This is perspective



Communication: the basics

Reflecting on what i would say to a group i have never met, who may or may not read my every word, i scrolled through the near endless feed of topics that are at the forefront of my mind. What should i say, how, is this the right time?

So. I figured the most appropriate topic would be communication. In this digital world, your words can be infinitely powerful, they can outlive you for generations, through translation and repetition, reblogs and retweets, your digital words may enter minds forever separated from your language. I hope you enjoy and find truth in these words and use them to guide you as you communicate.

Communication: the transmission of information

I see communication as having certain essential characteristics. I will discuss each one in turn, with examples where appropriate of good and bad communication. I will focus on communication within the human experience, but often referring to nature and scientific work.

These are my core elements of communication: the origin, the message, the medium, the environment, the audience.


The Origin: This person, organism or group creates the message and initiates the transfer.

To do this, they must first have some information they want or need to transfer. A plant may have nectar or pollen ready for pick up. a female dog may be ovulating and ready for insemination. You may have an idea on how to learn or teach. This information is influenced by you, your experience, the way you perceive that information, how you are able to send and receive messages, etc.


So before you have even sent your message, you have limited and restricted it to a world of possibility based on your limitations as the origin of the message. The plant cannot buzz for the bee. Dogs do not read or write very well, so that would be inappropriate. Similarly, if you are reading this in English, and that is your only language, it may be difficult for you to initiate communication with someone in Spanish, and vice versa. You may have been influenced by prejudices in forming your information. But you have a message now and want to communicate it no matter how unimportant it may be to the rest of the world.


The Message: You create your message with the intent of getting the most accurate meaning to your intended audience. The message itself is also coded, created using elements that need to be decoded and interpreted. The origin is also a part of that message when known, other elements of the message also become important.


The message is what you want your audience to know. The flower says this is a place to visit. The dog’s message is “this is an appropriate time to mate with me”. Your teaching and learning message is probably a bit more complicated, but you get my drift.


This all seems pretty simple, but when the encoding and packaging of the message happens, we start to lose control.


The Medium: is that package we put our message in to carry it to our recipient. It can often affect the message in subtle or significant ways.


Appearance, volume and language are particularly interesting to me.


Appearance I think of as attractiveness/palatability. The aroma of some flowers smells of dead animals while some are sweet (to me), some I cannot smell but that does not mean the aroma is not there. This all depends on the chemical signals used to carry the message. Though a dog in heat may be very attractive to male dogs, perhaps you don’t particularly enjoy the scent of canine ovulation, perhaps you never even notice it, similar to the chemical signals in the flower. Perhaps your audience does not find a discourse on etymology, pedagogy or science interesting, perhaps they drool at the mouth and wait anxiously for your next word. We also have the ability to combine multiple senses to improve the attractiveness. A love letter in a scented envelope, a racist message carved into a painting, the way you feel about your 7th grade homeroom teacher in a flipbook cartoon all add multiple sensory elements to the palatability of your message.


Volume is a different beast altogether. Perhaps your message is not palatable at all. But if the volume is loud enough, no one can hear anything else. Perhaps, a whisper is all you need because you only want a certain group to hear. Have you noticed teeny tiny flowers have teeny tiny little bugs in them? Have you noticed squirrels and hawk prey items tend not to stand in the middle of an open field screaming?


You are in a dark room. Which do you prefer?


A siren sounds and a voice on a loud speaker tells you to follow the lights to the nearest exit; OR a disembodied raspy voice quietly whispers “Get Out”; OR the usher states that the exit is down the hall on the left; OR a green sign in the far corner of the room is backlit with the word “EXIT”. Volume makes a difference.


Finally, every message has a language. Not just English Spanish, French. Some of those unscented flowers, they may deliver their message through visual messages, a completely different “Language”. Cats, dogs, birds, dolphins all have ideal times to mate to produce offspring, but they do not respond to each other’s cues in the same way different chemical and behavioral cues and even the animal’s shape add to whether or not this is an appropriate individual to mate with. And that awesome lesson on teaching and learning you started with… will you write it, in English? Spanish? Will you write with slang and Ebonics, or formal terminology only you and your colleagues understand?


So now we have a message in a medium. We put that message out into the environment.


