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Hope College April 2013 : Page 18

Alumni Profile Chronicling the Birds Quest Completed: of By Greg Chandler D Paradise Dr. Laman’s patience paid off. He captured 90 seconds of footage of the riflebird, extending his wings and hopping up and down in hopes of attracting a female. “To do the kind of photography of this type, to get that unique shot, it takes time,” he said. The magnificent riflebird is just one of 39 species of a family of birds, native to New Guinea and surrounding islands in the Pacific, known as Birds of Paradise, which Dr. Laman chronicled over an eight-year odyssey as a field biologist and wildlife photographer. His work with Cornell University ornithologist Dr. Edwin Scholes is featured in a December article in National Geographic Magazine , in a documentary that aired last Thanksgiving on the National Geographic Channel, and now in a book titled Birds of Paradise: Revealing the World’s Most Extraordinary Birds , published by the National Geographic Society “Birds of Paradise are a true family of birds, just like the duck family, the heron family, the parrot family, the pigeon family,” said Dr. Laman, who shared his experiences during a presentation on January 30 before a packed DeWitt Center main theatre. With incredibly brightly-colored plumes and features that range from wire-like strands to tail feather steamers that are several times longer than their bodies, the Birds of Paradise are considered one of the most spectacular and unique families of birds in the world. “Birds of Paradise have evolved into an incredible diversity of forms within this one family. That’s what makes it so fascinating,” Dr. Laman said. From 2004 to 2011, Dr. Laman and Dr. Scholes made 18 expeditions to the Pacific to document all 39 species of Birds of Paradise and their unique mating habits. Dr. Laman took more than 39,000 photos over those eight years – more than 1,000 per species. “This is clearly the most intensive photographic and behavioral study of the Birds of Paradise ever made,” said Dr. Eldon Greij, professor emeritus of biology at Hope and one of Dr. Laman’s mentors. “I don’t know of anything that he has done, where he hasn’t put in a tremendous amount of effort. He becomes totally committed to it. He works very hard and he has a passion for what he does.” Dr. Laman’s interest in wildlife and ecology date back to his days as a student at Hope. He chose the college primarily because of its strong science programs and its commitment to getting students involved in undergraduate research. r. Tim Laman ’83 once spent 80 hours in a blind, deep in the rainforest of the Pacific island country of New Guinea, hoping to film a magnificent riflebird trying to attract a mate. Dr. Tim laman ’83 at work on the project. Not infrequently, photographing the birds involved climbing 100 feet or more into the canopy of the rain forest and then waiting patiently for them to appear. From 2004 to 2011, Dr. Tim Laman ’83 and Dr. Edwin Scholes made 18 expeditions to the Pacific to document all 39 species of Birds of Paradise and their unique mating habits. Dr. Laman took more than 39,000 photos over those eight years — more than 1,000 per species. 18 News News From From Hope Hope College College

