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Roxie Laybourne
March 14, 2011 11:02 AM   Subscribe

Who invented the cloacascope? Who could pinpoint minute structural characteristics of charred bird feathers and identify the bird species or family based on the feathers? Who was the oldest of 15 children and worked for more than 50 years at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History? Roxie (large image). Roxie C. Laybourne, feather detective, pioneer of forensic ornithology.

Roxie's rules for success:

Share your knowledge.
Keep your mouth shut and just do things.
Keep an open mind. Keep it your whole life.
Take care of your body.
posted by cashman (13 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Who invented the cloacascope? Who could pinpoint minute structural characteristics of charred bird feathers and identify the bird species or family based on the feathers? Who was the oldest of 15 children and worked for more than 50 years at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History? Roxie. Roxie.

In my head, this is sung to the The Stonecutters' Song, albeit with extremely poor scansion.

Roxie with colleagues at the smithsonian, with boxes and boxes of birds

Things Organized Neatly: The Smithsonian edition.
posted by zamboni at 11:08 AM on March 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


“If we get a paper towel swipe with what we call snarge—blood, bits of tissue, and goo—we use forensic techniques,” Dove says.
I'm glad there's a word for that.
posted by zamboni at 11:14 AM on March 14, 2011


Forensic = The application of scientific procedures and principles to legal inquiry.

Thus, this is not forensics.
posted by docgonzo at 11:16 AM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Snarge -- the missing ingredient in the famous Sully Martini
posted by chavenet at 11:21 AM on March 14, 2011


Forensic = The application of scientific procedures and principles to legal inquiry.

Thus, this is not forensics.


Ack, prescriptivist! Minus 100 internet points for you.
posted by axiom at 11:37 AM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thus, this is not forensics.

They're identifying bits of birds that smashed into airplane engines, and those investigations are usually carried out with an eye towards the fact that legal proceedings may follow, so I think the forensics description fits.

Anyway, Roxie sounds awesome - what a life!

Thanks for this post.
posted by rtha at 11:57 AM on March 14, 2011


I had no idea there was such a thing as a cloacascope, but I am happy to be informed. Also, a great new thing for my cats to ignore me yelling at them about: "Stop bringing that revolting snarge into the house, assholes."
posted by jeather at 12:03 PM on March 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


One ornithologist in the forensics article is named Carla Dove. Oy.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:03 PM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, as I read further, it's absolutely forensic ornithology. For instance:

The case went to trial in May 1988. Roxie, then 77, provided authoritative testimony about the dead birds and amused the jury when she kept referring to the Fish and Wildlife agents as "my boys." Defense attorneys made a half-hearted attempt to cross-examine her and gave up. The three Kluge employees were convicted. (From the Roxie C. Laybourne link.)

I am pretty good at identifying flight feathers from body feathers, but otherwise my knowledge is limited to "raptor" and "not raptor", with more ability to identify what kind of raptor the feather came from than identifying what not-raptor a feather comes from (unless it's blue, in which case - Scrub or Stellar's jay!).
posted by rtha at 12:04 PM on March 14, 2011


In my head, this is sung to the The Stonecutters' Song, albeit with extremely poor scansion.

Really? I expected the answer to be "Shaft!"
posted by axiom at 12:40 PM on March 14, 2011


You're damn right!
posted by chillmost at 1:06 PM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Who invented the cloacascope?

Chuck Berry?
posted by Hoopo at 4:00 PM on March 14, 2011


Chuck Norris?
posted by scrowdid at 10:26 PM on March 14, 2011


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