The environment has filters, walls, tints, background noise, and amplifiers. All of these affect our message and its delivery. Let’s restrict this part to human communication.


Have you ever heard the entire “I have a dream speech by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? If not, follow the link. That message has been filtered. Parts of it got through to you throughout your life, but not the entire thing. Maybe those were the important bits, but you don’t know.
Do you remember watching the Ellen Degeneres show after she came out on tv? Do you remember hearing Onyx’s first album on the Radio with all the cussing? No. Walls blocked entire messages.

Remember that guy with the little mustache who said “We have struggled, but we are champions and we are winning toward our dream”? That was Hitler, tinting his message of world domination and white supremacy with the most beautiful colors and vivid imagery of a powerful nation. Now his messages are painted with a gruesome, dark hue.

Then we go out and spread the beauty of our religion we paint it with the beauty of salvation.

As we watch the new mass shootings or violent attacks here and around the world, these messages are also amplified via your news channel, facebook feed etc. The image of the same person is publicized as the shooter, killer, stabber, bomber. If that person does not look like you, or their name does not sound like people in your community, it amplifies a negative message. One person, did one thing. That one thing is repeated a million times. A three year old (Markera’s daughter) showed me a bird in the underbrush. My first Caribbean Dove. One Person, One Thing. This is the first time I have shared that so broadly. But she changed my perspective.

The environment changes, so sometimes the walls break down, the filters get less restrictive, the tint changes color, the background noise that was a quiet rustle becomes a deafening roar and those that formerly amplified your message may choose to smother it.

Ultimately, we create messages, encode them in media and send them through our environment to our audience.

Our Audience, however may include both the intended and unintended and they have their own prejudices, and ways of accepting and interpreting information.

The classic case of an intended vs. unintended audience is wartime transfer of messages. I have a message I want to get to someone else and I only want that person/group to understand. Or more importantly, I do not want a specific group to understand what I am saying. This is the same as with sports when teams communicate their plays to one another.

Our flowers in bloom are sending a message to pollinators, but a honeycreeper can take this cue to steal the nectar from the side of the flower, not providing any pollination service. Not the intended recipient of this message. A white male student sends the “n-word” out to his dormitory group chat. The group includes people of all races and administrators. Not the intended recipients. Somehow, you email your teaching and learning discussion to a student in another country that does not read your language. Perhaps, someone in 500 years reads your blog posts out of context and thinks you started the war of 2089. You cannot always control that.

Most recently, sext messages are a huge group of unintended audience messages. The “Locker Room Talk” tape of President Donald Trump and Billy Bush includes footage of communication not intended for general audiences. Even during the video, some statements made in and out of the presence of Arianne Zucker show who the intended audience was.

Now regardless of how you inform, create and package your message, which media you choose and which environment you deliver it in, your audience both intended and unintended also can receive and interpret that message differently.

You made a birdwatcher’s guide, beautiful illustrations in full vibrant color that represent the birds the way you see them. A colorblind birdwatcher picks up your book. They cannot identify the birds based on the message you delivered to them.

You invite a group of people to see a movie but do not apply captions or subtitles, you are unable to get your message to the deaf people in your audience. While, you can consider these things as you go forward developing your messages you cannot cover everything, but hopefully you try to consider some of this in the future.
You may want to create an accessible Powerpoint Slideshow or Youtube Video.

So now, I  hope you have an idea of how communication works. Ideally, you use these to inform both your consumption of media and your creation of messages. What are your prejudices, filters, walls etc. both as origin and audience? What environment and media are you delivering your content through? And is this the best way.

I hope you enjoyed this message and you receive it well. If you did, you can send me a message via my blog

Have a great day.







Tropical Ornithology Opportunity for students and others.

Position Information: Title: Tropical Ornithology & Field Techniques Intern

Organization: Third Millennium Alliance, El Observatorio de Aves Jama- Coaque

Location: Reserva Jama-Coaque, Manabí province, Ecuador

Start dates: Multiple throughout the year, see Next is March 19th.

Open to: Everyone! From the experienced bander seeking to handle new tropical species to beginners new to the field.

