Thursday, December 13, 2012

Looking for Shrubs in all the Wrong Places


Every time I extricate a tick from near my groin I recall with fondness a trip I took with a small group of youthful botanists to the west coast of Ireland in 1984. I tagged along with third year undergraduates on the annual University College Dublin Botany Department’s field trip to the Burren in Co Clare. The trip was designed to help these naturalists hone their plant identification skills, since the Burren - a grassland on karst topography — has a truly exceptional flora. One finds botanical treasures there not readily found elsewhere. I was a zoology major and at that time my passion was for chrysomelid beetles with their shimmering metallic elytra and chironomid flies, the males of which family have those marvelous antennae that perch like out-sized Christmas trees upon their heads. I mention here, merely as a grateful aside, that my mentor for beetle work was Jimmy O’Connor for Dublin’s “Dead Zoo” (National Museum of Ireland, Natural History) and for flies it was Declan Murray from UCD. I am indebted greatly to both these excellent men.
We crossed through the Midlands early in the month of June stopping off at the Bog of Allen, a fine though now of course greatly diminished raised bog, which generation after generation of Irish folks have burned as peat to heat their damp and somewhat chilly homes. And as we approached our destination we stopped several times at sites of scientific interest. As groups of hushed botanists whisperingly conferred over the relative hairiness of sepals, the flexuousness of petals, the lanceoloation of leaves and so forth, I swept the margins of small steams with my net with giddy abandon. The art of sticking one’s head into a net of agitated insects to retrieve one’s prizes, and to transfer them to a small vial of ethanol, has not received its due attention, but we shall have to reserve that meditation for another time. Once back on the mini-bus I’d stow the net under the bus seat and we’d be off to the next venue.
As we approached Co Clare a mild clamor emerged from the botanists, upon whose finely pubescent legs — need I point to the genderlessness of this observation? — ticks were now promenading. By the time my net was recognized as the tick delivery mechanism, the little blighters has already made their greedy ascent to the humid and agreeable habitat of the nether-regions that seem to be their preference. The ticks were painstakingly removed that evening, a process for which I can admit to having a certain fondness. The trick here is patience, a steady hand, and the graduated amplification of pulling force. Ticks relent.
Now, a point I want to make here is metaphorically a rather small one. Ticks, not always noticed when in the field become a nuisance when they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. I had inadvertently transported these ticks from their point of immediate origin, and their impact was uncomfortably felt in a manner that demanded attention. These ticks that so afflicted my botanists were not, of course, themselves invasive species, nevertheless they can serve to illustrate the rudiments of invasive species biology. Invasive species are those spread by human agency outside their typical range and have an impact in the host location significant enough to warrant management action. Setting aside, for now, the terminological skirmishes over distinctions between non-natives, exotics, invasives and so on, I simply ask you to bear in mind as important the factors of transportation between locations and an impact in a new range that is assessed as consequential.
My botanists forgave me, for botanists are generally an affable and forgiving race, and we settled down to the real task of our trip, botanizing. On that trip I encountered out on the limestone of the Burren, a plant that I barely registered at that time, but that was later to assume a dominant role in my life. This was Rhamnus cathartica, or buckthorn as it is commonly known. Buckthorn is a shrub or smaller tree with alternate finely tooted leaves and spiny twigs. It is, to my eyes, a fairly pretty plant. When I saw this relatively rare Irish plant again fourteen years later it was as, arguably, the commonest woody species in the Chicago Wilderness region. Introduced from its native range across the Old World where its populations are generally small it has become, after a lag-time of several decades, explosively successful in the US Midwest. From a conservation management perspective buckthorn is “public enemy number one” since it encroaches upon, and in many instances dominates, open land set aside for conservation purposes. Much of my research work and that of students I have worked with in subsequent years has been devoted to this plant.
In the summer of 2012 I traveled back to Ireland to find buckthorn growing natively. My younger son Oisín (then 16) traveled with me. The trip was more arduous that we expected. With time ticking away we discovered that although several Irish botanists could tell us roughly where to locate the plant, none could say where a population of buckthorn was to be found with the precision required by a man with little time to spare

Read on here.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Patricia Monaghan, In Memoriam 1946 - 2012


I read this today at the memorial service for my dear friend Patricia Monaghan who died too young.


It is with sadness, of course, that I say a few words on the occasion of Pat Monaghan’s passing. We all know that this was too early, too early by decades. My heart is with Michael McDermott and with Pat’s family and all of her friends, her many, many friends.

Death is the limit of words. We will see no more additions to the dozens of books, essays, poems, works of criticism and so on that made Patricia such a great scholar, and an unparalleled interdisciplinary researcher. No more will we get updates on her garden, vineyard, on her teaching, on all of the projects that made her so vital.

Death is the limit of words when we are reminded of how much there is to say about our departed loved ones, and how poorly words capture what is in our hearts. How can I capture in a few or even in many words a friendship that has lasted over a decade? I find that I cannot. I don’t want to say anything, rather I’d prefer to play that time over again, but this is not given to us to do.

So yes there is sadness. Much sadness. But as I thought over the last several days about what I could say here, it became hard not to have some of that sadness crowded out by gratitude, by a certain merriment in memories of her, by a pride in having known her, by joy for the legacy she left with us.

Patricia made us all smarter because she was so smart. She was not, we all recall, one of those people who purported to know more about our own chosen fields of expertise, rather she was the sort of person that shared our interests and wanted to know what we knew. It made her the most generous of listeners, and yet she always amplified a topic by the conversations she engaged us in. There was always an interesting, and entertaining, and wise angle. For instance, I work on invasive species, and the invasion of the land in Black Earth where she lived with Michael was a concern for her. But once in a discussion on the topic she told me that in conversation with a native woman in Alaska she’d inquired what the traditional people make of one particular invasive plant (I can’t recall which one, it may have been garlic mustard). The woman replied “What do we make?  We make soup!” Of course this entertained her because more than any other serious scholar I know Pat made things - a gardener, a winemaker, a knitter, a cook, poems, encyclopedias, a maker of friends, a teacher, a founder with Michael of the Black Earth Institute, that great arts and the environment think-tank.

