Lunch with a zoologist & an entomologist

Okay.  Wow.  That’s about all I can think right now.

As first vice regent of my Daughters of the American Revolution chapter, it is my job to find guest speakers for monthly meetings.  Some of the most interesting programs are given by members who travel to give presentations to other chapters.  Most of the time, all I know before receiving a bio is their topic, home chapter information, and what office they hold in the society.  Someone giving an in-costume portrayal of Martha Washington hasn’t necessarily made a career of it.

Resources are also drawn from our brother society, Sons of the American Revolution.  The gentleman asked to speak for the most recent meeting is a member of that society.  When I received his bio, I was delighted to learn he has an extensive record of leadership to a society which surpassed anyone I’d ever met.   Additionally, his wife would be accompanying him and she is a member of DAR with chapter leadership experience.  I looked forward to meeting them and learning from their experience.

He has the most unexpected educational background I’ve encountered in two years serving in my position: his PhD is in zoology.  It was exciting to read his research because some of it applied to chickens and I hoped not to make a fool of myself by allowing my chickens into our lunch conversation after the meeting.  

The chapter regent would be out of town, so I would be leading the meeting.  This made me nervous because he would be the first to know if I messed up handling any unexpected items of business which required more than my shallow depth of experience in parliamentary procedure.  When guests with high levels of service visit a chapter, properly following parliamentary procedue is even more essential than normal.  The parliamentarian was out of town with the regent, so I would be on my own.  Well, the unexpected happened.  Looking out from the podium at that moment, everyone became a flock of hens and a rooster.  I felt much better and stumbled through it with a smile.

At lunch I learned his wife is an entomologist.  They are also bird watchers.  They’ve even seen a pair of albatross!  Their interest in birds and bugs developed in part from their PhD studies at the same institution.

Who was so interesting in their department while they were students?  That would be someone who studied bird behavior, specifically someone who studied jungle fowl.  Our guest said the person spent a year in the jungle in search of them, seeing few but recording many.  His name?  Nick Collias.  I had to ask our guest to spell the last name.  Surely it couldn’t be the Collias I was thinking of.  Yes, one and the same.  Yes, the one whose wife was E. Collias, who studied entomology before embarking on a career of research at the same institution with N. Collias.  Yes, the same people who were guests of Tinbergen during field studies.  Yes, that Tinbergen.

Having received my reply of ethology of chickens and statistics earlier in the conversation when asked about my interests, our guest felt comfortable enough to proceed in vocalizing different alarm calls of jungle fowl.  The member sitting next to me was surprised and a little confused.  For once, all that reading was useful and relevant in a conversation.  I was able to explain why our guest was making bird calls at the table.

Our guest and his wife have a lifetime of incredible stories to tell.  It was a priveledge to have them at our chapter and for lunch.


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