Summary: Third Millennium Alliance (TMA) is a registered non-profit dedicated to conserving the last remnants of Pacific Ecuadorian Forests and empowering local communities to restore what’s been lost. The organization’s flagship project is the Jama-Coaque Bird Observatory (El Observatorio de Aves Jama-Coaque, OAJC) – Ecuador’s first international bird observatory dedicated to long-term, year-round avian monitoring, research, conservation and capacity-building. TMA and OAJC offer local and international interns the opportunity to engage in hands-on research in diverse tropical environments from dry to humid to premontane cloud forest over the course of 1-6 months. Each session begins with an intensive two-week training period followed by fieldwork allowing interns to handle more birds and master challenging techniques. Those joining the TMA/OAJC team in 2018 will dive into a number of mist-netting and ornithology projects as well as a study investigating nesting ecology of the endangered Gray-cheeked Parakeet and other cavity-nesters. Long-term participants are encouraged to pursue their passions by developing independent projects with TMA/OAJC staff and to take on leadership positions in our field teams.

TMA was founded in 2007 with the purchase of 100 acres and the establishment of the Jama-Coaque Reserve (JCR) in Manabí province between the cities of Jama and Pedernales, 4km inland from the Pacific Ocean. Now encompassing over 1,300 acres, the Jama-Coaque Reserve protects some of the last remaining fragments of Pacific Ecuadorian Forest – one of the most critically threatened tropical forests in the world. Our organization has been running a hands-on, experiential learning-based internship program in the fields of Tropical Ecology/Conservation and Sustainable Agriculture since 2008, with more than 250 young and enthusiastic students from around the globe participating to date.

A complete program description with the 2018 schedule and associated costs can be found on our website (, where you will also find additional details, the application form, contact information, various media and answers to Frequently Asked Questions.

Prerequisites: Prior experience working with birds or other wildlife is not required but is encouraged. In addition to the intensive two-week training period at the start of each session, interns may be asked to review literature supplied by TMA before arriving for their programs. While Spanish language proficiency is not expected, it is recommended as we work in a bilingual environment, and it can improve the overall experience. At the very least, we encourage visitors to be open to learning. Interns will receive the full tropical field ornithology experience, which means many mornings spent waking before the sun and hiking in quite difficult field conditions while carrying equipment, thus applicants should be in good physical condition. Given these realities, a passion for conservation and wildlife (especially birds!), a strong work ethic, and a positive attitude are both critical to your success and our top requirements for applicants.

Accreditation: While TMA is not currently in a position to offer college credit or scholarships to international interns, our staff are happy to assist students who wish to pursue independent credits and/or scholarships through their universities or elsewhere. Many previous students have successfully received credit for their time with TMA, often at lower costs than typical class credits.

5 things YOU can do to help Nassau Grouper

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Closed season is over but
Nassau grouper still need our help
Let’s be responsible fishers and consumers.
Here are some of the fisheries regulations that are in place to protect this iconic species:

  • Grouper and rockfish must weigh at least 3 lbs (approximately 17 inches in length) before being harvested.
  • The use of SCUBA gear is prohibited while spearfishing.
  • The use of fish traps without a self-destruct panel or less than minimum mesh size is prohibited.
  • Spearfishing within one mile of New Providence or the southern coast of Grand Bahama and 200 yards of a family island is prohibited.
  • Respect the boundaries of marine protected areas that serve as replenishment zones.

The annual Nassau grouper closed season was made into law in 2015, but enforcement remains a challenge.

Click here to read more about a loophole that needs to be addressed.

There should be no sale of Nassau grouper during the closed season.

Help ensure that we have Fish for the Future!

Click the link below for a BREEF Look at why protecting the spawning aggregations is so important.

Show your support for Marine Protected Areas
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BREEF has partnered with The Bahamas National Trust and The Nature Conservancy on the Bahamas Protected project, a project focusing on expanding our marine protected areas network.
Learn more on Bahamas Protected’s Facebook page (@242protected).
In order to build support for local MPAs, BREEF is asking all of our supporters to like and share the Facebook page and sign and share the petition.
By signing the petition, you are showing your support for the establishment and effective management of the Bahamian marine protected areas network.

Click to sign
BREEF | 242-327-9000 | Email | Website
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Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation, Caves Village, West Bay St., Nassau, Bahamas
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How we (should) respond to hate

On February 16th, I opened my email to see the best written response to hate messaging I have seen in almost 6 years at this university.

Here are the key points:

1: The Message is specific. We know exactly what happened.