Patricia made us all more entertaining because she was so entertaining. In the days after her passing I kept picturing Pat laughing. At her home in Beverly back in the day, at her home in Brigid Rest in Black Earth, hell even at committee meetings at DePaul she laughed. She would laugh and bring the back of her hand to her face to wipe away irrepressible tears of laughter. Not only did Patricia bring joy she was always prepared for joy. She was a great story teller and she brought out the stories in others. For several years in a row I would visit Pat and Michael at Black Earth with my family. My boys, who at the time when we started visiting them would have been pre-teen and a teenager. I asked Oisín our youngest what he recalled of the earliest of these visits: “Catching fireflies, picking blackberries, Space balls (they have a VHS player), and cheese curds!” Not only did we all love the house, and walking the land, and picking the blackberries we loved sitting by the fire in the evening with Pat and Michael. I bring this to mind because I fondly recall both of them telling stories there for the first time. Sitting in the circle around the fire, looking out across the land, the boys were called to that world that unites childhood and the world of adults, the world of stories. Fiacha, my eldest, pretended to be pulling on a pipe-full of tobacco as if he were a seanchaí of old. Patricia, in so many ways the most modern of women (she took to online teaching for example with reservations, of course, but not without her customary skill) but she also brought out the perennial and enduring in us all.

Patricia brought out the best in us, because she was the best among us.

I want to close with a poem of Patricia that she wrote for a volume (Brute Neighbors) that Chris Green and I edited last year, a reminder of her work.

Storm Lessons 
By Patricia Monaghan
1. Somewhere, right now, one is brewing.
2.  The wind is not trying to get in.
3.  In high winds, songbirds sing.
4.  It is not storms that rage and batter.
5.  Butterflies migrate within.
6. The beauty of inky clouds
    over a churning white lake and
    the beauty of a still summer meadow
    are equivalent.
7.  Storms storm.  It’s nothing personal.
8. They end

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thoreau and a common soil mite

Main theme of my City Creatures essay:

From Thoreau environmentalists have inherited an inclination to inspect matters from the periphery — the perspective of cordial criticism — as Thoreau did from the vantage of Walden Pond on the outskirts of Concord. The environmental tradition has also inherited a regard for inquiring into necessities, now translated arguably into sustainability studies, a disposition toward minute inspections of the workings of nature, and an amplified sense of the affiliation between people and the wild, even if Thoreau had, at times, a tendency to view his neighbors with a jaundiced eye. In other ways, though, the environmental tradition has veered from Thoreau’s path. Though it is true that Thoreau famously walked out of town, finding, he declared, little of interest in that direction, nevertheless, Walden Pond is no glacial wilderness, it was merely a walk away from home, from town, and from the neighbors. An ecology of the urban environment had to wait for well over a century to emerge, even though in some respects Thoreau’s Walden is the first volume of suburban ecology. He provided, by way of illustration, detailed notes on the domestic cat who appeared quite at home in the woods. Perhaps the most significant departure from Thoreau’s legacy, however, is the bewitchment, in the modern times, with the ecologically exotic, the cultivation of uncommon experience and the infatuation with the rare. Rarity, of course, is the appropriate focus for conservation biology, since rarity is an excellent predictor of vulnerability to extinction. That being said, Thoreau’s genius for the ordinary may be worth emulating. In the “Brute Neighbors” chapter in Walden, he described a relentless battle between two species of ants, the sort of violent encounter that is infrequently observed and almost never recorded though, presumably, occurs all the time. What Thoreau’s account suggests is that if we look closely enough we find that the rich dramas of nature are right at our feet, even if this place is not very ecologically distinguished. One does not need to peregrinate in remote parts to give witness to the marvelous.

I am not especially concerned in what follows with reinvigorating a Thoreauvian approach to ecology. I simply want to suggest that right here, under our noses in the towns and cities where most of us live these days, there exist ordinary marvels if we only know where and how to look for them. There is, let me suggest, another form of rarity - rarity of experience, and a poverty in our attention, that may not be fatal but that is unfortunate and consequential. O nova can serve as a mascot for this different form of rarity: it is common but unfamiliar. That most have not seen it is by virtue of its cryptic nature forgivable, but that despite its ubiquity most, I suspect, know little about this species, needs rectification.

Outline of the full essay is here.

Outline of Essay: Being Unseen: the Gift of Oppiella nova


I
A strange gift from John Lussenhop – small colony of O nova
Commonest animal in terrestrial ecosystems
My first encounter with this animal 20 years earlier
Common but rarely analyzed.
Introducing main themes of essay: necessity, minute inspection of nature, amplified connection between humans and nature, commonplace rather than rarity.  Connection with Thoreau!

II
Classification of mites
Morphology
Predation on mites (ghoulish story of beetles feeding on mites)
Diversity of community
            Poor man’s tropical rainforest
            Illustration of temperate zone diversity
            Enigma/Enigma resolved
Ecological role of mites

III
Specifics on Oppiella
Diagnostic characteristics
List of exotic locations where it’s found
List of less exotic locations
What is known ecologically
Aggregation patterns
A lone O nova shows up at the mall!

IV
Association with people
No comprehensive studies of urban populations
Project with Amanda Henderson :Great Oppiella nova census 2013
22 billion O nova in Lincoln Park?
Hypothesis: diminished population because of leaf removal

V
Conclusions
Necessity: means essential but also intimately connected, rendering of serves
Broader concept of necessary

~3000 words

Monday, November 26, 2012

An Ecological Account of Parts and Wholes Preparatory to a Comparison with Husserl's Account of Same Issues


