Nature's Music: The Science of Birdsong
California Academy of Sciences to Hold a Symposium Honoring
Legacy of Renowned Ornithologist

San Francisco (October 23, 2001) - A casual visitor to Golden Gate Park, walking around listening to birds sing, might assume the park holds perhaps 20 or 30 different bird species. In fact, the park is home to over 150 different species of birds, many with their own calls and songs. An exceptionally sensitive, trained human ear can recognize the different species by their songs and can even distinguish between different geographical dialects or "accents."

Luis Baptista, the late ornithologist at The California Academy of Sciences, possessed what was perhaps the most sensitive and talented ear in the world for listening to birdsong. Nature's Music: The Science of Bird Song, is a symposium about the life's work of Dr. Baptista to be held at the Academy on Saturday, November 3 from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

The symposium, which is intended for both lay and academic audiences, will explore the ways that songbirds learn to sing and the parallels between their songs and human speech.

"Nature's Music will gather together many of the people who relied on Luis Baptista for his groundbreaking research, his exceptional intellect and his remarkable goodwill and humanity," said Dr. Douglas Long, acting chair, department of ornithology and mammalogy at The California Academy of Sciences and moderator of Nature's Music. "Luis' life's work continues because he inspired so many people in his field."
Dr. Baptista's research sparked many questions that will be explored at Nature's Music. What is it about bird brains that enables them to learn huge song repertoires in an amazingly short time? How is the latest research into bird brains affecting our understanding of Alzheimer's disease in humans? What is it about a male's voice that females find attractive, in birds as well as in humans? What kind of extraordinary musical instrument produces the exquisite tonality and intricate melodic detail that many birds' songs possess?
A distinguished international panel of scholars will discuss these and other issues. Their presentations include:

· Luis Baptista, a Lifetime with Birdsong: Peter Marler, University of California, Davis
· Birdsong and Sex: Sarah Collins, University of Nottingham, England
· Avian Song Virtuosity: Donald Kroodsma, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
· The Riddle of the Syrinx: Roderick Suthers, Indiana University, Bloomington
· Learning to Sing: Douglas A. Nelson, Ohio State University, Columbus
· Singing in the Brain: Erich Jarvis, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina
· Speaking of Parrots: Irene Pepperberg, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
· Birdsong as Music to the Ear: Meredith West, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana
· Personal reflections on the life and work of Luis Baptista: Robert Bowman, San Francisco State University

Tickets for the symposium cost $55 ($45 for academy members; $35 for students). Nature's Music will last from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM. From 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM there will be a catered buffet reception. Tickets to the reception cost an additional $45. The reception will include a performance by The Dedications, an improvisational duo that creates customized, impromptu songs based on short poems written by the audience.

[The California Academy of Sciences, Steinhart Aquarium, Morrison Planetarium and the Academy's logo are registered trademarks of the California Academy of Sciences.]

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