2: It specifically identifies the behavior, and the individuals that support it as being unwanted within our community.

3: University activities to correct the situation and support affected students is mentioned directly.

4: The core values are mentioned “tolerance, diversity and excellence”

5: It is signed by a specific person in their official capacity, who has taken ownership of the issue. This indicates that they are leading by example toward building a culture of tolerance, diversity and excellence.

Thank you, Scott Walter.

I look forward to seeing your response when international students are put upon again in the future.

swastika response


A riddle

What is the farthest we can be from something while being as close to it as possible? The other side of a wall.

-Leno Davis January 31, 2018


Feb 9 application deadline for Michigan Humanities Emerging Research Scholars Program (MICHHERS)

Ancilleno Davis, PhD. Candidate Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology- Miami University, Oxford Ohio

The University of Michigan invites outstanding individuals to apply for the Michigan Humanities Emerging Research Scholars Program (MICHHERS). This program is designed to encourage rising seniors, recent B.A.s and terminal Master’s students from diverse cultural, economic, geographic, and ethnic backgrounds to consider pursuing a doctoral degree in humanities at the University of Michigan. Our goal is to attract diverse scholars with unique experiences who foster innovation and push the humanities to meet today’s challenges. For 2018, students interested in the fields of Asian Languages and Cultures, Classical Studies, English, History, Linguistics, Romance Languages and Literatures, Sociology (qualitative), and Women’s Studies (any humanities field) are eligible.

This summer research experience, running from Monday, June 11 to Saturday, June 23, 2018, will help students learn about the various fields within their chosen discipline along with the latest methodologies and developments from faculty in individual departments. Students will have the opportunity to work on a piece of their own scholarship or develop a research project in consultation with U-M faculty and graduate students in their field. Attention will also be given to articulating the importance of diversity to the development of the humanities. Students will receive practical instruction on applying to graduate school and pursuing careers inside and outside academia.

Apply for the Michigan Humanities Emerging Research Scholars Program


Application Deadline Feb 9 2018 11:59PM EST

Applications and supporting documentation must be received online by Friday, February 9, 2018 11:59PM Eastern time.

Final decisions will be made by the middle of March.

Eligibility Requirements

We are not able to accept students currently enrolled at the University of Michigan.

  • We seek rising seniors, bachelor’s degree holders, and those currently in terminal M.A. programs, who are United States citizens, permanent residents, or non-U.S. citizens with DACA. Please note, those who are currently applying to enroll in a doctoral program for Fall 2018 are ineligible to participate in MICHHERS.
  • We seek students who come from an educational, cultural, or geographic background that is underrepresented in graduate study in their discipline in the United States or at the University of Michigan.
  • To apply, students should have a compelling record of academic accomplishments.

For 2018, students interested in the fields of Asian Languages and Cultures, Classical Studies, English, History, Linguistics, Romance Languages and Literatures, Sociology (qualitative) and Women’s Studies (any field in the humanities) are eligible.

Application Materials

Your application must include:

  • A brief essay (approximately 500 words) on your academic and professional background and goals.
  • Unofficial transcripts reflecting all undergraduate and graduate work (if applicable) through December 2017. If you completed a degree at a community college that transcript should also be included.
  • Two (2) letters of recommendation.
  • An academic writing sample (between 7 to 15 pages double spaced). This paper should be a piece of original scholarship but does not necessarily need to have been written for a course. The writing sample should be submitted under the “Research Paper” section of the application.
  • Please upload a research plan in PDF format. There is no minimum length for your research statement, so it can be either a brief statement or a more detailed one, depending on the information you include. Consider the questions below, pick some to answer and make that your research plan:
    • What would you like to know more about in your field of interest? (This could be in relation to your writing sample or a new topic that interests you.)
    • Why are you interested in that?
    • What made you think of this topic? (For instance, you can make reference to a reading you did, a class you took).
    • How do you think we can we help you pursue this topic? (For instance, suggest additional readings, teach me how to analyze the material I am interested in; suggest new sources of data.
    • What do you hope to gain from participation in this program?

All application materials should be submitted through the Rackham website. Paper copies will not be accepted.

For questions email rackmichhers

Application Deadline

Applications and supporting documentation must be received online by Friday, February 9, 2018 11:59PM Eastern time.