Systems are defined by Karl Ludwig von Bertalanffy as “sets of elements standing in interrelation”.[1]  Acknowledging that the definition may seem vague, von Bertalanffy argues that when the idea is mathematized using differential equations, novel properties can be adduced in systems in general and in more specialized applied situations.  Although von Bertalanffy has quite concrete objects in mind, for instance “a galaxy, a dog, a cell, and an atom are real systems” [von Bertalanffy’s emphasis], he also recognized as systems those “conceptual systems such as logic, mathematics (but e.g. also including music) which essentially are symbolic constructs; with abstracted systems (science) as a subclass of the latter, i.e. conceptual systems corresponding with reality.”  [von Bertalanffy’s emphasis][2]  There is, it would seem, an immediate parallel between von Bertalanffy and Husserl in their recognition that thinking of parts and whole (Husserl) or elements and systems (von Bertalanffy) can refer to quite concrete objects as well as more essential rules.  It is pretty clear though that whereas Husserl has more commitments to the ideal over the empirical von Bertalanffy’s emphasizes the converse.
Hierarchy theory is a component of this more general systems theory that is applied to understanding the “architecture” of complex systems.[3]  “Nature loves hierarchies”, Herbert Simon, the social scientists, who pointed out that natural objects can be seen as arranged like Chinese boxes, each level inside a progressively larger box.  Herbert Simon recognizes four intertwining sequences: chemical, organismic, genetic, and human social organizations.[4]  This fourth hierarchy includes “the “programs” and other components called elementary information processes”.[5]  We might like to think of this as “mind”, but in this fourth hierarchy Simon also includes those programs which “have been occurring with growing in the artificial complex systems called digital computers.”
The tenets of hierarchy theory have been attractive to ecologists since observations of the nestedness of ecological levels, organisms, populations (of a single species), communities (of several species), ecosystems (the biotic community combined with the abiotic environment) and so on.  This hierarchy in natural systems is referred to as the “level of organization” concept.  Ecologists have proceeded with the assumption that subsystems on the same level can be studied without reference to one another.  For instance, we might study prairies, making the assumption that we do not simultaneously have to include tropical rainforests in our investigation.[6]  This methodological assumption relies upon the supposed “near-decomposability” of all medium-number systems and is rooted in the observation that “most interactions in nature, between systems of all kind, decrease in strength with distance.”[7] However, there are some dangers in simply conflating ecological hierarchy with “levels of organizations” concept since natural systems are comprised of more than just simple entities (organisms with clearly defined boundaries, biotic communities that are spatiotemporally reasonably well designed etc.).  They are also comprised of more diffusely defined sets of processes, and, depending upon the research question, there is more than one “n-1” level that might be examined.[8]

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Phenomenological Approach to Social Ecological Systems Research in the Chicago Wilderness Region – First Notes.


These are some thoughts on the results so far of work our group is doing on understanding governance structures surrounding ecological restoration in the Chicago Region.

Recently, I have been reading excerpts on the natural history of the Chicago Wilderness region recorded during the 19th Century as collated in Joel Greenberg’s excellent volume Of Prairie, Woods, and Water: Two Centuries of Chicago Nature Writing (2008). 

One piece that especially caught my attention is Colonel Colbee Chamberlain Benton’s A Visitor to Chicago in the Indian Days: Journal of the Far-Off West.  There Benton described a trip that he and Louis Ouilmette, a young man of French and Potawatomi heritage, embarked upon from Chicago on August 19th 1833.  They left the infant city to inform local Indian tribes that their federal annuities would be paid in September of that year. On the night of August 24th the pair of travelers passed through some oak groves and arrived at a small stream in a little prairie in Southeast Wisconsin and they camped there for the night.  As night fell they heard Indians around their camp.  Benton hid beside a large tree and at Ouilmette’s suggestion he removed his straw hat since it was “a good mark to shoot at.”  Assessing the danger they found themselves in, Louis remarked that “there were occasionally some of the Sauks and Fox Indians wandering about in [that] part of the country, and from them [they] could not expect much mercy.”  Benton could not sleep.  Not necessarily because of the danger.  Rather, because of the noise!  Some of the noise certainly may have emanated from the Indians who “mocked almost every wild animal.”  But also there were unfamiliar birds calling, as well as foxes and raccoons.  In the distance, wolves howled and the owls hooted in concert with the wolves.  The mosquitoes added their part to “the music”.  A sleepless, noisy, vaguely threatening night, and yet Benton declared that never before had he “passed a night so interestingly and so pleasantly…”

Though some might conclude that what Benton and Ouilmette experienced was the Chicago Wilderness against which present times seem lusterless, species poor, and silent.  And though some of that may be so, nonetheless we know better to conclude it was nature pure and simple.  It was, of course, a social ecological system, one that at the time of the trip had been in place for centuries.  In those times it was the society of Native Americans being shaped by, and in turn shaping, the natural systems surrounding them.  By a social-ecological system we mean a system in which humans and non-human life forms are found in a spatiotemporally defined environment.  Moreover, the term is not simple an expansion of the ecological community concept to include humans which is a relatively easy matter.  Rather, SES’s include more of the mental tackle of humans in it; not the biophysical interactions merely.  Humans’ conception of nature, our consciousness of it, our desire to change it or leave it alone, for example; the human institutions that govern nature and the way in which nature influences human health and sensibilities are part of the social ecological system. These mental attributes are less easy to accommodate in our ecological theories than our trophic ecology for instance.

Ecologists are accustomed to thinking about parts and wholes.  The way in which the aggregation of components contribute to higher level structures – organisms, populations, communities, variegated landscapes, biomes, Gaia etc is theorized under the rubric of Hierarchy Theory or Systems Thinking.  Now we know it does perhaps a little injury to suggest that in this theoretical approach we can separate out a particular level in the hierarchy and analyze the level discretely, as if the other levels do not exist.  That being said, this is the basis for the subdisciplines of ecology: autecology, population ecology, community ecology etc.  But since each one of these subdisciplines derives from humans’ conception and abstraction of nature, the subdiscipline of ecology dealing with the integration of human mental processes into ecology has some sort of confusing meta-status.  Social-ecological systems research, in a sense, founds all ecology; that is, all ecology is already a type of under-inspected social-ecological systems ecology to begin with.  Our conception of nature and our recognition of the different ways of teasing apart the pieces of an ecological system to make them tractable for analysis can plausibly be done for everything except for the very mental processes decomposing the system, those very processes that represent the very “stuff” of social ecological research.

Now, ecologists are not the only ones interested in theories of wholes and parts.  Such a theory is at the cornerstone of phenomenology, a central movement in 20th C continental philosophy.  This is provided by Edmund Husserl (1859 1938) as the third of his six Logical Investigations.  We don’t need to detain ourselves long with this (though the entire Logical Investigation may detain you for a considerable period – in fact, reading it is like striking yourself repeatedly with a dull mallet).  But let us just note that Husserl makes a distinction, one that ecologists don’t, between parts of wholes with quite unique properties.  Those parts that can be analyzed separately from the whole to which it belongs he calls pieces (populations, communities, tree branches, a horse’s head (ask me later!) and those parts that cannot be so analyzed.  He calls the latter part “moments”.  The color of a branch is a moment rather than a piece since it cannot be separated from the branch of which it is a whole.  Let skip ahead quite a bit and suggest there are several problems in science and philosophy that are exacerbated by confusing these distinct notions of parts. The notion of mind, the ecologically novel element in social-ecological ecology is not a “piece” clearly; it is a “moment”.  It can neither be extracted nor added to our analysis like adding an orange into a barrel full of apples.  The orange is always already in the apple barrel. 

