Multiple Lines of Evidence Suggest The Persistence of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in Louisiana Published in Ecology and Evolution

Our peer-reviewed paper is available here.

Update: The production error has apparently been corrected as of 1 pm on May 19. If you’ve read the paper already, be sure to clear your history to see the corrected version.

First, a shoutout to my co-authors: Tommy Michot, Peggy Shrum, Patricia Johnson, Jay Tischendorf, Mike Weeks, John Trochet, Don Scheifler, Bob Ford and especially lead author Steve Latta who such did a masterful job with it. Thanks also to Project Principalis team members Erik Hendrickson, Tom Foti, Steve Pagans, Philip Vanbergen, Geoffrey MacMillan, and Richard Martin.

Appreciation to Matt Courtman, whose March 2017 recordings are included in the paper; he introduced Steve and the National Aviary to the project and me. The Aviary had the courage to join and professionalize the effort at a crucial moment.

Appreciation to David Martin who pointed Frank Wiley to our study site.

Most of all, I want to remember and acknowledge Frank, without whom none of this would have been possible. I know this publication would have been a dream fulfilled for him. He was in awe of the leading lights of the ivorybill world – scientists, authors, anyone with a connection to Tanner or Kuhn – so much so that he asked all he met to sign his copy of Tanner. If he hadn’t already joined the ranks of the leading lights, he certainly is among them now. I’m sorry he didn’t live to see the day.

I may have more to say about the substance of the paper in future posts, but now is a time for reflection.

When I started searching for the ivorybill back in 2007, I was just a guy with a little knowledge and a passion rooted in late childhood and early adolescence. For me, and I suspect many others who were kids in the late ’60s and early ’70s, the ivorybill was central to the awakening of environmental consciousness. The story then was one of loss, but the possibility that the ivorybill persisted was also a ray of hope. So there’s poetry in the fortuitous coincidence that our paper is appearing the day before Endangered Species Day, the 50th anniversary of the Act. I hope our publication inspires generations of young people, as I was inspired by the Dennis and Lewis reports and the Peterson and Golden Guide descriptions. It doesn’t have to be the ivorybill, but more than ever the world needs more people who care about the environment and care passionately.

Of course, it remains to be seen how the paper will be received, but I hope and expect it will open a new chapter in ivorybill research, inspire more professional and amateur searching in other promising locations – from South Carolina to Texas and Oklahoma – and lead to more habitat protection. The good news is that habitat conditions in the southeast are gradually improving for ivorybills (and by extension other bottomland species). It’s a bright spot in a generally grim ecological picture; these forests are all the more valuable in light of climate change.

The logging of the Singer Tract was tragic, but it was not the end for the ivorybill. May its persistence serve as a beacon of hope, a reminder of what we have already lost, and a call to action.