspiring,” are a constant in Ron’s colleagues’ narratives shared in conversations, social media, and emails.

Never one to back down from a challenge, Ron reinvented his research career from the ground up when he realized an opportunity to pursue new more challenging but meaningful problems. This categorical change came when Ron was at a point in his career in which most people would be happy to simply maintain the currently successful status quo until retirement.

Not Ron. Instead, and in spite of, or perhaps, because of, the fear of the unknown, Ron forged a second, even more well-known career for himself, combining research in learning, cognition, ethology, and neuroscience in a manner not often done, certainly not with the same effect. While on this new path, Ron continued to make significant contributions to the scientific literature and to the field through the founding of the Comparative Cognition Society, and their flagship online and open access journal, Comparative Cognition & Behavior Reviews.

Perhaps Ron’s most enduring legacy will be of the contributions that he made to the mentorship and encouragement of young scientists. Many successful scientists owe their “academic legs” to Ron’s strong and generous support and wisdom. Ron posed challenging questions and championed points of view that were sometimes controversial and always aimed at pushing back the darkness to, as Ron put it, “explain nature.”

Ron always managed to be engaging, encouraging, and able to coax the absolute best out of everyone who was willing to meet his enthusiasm and level of commitment to science. Ron’s enthusiasm, wit, candor, compassion, and his huge smile will be sorely missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him. What a guy.

Christopher B. Sturdy and Marcia L. Spetch are professors with the Department of Psychology at the University of Alberta, co-editors of Comparative Cognition & Behaviour Reviews and colleagues of Dr. Weisman’s.

Majors Night a major success

  • Arts and Science Majors Night
    Hundreds of first-year students filled Grant Hall on Thursday evening for the first Arts and Science Majors Night.
  • Arts and Science Majors Night
    Students looking to declare a major were able to ask questions and learn about each program in the Faculty of Arts and Science.
  • Arts and Science Majors Night
    Hundreds of first-year students filled Grant Hall on Thursday evening for the first Arts and Science Majors Night.
  • Arts and Science Majors Night
    Each Departmental Student Council was represented by students who have already gone through the process of selecting a major.
  • Arts and Science Majors Night
    Students who have already gone through the process of selecting a major were available to talk about their experiences.

Hundreds of first-year students who have yet to declare a major crowded into Grant Hall on Thursday evening for the first Arts and Science Majors Night.

Students were able to meet and ask questions of students who have already gone through the process, with booths being set up by each Departmental Student Council (DSC).

Attendees were able to compare the different programs they are considering and explore if they line up with their interests and future goals.

Queen’s also recently created “major maps” for all 44 of its undergraduate programs. The maps provide advice on academics, extracurricular activities, networking, international opportunities and career development, providing support before, during and after students earn their degree.

Students can access print versions of the maps through their faculty or department advisers. Career Services has also posted the maps online in web and accessible formats.

The Faculty of Arts and Science also has information that can be found online and posted a new video to help student in the process of choosing a major.

Majors Night is a partnership between Career Services in the Division of Student Affairs, the Faculty of Arts and Science, the Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS), and the Arts and Science Departmental Student Councils.

Conference pays homage to Queen’s legend

There’s often an urge to exaggerate the accomplishments of our forebears, embellishing their successes and abilities to the point where they become more legend than reality.

For a person like George Whalley though, overstating the volume and breadth of his achievements is nearly impossible. He was a war hero who took part in the sinking of the Bismarck during the Second World War, an inventor of a naval navigation beacon, helped found the Kingston Symphony, was head of the Queen’s English Department for two terms and wrote multiple books of poetry and literary criticism. It’s a long list, but still doesn’t record all his accomplishments.   

George Whalley
The life and career of George Whalley will be the focus of a three-day conference  being hosted at Queen’s by the Department of English Language and Literature from July 24-26. (Portrait by Elizabeth Tatchell Harrison)

To celebrate the centenary of Whalley’s birth, a three-day conference is being hosted at Queen’s by the Department of English Language and Literature from July 24-26. Rather than a strictly academic conference, the event will be just as multi-faceted as Whalley’s life. Its first day will focus on Romanticism and Aesthetics, Whalley’s primary academic focuses, the second will focus on the man himself and his legacy, and the third day will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Canadian Writer’s Conference, which was held in 1955 at Queen’s. 

“One conference on one subject wouldn’t be enough to cover everything that Whalley achieved and what he meant to Queen’s,” says Shelley King, head of the English Department. “The scope of his intellectual endeavors was something that resonated not just with other academics, but the broader public as well. A recognized man of letters, he was a public intellectual in the 1960s when higher education was starting to expand and there was extraordinary popular support for university work.”