It is perhaps not a surprise, then, that social ecological systems research has been difficult, slow.  We are used to working with “parts” and now we must address “moments”.  In our work exploring the ways in which variation in governance systems influences biodiversity and how biodiversity outcomes in turn influence our response to nature we are, in fact, doing something a little easier than putting the whole structure of consciousness back in the picture.  We are not looking for a pure science of essences as Husserl was.  Our problems at the moment are the pragmatic one of determining how two data sets should be analyzed together.  Environmental social science and ecology have developed as disciplines in response to the way in which we have broken down human-nature connections for the purposes of empirical investigations.  Surveys, sophisticated qualitative analysis of interview data, elucidation of rules, worm surveys, vegetation analyses, mite ordination are the ingredients but reassembling this particular Humpty Dumpty into a whole egg will be difficult.  But I am working with the finest of the king’s horses and the best of the king’s men.


  

Friday, November 2, 2012

Social Ecological Systems Then and Now: Chicago example


With a population of 2.7 million, Chicago is the largest city in the US Midwest and the third largest in the United States. The greater Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) to which Chicago belongs has a population of almost 9.5 million. The radical and rapid transformation of the landscape that has occurred over the past century and a half in order to accommodate a burgeoning population might suggest that Chicago is not a promising place to undertake large-scale conservation efforts. However, the region supports conservation programs that have received widespread local, national and international recognition.  That significant biodiversity protection occurs in Chicago is, in part, a consequence of the region’s climate and its evolutionary and ecological history. It is also the result of decisions made by people both before and after the settlement of the region by European and other non-indigenous populations (hereafter referred to as the “settlement” period).  These decisions resulted in land protected from development and/or maintained to preserve the characteristic biodiversity of the area.

When the contemporary situation in Chicago is compared against the description of the natural heritage of the region immediately prior to European settlement the differences are stark and from a conservation perspective seem somewhat discouraging.  One can barely walk for a mile across tallgrass prairie in Illinois compared to the possibility of a one hundred and fifty mile trek along the Grand Prairie back in 19th Century.  That being said, the landscapes of both eras each represent social-ecological systems – in the pre-settlement case the human agents involved being primarily indigenous Native American populations, more recently high populous and diverse urban population dominate.  Thus, both then and now human decision-making played a role in shaping natural components of the region. 

Journalist Charles Mann in his assessment of the impact of Native American peoples on the America found in 1491:New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus concluded: "Native Americans ran the continent as they saw fit. Modern nations must do the same.”  Now, we might quibble with the rather enormous license that this offers, nevertheless, the statement underscores the role of human agency in shaping ecological landscapes (second nature, in William Cronon's terms), both before and after the emergence of the great urban centers.  The emergence of a conservation ethic, one that contrasts with the more cavalier attitude of early settler population in the Chicago region, and one that informs the work of present day biodiversity conservationists and that inspires the work of Chicago Wilderness should be seem as a remarkably positive development.  Though we may not recoup the losses of species, communities and ecological processes that have largely been lost from the region, nonetheless it may be that we develop quite new social ecological systems  - in some cases, with highly cyborgian landscape emerging, mixtures of technology and forces beyond the immediate ken of humans – that are hopeful, biodiverse, and resilient in the face of ongoing anthropogenic disturbances.  We may be betting our lives on it. 

In The Beginning Was the Verb


In the beginning was the Verb, and that Verb was with God, and the Verb set all things in motion. More than just any Word (Latin verbum, word) the God who is, was, and shall be a Verb commuted motion of an Absolute form to Relative Motion. In the universe created of the Verb everything moves; absolutes have no meaning.
       
And some things rose and other things fell. Those which rose remained in constant motion until impeded and of those which fell some acquired spontaneous motion. These self-moved movers, called motile, include some cells, spores, the quadrupeds, and the bipeds. The Philosopher studied the motile keenly, since the prime mover and all that had risen remained less accessible to knowledge. Since the self-moved require the unmoving for motion, they must themselves be, he concluded, comprised of a series of both fixed and moving parts at the seat of which is an unmoved mover – the animal soul. In this way the motile mimic the first mover.

Living things move and they share this characteristic with every other thing; stasis, that is, can only ever be relative stasis. Movement differs from motility in as much as the latter, in its most fully expressed form, is movement where a purpose that goads, a desire that compels, and a body that advances, converge.

Read on in About Place 

The Erotic Charge of Big Ecology



In reflecting back on the International Biological Program (IBP), one of the largest of the early attempts to co-ordinate ecological and environmental research on a global scale – Big Ecology, as Dave Coleman, Professor Emeritus at the University of Georgia calls such projects – Coleman recalls how the months away in the field and at project meetings, led to certain temptations.  Temptations were succumbed to, liaisons formed,  divorces ensued, but the progress of the science marched on. 

Coleman in his latest book Big Ecology – the Emergence of Ecosystem Ecology, University of California Press (2010) (buy it here) provides a fascinating account of the background to large-scale ecosystem studies around the world, but especially in the United States. He points to the antecedent trends, provides rich insights into the contentious, but nonetheless highly productive IBP program, gives the ultimate insider’s guide to the National Science Foundation’s Long-term Ecological Research Program (LTER) and points to directions for newer programs like the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON).

Perhaps this may sound a little dusty to you.  To look at, large-scale ecosystems experiments often have appearances that only a mother could love, and to scientists not directly engaged in them they may seem like an ungainly older sibling that their parents lavish too many resources on.  And indeed that may be so, but they are nevertheless fascinating human enterprises.  The social architecture is complex, the scope extensive, and the promise is very rich, if only because our environmental challenges are no longer just local (if ever they were).  No one is in a better position to provide a field-guide to the Daedalian labyrinth of Big Ecology than Coleman who lead the Coweeta Hydrologic Lab LTER efforts from 1996 – 2000 (which overlapped with my time at the University of Georgia).  However his research work in soil ecology stretched back IBP days.  I recall from Frank Golley’s book on the Ecosystem concept that Dave was the first researcher in the US Grassland Biome IBP to get independently funded by NSF as part of the IBP program.  He thus knows that of which he writes.

