Esteemed friends,

I have read the many messages regarding the Smithville gull collection
very carefully.  I offer the following as a response to some points
expressed in those messages, and as one step in a process to resolve
some of the aspects of the issue.

First, some thoughts...

On collecting:  Collecting specimens is essential to furthering
scientific knowledge.  I am a bit equivocal on this.  That is, I don't
mean to deceive, but I am ambivalent.  Specifically, I do not feel that
collecting should be the action of choice in some bird/human
encounters.  Others differ and it is a long spectrum.

On identification:  Positive identification of every individual bird is
not necessary to further scientific knowledge.

On listing:  The gull was not collected to confirm an identification for
anyone's life list.

On scientific results possible from the Smithville specimen:  We will
know the exact dimensions of that honker bill and several other aspects
of the individual's anatomy.  There are other details we or our
descendants may learn, but the relevance of this individual to the whole
is tenuous.

That is to say that arguments for the various benefits of specimen
study, in general, are not germane to the taking of this particular
specimen.  I'm not a mind reader and I certainly would not impugn the
imagination of any researcher, but general research was unlikely a
motive at Smithville.

On the scientific value of study results:  Although this is the crux of
some of the differing opinions, we cannot know the value for now.  In
the absence of a crystal ball, that will take time.

On "the usual suspects":  I honestly don't know who was involved in
various aspects of the collection.  I don't know who or how many were

It may surprise many and dismay some, but I don't even think the
identity of the collectors is important.  Let us bury any tendency
toward a witch hunt and concentrate instead on the issue(s).  See below.

On the legality of the act(s):
  I'm sure that every possible means of staying within the letter of the
law was undertaken with great thought and careful choreography.  Spirit
of the law is a different matter and perhaps should not be dwelt upon.

On reactions:
a.  It is possible that the emotional reaction from the general birding
community will cause collectors to say something like, "See how they
react?  They just don't understand.  Next time we'll do it without
informing them."

b.  Some birders have said publicly and others have probably sworn
privately not to make an unusual sighting public knowledge.

Neither of the above is a desired outcome of this incident.

Now, On The Important Issues:

Collecting is going to occur.

Although a significant number of people sincerely believe it is never
justifiable, most admit, with varying degrees of reluctance, that there
are legitimate instances/questions/value of potential information to
support collection--some of the time.

On what could be done:

The secrecy of the act is a major part of the problem.  A reasoned,
reasonable rationale presented prior to collection and a set date for
the act  would garner support--never, of course, from everyone, but
certainly from many.

Perhaps a protocol could be developed--AND followed.  I'm not speaking
of the legal aspects.  I reiterate, the legality of the Smithville
collection is not at issue.

What we need is candor.  We are (kinda) adults.

With honest, open dialogue the majority of the birding community of
Missouri and Kansas (note that is ONE community in this context) would:

1. understand and support collection activities most of the time;

2. understand and support deposition of specimens in the most
appropriate institution;

3. bear no malice toward collectors pursuing legitimate scientific
advancement, especially if it is not confused with career advancement;

4.  not hesitate to inform others of an unusual bird.

We would all gain from these outcomes.

Let's be reasonable.  Let's work this out.  Perhaps the Smithville gull
can be the impetus for a legacy far more lasting and valuable that the
determination of its DNA or the measurement of its gonydeal angle.

Perhaps KOS and ASM could form a joint committee to look at the issue.
This committee could have representatives from both state's Bird Records
Committees and from general birding members.

Most sincerely written,

Edge Wade
Columbia, MO
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