When winning the signature Café Scientifique trivia questions consists of wild guesses, you know it’s going to be a good topic. Fish-eating owls of Northeast Asia is a subject most know nothing about. You know who does? Dr. Jonathan C. Slaght. Dr. Slaght is a conservation biologist for the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Russia Program as well as one of the leading experts on a rare raptor, the Blakiston’s fish-eating owl.
Currently on the endangered list, the Blakiston’s fish-eating owl resides near bodies of water that will not freeze over in winter. They prefer to wade through water or perch nearby until they detect slight movement indicating fresh prey swimming beneath the surface. As the largest living species of owl, these creatures have few natural predators. However, a primary reason for their endangered status is that some groups do not breed every year. Dr. Slaght theorizes that breeding is determined by available food supply and habitat. Therefore, decreasing riverine forest, poaching of fresh fish, and human traffic are among their leading threats.
As one of the leading experts on this subject, the engaging and humorous Dr. Slaght is a wealth of information. And at Cafés, he’s only a few rows ahead of you. Following the program filled with information and anecdotes only Dr. Slaght can provide, audience members crowd the front of the stage to ask more questions. Cafés are perfect for learning about a subject you never knew existed and then igniting a desire to learn even more.
Café Scientifique will pick back up on September 15th following a summer hiatus. Program leaders are diligently planning dynamic topics for next season including a presentation by the organizers of the “Bodies and Spirits: Health and the History of Fermentation and Distillation” exhibition opening in September.
To learn more about fish-eating owls and conservation efforts to increase their numbers, click here for the podcast recorded by The Bell Museum of Natural History. Podcasts of Cafés are usually uploaded a few days to a week following the presentation.