I worked as a post-doc for four years with Coleman and one of his primary collaborators Dac Crossley Jr between 1994-1998.  What strikes me in retrospect is that with these fellows I not only learned my ecosystems ecology (I was primarily a decomposition guy back then) but also learned the interdisciplinary ropes.  Dac, who is enjoying a flourishing post-retirement career as a writer of westerns, had at that time eclectic and entertaining interests, and Dave had keen insights into how a complex group of people can be brought together to undertaken a complex set of projects under the LTER.  This training has paid dividends to me in my subsequent career as an interdisciplinary researcher.

So, please, take a look at this book.  I think you will learn some things.  Things about ecology, things about collaboration, and things about people.  With many pleasing vignettes of the scientists involved in the work, and the administrators within NSF that tended to these program, the reader gets a change to poke their head behind the scenes in a way that historians of such topics may not always capture.

I guess that by the time I was doing Big Ecology, the erotic change, perhaps thankfully, had dissipated from the game.  Nevertheless, Coleman’s account manages not only to reflect upon past success and failings (both scientific and personal), and should be read as a scientific history but it should also be read by all those interested in the future of ecology and the environment; that is, frankly, it should be read by all of us.   It is a rich book.  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Why are the implications of ecological restoration on microarthropod diversity important to understand?


Soil organisms are phylogenetically diverse, trophically heterogeneous, functionally variable, assorted in size, dissimilar in longevity, variegated in morphology, adapted to different soil horizons, but united in their reliance upon death.  That is, soil organisms are similar in that their foodwebs rely upon the processing of detritus – leaf litter, coarse woody debris, the carcasses of dead animals and so forth (Coleman et al. 2004).  Collectively the action of organisms within detrital-based food webs results in the breakdown of dead organic matter and the mineralization of organic compounds making key nutrients available to the living (Swift et al. 1979).

To illustrate the enormous diversity of soil organisms, I recently calculated that in a typical walk along an Illinois woodland path each and every foot fall lands upon the bodies of 270,000 protozoa, 135 mites, 3 springtails, and one or so large earthworms (Heneghan 2011).  These are representative of 30 soil species of which up to half may be previously undescribed by taxonomists!  Scaled up there can be at least 200 species of soil insects and 1000 species of soil animals in every 1 m2 of soil. The calculation is based upon an extensive review of soil biodiversity (Giller 1996)

Since the soil fauna are a major contributor to the diversity of many sites of conservation interest it might be expected that projects targeted at biodiversity conservation would include a consideration of these organisms.  However ecological restoration, that branch of environmental management devoted to the rehabilitating of degraded habitat, has paid scant attention to soil organisms (Callaham et al. 2008, Heneghan et al. 2008).  This gap in knowledge and practice is significant because soil organisms are a very large component of the biological diversity at many sites and because the regulation of nutrient availability exerts a large influence on the diversity in plant communities which in turn influences the diversity of animal species including belowground ones (Anderson 1975, Lussenhop 1992, Coleman and Whitman 2005). 

Concern for the conservation and restoration of decomposers and soil communities is made more urgent because soils are vastly affected by global change (the interrelated problems of climate change, nitrogen pollution, invasive species introduction and so forth).  Invasive species in particular can have dramatic implications for soils, either directly when soil animals (e.g. earthworms and isopods) are introduced into a site or indirectly when plants invade (Wolfe and Klironomos 2005, Heneghan et al. 2006, Heneghan et al. 2012).  Modification of plant communities result in altered assemblages within the soil, and these in turn will have implications for ecosystem processes that can determine the successional trajectories of plant communities.  

Some References
Anderson, J. M. 1975. The enigma of soil animal species diversity. Pages 51-58 in J. Vanek, editor. Progress in Soil Zoology. Akademia Press Prague.
Callaham, M. A., C. C. Rhoades, and L. Heneghan. 2008. A Striking Profile: Soil Ecological Knowledge in Restoration Management and Science. Restoration Ecology 16:604-607.
Coleman, D. C., D. A. Crossley, and P. F. Hendrix. 2004. Fundamentals of Soil Ecology. 2nd edition. Academic Press.
Coleman, D. C. and W. B. Whitman. 2005. Linking species richness, biodiversity and ecosystem function in soil systems. Pedobiologia 49:479-497.
Giller, P. S. 1996. The diversity of soil communities, the 'poor man's tropical rainforest'. Biodiversity and Conservation 5:135-168.
Heneghan, L. 2011. Why Should We Care about Restoring Decay Loving Decomposers? . Restoration News Midwest 4:6-9.
Heneghan, L., F. Fatemi, L. Umek, K. Grady, K. Fagen, and M. Workman. 2006. The invasive shrub European buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica, L.) alters soil properties in Midwestern US woodlands. Applied Soil Ecology 32:142-148.
Heneghan, L., S. P. Miller, S. Baer, M. A. Callaham, J. Montgomery, M. Pavao-Zuckerman, C. C. Rhoades, and S. Richardson. 2008. Integrating Soil Ecological Knowledge into Restoration Management. Restoration Ecology 16:608-617.
Heneghan, L., C. Mulvaney, K. Ross, L. Umek, C. Watkins, L. M. Westphal, and D. H. Wise. 2012. Lessons Learned from Chicago Wilderness: Implementing and Sustaining Conservation Management in an Urban Setting. Diversity 4:74-93.
Lussenhop, J. 1992. Mechanisms Of Microarthropod Microbial Interactions In Soil. Advances In Ecological Research 23:1-33.
Swift, M. J., O. W. Heal, and J. M. Anderson. 1979. Decomposition in terrestrial ecosystems Blackwell  London.
Wolfe, B. E. and J. N. Klironomos. 2005. Breaking new ground: Soil communities and exotic plant invasion. Bioscience 55:477-487.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Great Oppiella nova Census 2012: Kerosene Extractions


Sample Kit (these are available at the Env Science desk if any DePaul students want to help us sample for this project.)  Please contact me at lhenegha at gmail.  Or drop by 203 McGowan S.


DePaul Undergraduate Amanda Henderson taking sample in DePaul Urban Garden



Sample transferred into contained in lab (stored in 70% alcohol until critters can be extracted)


Sample is sieved in 150 u sieve - retaining mites but getting rid of small particles.