Open to a wide audience of academics, writers and interested members of the Kingston community, the conference will have heavyweights of Canadian literature as well. Famed Canadian author and Queen’s grad Michael Ondaatje (MA’67) will be present as well as Giller Prize-winner Elizabeth Hay. Ondaatje studied at Queen’s while Whalley was a professor and Hay was inspired by Whalley’s work on John Hornby during the writing of Late Nights on Air. Both authors will be presenting on the conference’s second day.

Though the conference is being hosted at Queen’s, much of its organization has been handled by Michael DiSanto, associate professor and head of the Department of English and Film at Algoma University. Dr. DiSanto has for some years now been working with Whalley’s poetry and essays, is writing a biography of Whalley’s astonishing life and wishes the work of this prominent Canadian was better known.

“Seemingly everything he chose to do, he did very, very well,” Dr. DiSanto says. “He was an exceptionally thoughtful and accomplished Canadian, and I see him as part of a trio that includes Northrop Frye and George Grant.”

Along with the conference’s presentations will be a number of social events. A chamber music performance will be held at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts on the evening of July 25 and a dinner will be held at the HMCS Cataraqui where Whalley was commanding officer in the early 1950s.

More information about the conference can be found at GeorgeWhalley.ca.

Book takes flight with awards

[Bob Montgomerie]
Bob Montgomerie (Biology) holds up a copy of Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology Since Darwin, the book he co-authored with Tim Birkhead of the University of Sheffield and Jo Wimpenny. The book has recently won a number of awards. (University Communications)

Much like the plumage of the Bird of Paradise on its cover, a recently-published book on ornithology, co-written by Queen’s University’s Bob Montgomerie (Biology), is garnering a lot of attention. Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology Since Darwin is earning rave reviews and a slew of awards for its depth, reach and readability.

The book recently was named the best book in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology category of the American Publishers Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence (PROSE) and was listed by CHOICE, a magazine of the American Library Association, as one of the Outstanding Academic Titles of 2014.

This is no mere “bird book.” Ten Thousand Birds is an in-depth scholarly look at the major scientific advances in ornithology since the time of Charles Darwin.

The project was started by Tim Birkhead, a zoology professor at the University of Sheffield and a long-time colleague and friend of Dr. Montgomerie. Birkhead had earlier published a book called Wisdom of Birds, looking at the entire history of ornithology, but in the new book wanted to focus on the 20th century, something he had little space for in Wisdom. He knew it would be a tough task so he turned to his friend at Queen’s, who would also bring a North American perspective to the work.

The initial plan was for Dr. Montgomerie to research, edit and supplement what Dr. Birkhead’s initial drafts, as they had done in other collaborations. They also enlisted the help of Jo Wimpenny, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Sheffield at the time to do some of the background research and interviews. But it soon became apparent that the task of writing was too much for one person. A point of pride for the authors is that no one, not even close colleagues, has been able to tell who wrote what chapter. “The writing was very much a totally cooperative effort,” says Dr. Montgomerie.

Overall, the project took five years, including a sabbatical year for Montgomerie in 2009. The most difficult part was choosing what to include and what to omit, he says, adding that the team easily had enough material to write 10 volumes. But a multi-volume work wasn’t the goal, and even the most flexible publisher has limits.

So they whittled their initial 30 chapter plan down to 11, making some tough choices. One obvious chapter that was let go was on birdsong. But as Dr. Montgomerie points out some excellent books had just been published on that topic and they figured they couldn’t improve on those. It was better to stay focused on other areas.

In the end, research and fact checking took up the most time. Thankfully though, the internet proved to be a timesaver, especially the Biodiversity Heritage Library, a consortium of university and academic libraries that are scanning rare books and historic studies onto the web.

Without the internet, Dr. Montgomerie estimates Ten Thousand Birds would have been a 30-year project, at least.

For example, Dr. Montgomerie needed to check a book on avian anatomy written by a German scientist in 1878. He did an online search and quickly found what he needed in about 10 minutes. Until very recently, he figures, the search would have taken a month and at significant cost, including traveling to the library and getting the excerpt translated.

Other times, he says, he would be looking for rare publication and, after not being able to locate it online, would put the search aside for a while. A month or two later, another search would prove fruitful. There is just that much old material being scanned and made available online.

At the heart of the book, are the men and women involved in pushing ornithology forward since the time of Darwin. This, perhaps, is why the book is getting the most attention from readers.

Limited in what they could include in the book, Dr. Montgomerie says they chose to write mainly about people and their discoveries. Some people were obvious, because they are such big names, but they also chose people who were interesting that nobody knows about.

An example is Hilda Cinat-Thompson, who, living in Latvia in 1927, did a “fabulous study” on mate choice, half a century before it became an important area of study.

“We’re pretty sure few people had ever heard of her. We couldn’t find out anything about her either but we thought this is the kind of thing we wanted to put in this book that would make people go, ‘Oh wow, I didn’t know about that,’” says Dr. Montgomerie. “We wanted to include a bunch of people who made really great contributions that nobody had heard of. That’s what makes a book like this both interesting and academically useful.”

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