Final decisions will be made by the middle of March.

Benefits – All Expenses Paid

  • $1,000 stipend
  • University Housing
  • Round trip travel cost (up to $550)
  • Application fee waiver for U-M

Last updated: December 18, 2017 – 2:47pm


Audubon, Earth Day and Haiti

Thinking about what it means when someone calls a Caribbean nation a “shithole” (sorry for the profanity, but the word is presidential now).

Not long ago, I gave a series of presentations telling ornithologists and bird enthusiasts about the race, gender and nationality of the history of ornithology. One of the most profound realizations I came across was the fact that John James Audubon was born in 1785 in St. Domingue (now Haiti). His birthday (April 26th) is often part of Earth Day (April 22nd) celebrations and he is lauded as the first to illustrate and publish America’s birds.

Now, keep in mind, Haiti gained independence via a slave revolt and was declared independent in 1803. J.J. Audubon was born to a chambermaid on a plantation owned by his father Jean Audubon and he is referred to as being “majority-white” when his father moved them to France. He moved them “because of growing unrest among the slaves”.

So does that mean J.J. is not only of Haitian descent but that the changes in his life, his education and the opportunity to travel across America happened because Haitian slaves fought for their freedom? Yeah. In my opinion it does.

We are all intricately intertwined. Someone’s ancestors walked through a shithole barefoot so you could walk on the boardwalk in designer boots. Don’t forget.

This Earth Day, when you celebrate, fly a Haitian flag and let someone know.

Ancilleno Davis, PhD. Candidate
Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology- Miami University, Oxford Ohio



It is a convenient trick to rob a person of all they have, even their own body, and then mock them for their poverty, and blame it on their nature. -Adam Serwer, writer and editor


Citizen science power and challenges

Today (January 8 2018), a powerful image was shared with me via Facebook. Ken Kaufman posted screenshots of the distribution of Killdeer records on the island of Bermuda for January 2017 and January 2018, highlighting the huge difference in maximum numbers. 12 in 2017 versus 500 in 2018.

In his post, he describes and discusses the weather effects that may have resulted in the presence of so many Killdeer this year as opposed to past years. An amazing visual and it really shows how responsive eBird can be when we have significant impacts on an island scale.

But there is something he does not mention.

For a bird observation to be presented in eBird, you need three things. The bird must be there, the observer qualified to identify the bird must be there, and that observer has to be able and willing to enter that observation into eBird. These requirements are the same for any Citizen Science Database.

When we look into the data, there are about 7 observers that were responsible for this data in 2017 and the group did not change much in 2018. what did change was their effort. They went to more places in the first week of January 2018 than in all of January 2018 and they conducted more surveys. And although the group did not change much, there were several new observers in the data set in 2018 and those observers went to locations that the rest of the group did not visit.

This means that:

  1. maybe those Killdeer were not there
  2. maybe those Killdeer were there, but no observers were there to identify them. (nobody went or observers went and did not see any, or observers saw 5 bazillion Killdeer but did not know what they were*)
  3. OR the observers went, saw killdeer, and maybe even recorded the observation, but did not enter their observations in eBird.

Part of what I see when I look a this data is a need to work on our engagement within the local community. bird watching is still stigmatized as an activity for "OWLS" (Old White birders with Leisure time and of course Scientists)

If we could engage local bird watchers at the primary, high school or university level across the Caribbean, the data will be more consistent, and of a much higher quality, Churches should have a bird watching group, every boy and girl scout group should have their birding badge for the entire group, The General Certificate in Secondary Education for Science should have identification of 20-30 birds, BJC and BGCSE exams and practical research can include bird observations from your island.

God forbid, but should something happen to Peter Adhemar, Andrew Dobson, or Paul Watson, who contributed most of the birdwatching effort that Bermuda saw in 2017, what would happen to their bird diversity records?

This is a new year, next time you go to one of our islands, take an extra pair of binoculars and share them with a student, your taxi driver, and share your enthusiasm. show them how to start an ebird account. If you live on the island and are retired, go ask a science teacher if you can get into their classroom, just once and engage with their students.

I hope to see lots more observers on all of our islands this year.

*I am not sure bazillion is a number and I do not think the accepted global population of Killdeer nears this number.


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