Small amount of kerosene added to sample - the soil critters float in kerosene.  Other parts of sample settle out


Rotating sample to mix the kerosene throughout the sample



Kerosene and arthropods are pipetted into sieve and rinsed in ethanol and placed in petri dish 


Amanda inspects sample under binocular microscope.

Oppiella nova - pictures taken in a previous photo shoot in the Heneghan lab.

For more on this project please visit here


Friday, October 19, 2012

A Note on the Extinction of Fire in Chicago


When they occurred, fires on the Midwestern prairies were so great that the conflagrations both terrified and exulted witnesses. Albert, Prince of Wales, who would later become King Edward VII of England saw one when he visited Dwight, a small Illinois town located in Livingston County in the center of the state, in 1860. It provided an excellent supplement to the pleasures of the hunt. On his first full day of hunting Prince Albert bagged eleven and a half brace of prairie hens thus winning a bet for him against the Duke of Newcastle who killed three fewer. The prince had previously dispatched a screech owl. In his account of the visit Nicholas Woods reported that during the visit His Royal Highness not only had great sport with the prairie wildlife but he had been fortunate enough to see a prairie thunderstorm, a tremendous prairie fire and a prairie sunset.

The fire started during an evening thunderstorm before the hunters could return to the town. The fire started in three different places and though it seemed at first that the heavy downpour would quench the flames, nevertheless the fire moved on until the three fires joined together to create a great infernal wall. Close to the fire it was as bright as noon even though by then it was nightfall. The prairie wolves howled as they sped from the flame and the prairie chickens rose and fell back again upon the flames. Since the winds were heading away from Dwight the prince was in no danger and the company watched the flames indifferently.

Though the royal party was safe, not all have been so lucky in their encounters with prairie fire. David Turpie (1828-1909), a US senator for Indiana, describes how he became familiar with prairies in the 1850s.  Commenting on the natural history of the prairie “blue stem grass” he noted that as a consequence of how dry it became in fall, thousands of acres surrounding the farms of the region became combustible. To protect the farms, neighbors formed fire-brigades which rushed to the protect the most vulnerable properties.  They set carefully managed fires close to the places to be protected thus depriving the wild fire of its fuel.

The strategy of setting a fire line was standard advice for protection against a prairie fire even if one was heading towards you when you were traveling across the prairie. The smoke of such a fire darkens the sun and roars as it moves across the land. This is what you must do: ride your horse ten miles in advance of the fire lighting the prairie at a couple of points as you ride. As the fire takes off you can follow after on the scorched ground. The fire from which you are fleeing will hopefully not cross that ground.

At the height of the growing season when the grass may be taller than the horse upon which you ride, the fires are ever more dangerous and out-riding it will not be possible. The solution: you can slaughter your horse and climb into his disembowel carcass. If you are not cooked within the dead animal you can emerge some time later after the fire has passed.

Nicholas Woods described the sunset that so delighted the prince in 1860 in almost supernatural tones. It had a “glory which can never be described or understood by whose who have not seen it”. The prairie turned to gold, the sky pink and red, the clouds crimson and all was still. And then the color left the sky and the embers of that great fire could then be seen. So supernaturally unnerving did it seem to Woods that it was as if the sun had gone forever. For all of this, it was nevertheless the prairie that was about to be gone forever, and with it the vast conflagrations that had arrested a King-to-be.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Husserl as Systems Thinker: Machines, Intentionality and Emergence


In distinguishing between simple and complex intentional acts Husserl refers to machines.  “A compound machine”, he says, “is a machine compounded out of machines, but so compounded, that it has a total performance into which the performances of the partial machines flow, and the like is the case in regard to compounded acts.”  (LI V §18, p115).  It seems to me that it would be useful to extend the analogy further by referring to the property of "emergence" known in systems thinking.  The function of a machine (“a combination of rigid or resistant bodies having definite motions and capable of performing useful work.”) is often not entirely predictable based upon an inspection of its parts.  One might look for quite some time at the interdigitating cogs of a watch before one surmised that the telling of time was the function.  Perhaps a clearer example is that of water where its properties of flow and the properties of its states seem not to be predicable from an examination of the chemical properties of hydrogen and oxygen.  One wonders in a parallel fashion if something of emergence is at play in intentionality?  Husserl insists upon the unity of the intentional act in a manner that seems to be more than just a mere summing up of partial acts. 

I’ll be working on this over the coming weeks for the Husserl Logical Investigations seminar I am taking with Frédéric Seyler.  Primarily I will be reading Logical Investigation III On the Theory of Wholes and Parts and LI V On Intentional Experiences and Their Contents.  Any thoughts on resources? Robert Sokolowski has some useful papers on LI III onwards from the 1960s.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The homeostasis of happy and unhappy families

From Love and Other Catastrophes.

A characteristic of families is that they stick around.  Even the shitty ones.  Men and women may clamor and fret to find life partners – there are apparently industries based upon facilitating this endeavor.  And sure enough some are sundered very rapidly.  But most families do not fall apart, at least not immediately.  The endurance of coupled humans can be attributed to the set of homeostatic feedbacks that develop to stabilize them.  The uxoriousness of men, the doting of women, the clandestineness of their intimacies, the inextricability of their shared tasks, the loftiness of their originary vows, and the damp conjugations of the bedroom: all helming the established couple along the straight and narrow.  And when the satisfactions have stopped, heedfulness of the pocketbook, solicitude for the kids and maybe even the steely comforts of a dependable foe can keep the relationship on the tracks even as the furnace of love sputters out.  Of course, in the worst circumstances unhappy families are maintained by unspeakable acts being perpetrated upon those who dare not speak of them.  Read more of the essay here

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Elephant Attack in Western Ghats


Excerpt from a piece of mine in Aeon Magazine 
A few years ago, this time with my friend and colleague Randall Honold, I travelled to a remote ecological reserve at the confluence of the Western and Eastern Ghats in south India. We were there primarily to look at wildlife, for these mountain ranges are exceptionally rich in species, many of which are found nowhere else on earth. The Western Ghats are one of the world’s dozen or so global hot spots for biodiversity. They were declared a World Heritage Site earlier this summer, around the time of my visit back to Ireland’s yew woods.
The Biligiriranga Hills Reserve is a day’s drive from Bangalore. As a place, Bangalore is all people, buildings, blatant smells, and phonic surprise. The Ghats, by contrast, are calm and subtle. Their demeanour is patient, abiding. It was months after the monsoon. The soils were dry and the air was clear when we travelled with three Soliga tribal guides into the heart of the reserve. The mammals of this reserve include deer — barking deer, sambar, and chital — as well as tigers and, famously, a herd of elephants.
We were made aware of the elephant population in an especially terrifying way. An agitated female charged us. She broke from the brush at dust-billowing speed, her ears flaring. Just when impact seemed inevitable, she swerved behind our white jeep. Before us was a lake. Behind us was an irate animal. The forest was hushed. With nowhere to go, we waited.
The elephant, viewed in the rear-view mirror, was all but motionless, although a tiny swaying of her body suggested that she was trying to resurrect an anger requisite to finish what she had started. Randall snapped a picture: ‘Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.’ We sat more or less frozen, for this was the advice of our guides, one of whom later said that this was the closest he’d come to death-by-elephant in 40 years. Perhaps it says unflattering things about me that I felt bored, impatient even, in these minutes waiting for my demise. I cast a minuscule glance around the forest and noticed that the wall of vegetation from which the animal had exploded was made up ofLantana camara. This is an especially aggressive exotic shrub which has become a management nuisance throughout the Western Ghats. Spanish Flag, as it is commonly known, is native to the American tropics and is regarded as one of the world’s most invasive plants. Its flowers, as I noticed then, are exceptionally pretty. Having spent half a lifetime combating non-native shrubby vegetation in Ireland and in the American Midwest, it seemed fitting, though ultimately a little dispiriting, that a non-native shrub had just disgorged the raging agent of my death.
An elephant in the Western Ghats'She broke from the brush at dust-billowing speed, her ears flaring.' Photo by Liam Heneghan
After 30 minutes, the elephant retreated, as did we. Later, how we laughed. A leading hypothesis of our Soliga friends was that my hair, an outmoded snowy-white hank, had enraged the animal. A year later, when we revisited the field station at the Biligiriranga Hills Reserve with a group of students, the ‘elephant and the hair’ story was still going strong.
Stories persist. Ecosystems, however, do not. By this time the elephants had left this part of the reserve and were seen neither that second year nor the year after. The walls of Lantana had become even more pronounced. Vigorous before, the invasion had reached that critical point where, in some places at least, the plant was occupying so much space that wildlife was being crowded out. Along with the spread of the invasion, the diversity of plants is changing as well. And perhaps, if we embrace an ecological paradigm of disturbance and change, this is simply the way nature works, and nothing to be done about it. Or is there? 
Full piece is at Aeon Magazine

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Colonel Colbee Benton’s Sleepless Night on the Evening before Chicago’s Birth


On August 19th 1833 Colonel Colbee Chamberlain Benton (1805-1880) left Chicago with Louis Ouilmette, a young man of French and Potawatomi heritage, to inform local Indian tribes that their federal annuities would be paid in September of that year.[1]  Benton’s trip, recorded in “A visitor to Chicago in the Indian Days: Journal of the Far-Off West”, was taken one year after the end of the Black Hawk war which ended most tribal resistance to white settlement of the Chicago area.[2]  That same year the Potawatomis, a tribe that dominated in the lands that became Chicago since the 1690s, relinquished their rights to their lands in Illinois.  At that time the white settler population was little more than 150 people.  A few years later in 1837 Chicago was chartered as a city.  

That Benton’s journey was undertaken at time of tension between the indigenous and settler population is reflected in his descriptions of their trip.  On the night of August 24th the pair of travelers passed through some oak groves and arrived at a small stream in a little prairie in Southeast Wisconsin and they camped there for the night.  As night fell they heard Indians around their camp.  Benton hid beside a large tree and at Ouilmette’s suggestion he removed his straw hat since it was “a good mark to shoot at.”  Assessing the danger they found themselves in, Louis remarked that “there were occasionally some of the Sauks and Fox Indians wandering about in [that] part of the country, and from them [they] could not expect much mercy.” 

Benton didn’t sleep that night.  However, even if they had been “in danger of suffering from the power of their tomahawk and scalping knives” it was not fear that kept him awake.  He remarked, in fact, there was something about their circumstances “so novel and romantic about it that it dispelled every fear…” He was far from home, everything looked “wild and terrible”, he was surrounded by “savages” and yet it all seemed “lovely and romantic and beautiful”.  He felt happy.

So what kept Benton from his sleep?  It was the noise!  Some of the noise certainly may have emanated from the Indians who “mocked almost every wild animal.”  But also there were unfamiliar birds calling, as well as foxes and raccoons.  In the distance, wolves howled and owls hooted in concert with the wolves.  The mosquitoes added their part to “the music”.  A sleepless, noisy, vaguely threatening night, and yet Benton declared that never before had he “passed a night so interestingly, and so pleasantly…”

***

So here was Chicago on the eve of its 1837 charter.  A settler population numbered in the hundreds surrounded by a loud chorusing of people and wildlife.  Benton recorded the diversity of the vegetated landscape of northeast Illinois and southeast Wisconsin as they passed by on horseback.  Near Round Lake (Lake Country, Illinois) he noted that they ventured through little oak openings then out onto the prairie, alongside little streams with “heavy timber”, and, very muddily, across “tremendous marshes”.  The prairie grass were, as they often are in these early descriptions, so tall and wet that passing through on horseback was like “wading through water.”  They shot, usually unsuccessfully at any birds they could see: wild geese, ducks, loons, pigeons, a sand crane (successfully bagged), and a prairie hen (killed and roasted for the dog). Streams were home to “some monstrous pickerel and other large fishes.”  Dotted infrequently through this wilderness were the corn fields of Indians.  Thus it was a variegated landscape supporting a rich diversity of life, human and non-human.  A gloriously loud landscape it was then, one interesting and uncanny enough to keep a man awake and happy.

On the evening of Chicago’s birth Benton even found a moment for erotic thoughts.  The travelers stopped at a village where Louis was known to the chief.  Benton remarked him as “a tall good looking Indian about forty five years of age, and is a notable drunkard”.  There Benton spots a “very pretty squaw” who roasted some corn for them.  The next morning Benton reported himself to be a little grumpy not to have dreamt of her.  “Her tawny complexion”, he conceded, “only made her more interesting.”  When he glanced over at her he found that she was “looking serenely at the sky…”  Benton speculated that she “was some pure and sinless being whose noble spirit held converse with the angels in a brighter world, far above the mortal things of earth.”  It may be more likely, however, that she was solemnly preparing herself for departure from her home lands.  The village chief, called Warp-sa by Benton, was most likely Wapse who it is claimed sold the Potawatomi lands in Illinois and was responsible for the removal of the tribe to Kansas. 

And after the removal of the Indians, the landscape of the Chicago, under the influence of the vastly expanding population, turned to homogenous shit.  But that’s another story.    



[1] Of Prairie, Woods, and Water: Two Centuries of Chicago Nature Writing.  Edited by Joel Greenberg.  University of Chicago Press 2008
[2] Benton, Colbee C. , Edited by Getz, James R; Angle, Paul M.; Caxton Club; Caxton Club; Prairie Press (Iowa City, Iowa). 1957; Prairie Press (Iowa City, Iowa)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Being Unseen: The Commonest Animal You Have Never Seen


See details of this project over at City Creatures Blog.

Mind Map to Nowhere

I have no recollection of putting this together - from a few months ago, but I may write an essay around it.  I am especially fond of the node "St Patrick max guler Munich Studio"



Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Green Aristotle

Just as tree rings can be used to age a tree, the accumulation of translations of Aristotle’sNicomachean Ethics dates the bookish man.  I, for example, have accumulated one translation for each of my five decades.  As we move along perhaps you will notice that I am not a seasoned Aristotle scholar, merely an interested student of the Ethics (my model is Joyce not Nussbaum).  When I informed my friend and DePaul University colleague Professor Will McNeill who has written extensively on Aristotle (especially in relation to Martin Heidegger’s work) that I was ruminating on a sustainability ethic based upon the Nicomachean Ethics he peered at me above his bifocals and thundered “Aristotle never used the term ‘sustainability’.”  McNeill is persnickety on such matters.   However, I am interested in this project for a few reasons, not least of which is to put my several translations to good use.  Sustainability is a newer term, but it is one that gathers up several perennial questions: how to endure in a recognizably inconstant world; how to sensibly discharge commitments to oneself and to others; how to be good.  There has been a tendency in recent presentations of sustainability solutions to resort heavily to innovations in the technical aspects of both the natural and social sciences rather than to examine how sustainability’s perennial themes have been taken up in disciplines that have examined them the longest.  We may have explored the conditions of the sustainable life for a quarter century, but philosophy has examined the good life for a couple of millennia.  Undoubtedly the humanities have secured a place in discussion of sustainability, and undoubtedly these disciplines and practices are influential, nevertheless humanists are a rarity in governmental sustainability committees, and this absence may be consequential.  Perhaps I am wrong; perhaps you’ll correct me.  

The full piece is here at 3quarks.com

Thursday, September 13, 2012

On First Looking into Husserl’s Logical Investigations: Husserl and Darwin



[Notes on Husserl’s Logical Investigation Vol 2 Part 1, Introduction and LI1 §1-23]

Edmund Husserl was born seconds before the dawn of a major revolution in the biological sciences.  Husserl was born on April 8, 1859; Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, was born, so to speak, seven months later (24 November 1859).  By the time Darwin published The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex in 1871, it had become abundantly clear that natural selection was not just for beetles, birds, coral polyps and worms (some of Darwin’s favourite organisms), but was an all encompassing mechanism that applies not only to the anatomy of people but also to their psychological makeup, including, it would seem, those aspects of humans that allowed them to reflect on evolutionary origins in the first place.  Darwin was well received in the German speaking world (thanks to an early translation by Heinrich Georg Bronn and was popularized by Ernst Haeckel) so Husserl’s formation and early scholarship occurred at a time when the significance of the Darwinian revolution was recognized. 

Husserl became, or course, the father of his own particular revolution; phenomenology has arguably had an analogous influence on continental philosophy as Darwin has had in biology, though, in fairness, it can be said that Darwin’s influence has been more all encompassing than has phenomenology.  There is, for instance, nothing comparable to a continental-analytic divide in biology.  There are some interesting similarities between Darwin and Husserl that are worth exploring.  I’ll mention just one point here: the foundational work of both writers was transformed quite radically by those who came after them.  In the case of Darwin the so-called Neo-Darwinian synthesis roughly speaking combined Darwin’s thinking with Mendelian genetics, closing the door on Lamarckian mechanisms.  Phenomenology presented in Logical Investigations, Husserl’s breakthrough work, was, of course, later radically transformed by Husserl himself, but transformed in turn by Heidegger and arguably by all 20th Century phenomenologists who worked seriously within this tradition.  It seems to me that both Husserl are Darwin are more likely to be read seriously by those looking at the history of a later position – a sort of archeological dig – rather than for the immediate insights they provide.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A note from my father on the name Heneghan

by Patrick Heneghan/Pádraig Ó hÉighneacháin 

Dear Liam
I start by saying that tracing the origin of Irish family names is a rather dodgy business.  Statements often end up with a warning note along the lines of:  ‘It is also possible that the name originated from the name of some local person, usually the head of a break-away sept of the major clan’.


In our family the expert was Uncle Tom.  His version of the name in Irish was Tomás Ó hÉighneacháin.  He also admitted that the version Ó hÉidhneacháin could be used.  He believed that the name had reference to the Ivy plant.


This is reasonably convincing.  The English-Irish dictionaries give the translation of Ivy as Eidhneán, without the ‘síne fada’ on the E, and with ‘d’ rather than ‘g’.


My Irish-English dictionary gives the translation of the word ‘eidhneachán’  as an ivy branch, and this seems also to me to be good evidence that our name is strongly related to the ivy plant.  One can imagine the clan as going into battle with shields and standards bearing images of the ivy.


My cousin Paddy of Ballinrobe is married to a Co. Clare lady who believes that we are an Irish branch of the famous Heiniken lager family, so you can see how far-fetched some people can be to come up with that one!


 I believe I know how the change to Bird by some of the family came about. Éan is the Irish for bird and some who emigrated from Irish-speaking backgrounds and mistakenly concluded from the sound of the name that ‘bird’ rather than ‘ivy’ was a good translation.   There is an avenue in south Dublin City which was originally named Ascal Ó hÉighneacháin, and for some reason this was changed to Bird Avenue.


I hope this answers your question.
Dad