Quest Completed: Chronicling the Birds of Paradise

Greg Chandler

<br /> Dr. Tim Laman ’83 once spent 80 hours in a blind, deep in the rainforest of the Pacific island country of New Guinea, hoping to film a magnificent riflebird trying to attract a mate.<br /> <br /> Dr. Laman’s patience paid off. He captured 90 seconds of footage of the riflebird, extending his wings and hopping up and down in hopes of attracting a female.<br /> <br /> “To do the kind of photography of this type, to get that unique shot, it takes time,” he said.<br /> <br /> The magnificent riflebird is just one of 39 species of a family of birds, native to New Guinea and surrounding islands in the Pacific, known as Birds of Paradise, which Dr. Laman chronicled over an eight-year odyssey as a field biologist and wildlife photographer. His work with Cornell University ornithologist Dr. Edwin Scholes is featured in a December article in National Geographic Magazine, in a documentary that aired last Thanksgiving on the National Geographic Channel, and now in a book titled Birds of Paradise: Revealing the World’s Most Extraordinary Birds, published by the National Geographic Society<br /> <br /> “Birds of Paradise are a true family of birds, just like the duck family, the heron family, the parrot family, the pigeon family,” said Dr. Laman, who shared his experiences during a presentation on January 30 before a packed DeWitt Center main theatre.<br /> <br /> With incredibly brightly-colored plumes and features that range from wire-like strands to tail feather steamers that are several times longer than their bodies, the Birds of Paradise are considered one of the most spectacular and unique families of birds in the world.<br /> <br /> “Birds of Paradise have evolved into an incredible diversity of forms within this one family. That’s what makes it so fascinating,” Dr. Laman said.<br /> <br /> From 2004 to 2011, Dr. Laman and Dr. Scholes made 18 expeditions to the Pacific to document all 39 species of Birds of Paradise and their unique mating habits. Dr. Laman took more than 39,000 photos over those eight years – more than 1,000 per species.<br /> <br /> “This is clearly the most intensive photographic and behavioral study of the Birds of Paradise ever made,” said Dr. Eldon Greij, professor emeritus of biology at Hope and one of Dr. Laman’s mentors.<br /> <br /> “I don’t know of anything that he has done, where he hasn’t put in a tremendous amount of effort. He becomes totally committed to it. He works very hard and he has a passion for what he does.”<br /> <br /> Dr. Laman’s interest in wildlife and ecology date back to his days as a student at Hope. He chose the college primarily because of its strong science programs and its commitment to getting students involved in undergraduate research. <br /> <br /> “I jumped into it right away my freshman year. I went out and looked for opportunities in the biology department,” he said.<br /> <br /> Dr. Laman’s interest in research caught the attention of Dr. Greij. “We recognized he was a gifted student,” Dr. Greij said.<br /> <br /> As a student, Dr. Laman worked on research projects under several professors, including Dr. Christopher Barney, currently the T. Elliot Weier Professor of Biology at Hope, and Dr. Harvey Blankespoor, professor emeritus of biology. He worked on four research papers that were published in various scholarly journals before he graduated summa cum laude from Hope, including one where he was the lead author.<br /> <br /> That undergraduate research experience helped Dr. Laman get a graduate fellowship from the National Science Foundation, which he used to attend Harvard University.<br /> <br /> Dr. Laman says as a liberal arts college, Hope is in a great position to provide opportunities to students who have an interest in research. “You have no graduate students (that normally do research) and you have research-focused professors who need help,” he said.<br /> <br /> While at Harvard, Dr. Laman traveled to the Pacific island of Borneo in 1987. It was there that he became passionate about the rainforest in that region and the diversity of plant and animal life within it. He made over 500 climbs of giant trees to explore the canopy, with his research leading to a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1997 and the first of his 21 articles that have appeared in National Geographic Magazine, on topics ranging from orangutans to the coral reefs off the coast of Indonesia.<br /> <br /> He pitched the idea of documenting the Birds of Paradise to National Geographic in 2003. The birds had been of interest to him for several years, ever since he had first learned of the work of the 19th century British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, a pioneering researcher in New Guinea. Wallace had first profiled the birds in an 1869 book, calling them “one of the most beautiful and wonderful of living things.”<br /> <br /> It had been more than 40 years since such birds had been profiled in the magazine. Dr. Laman’s editors approved the project, but he knew he couldn’t pursue it alone. That’s when he connected with Dr. Scholes.<br /> <br /> “He already had some good experience in New Guinea. He knew the calls of these birds really well. When we’d get to a new location, within a few days he could hone in on these birds’ display sites (where they would try to attract a mate),” Dr. Laman said.<br /> <br /> Most of Dr. Laman’s photos were taken from trees more than 100 feet above the ground. To get into that position, he would usually fire a bow-and-arrow connected to a fishing line over a branch in the canopy. He then attached a climbing rope to the fishing line and pulled it over the branch, allowing him to make the climb.<br /> <br /> Conducting research in such a remote portion of the world had its challenges. Twice the two researchers were left adrift at sea, and once it took five days and a helicopter rescue for Dr. Scholes to get medical help after he developed appendicitis.<br /> <br /> Dr. Laman has received numerous awards for his photography, including the North American Natural Photography Association’s Outstanding Nature Photographer Award in 2009. Ten of his images have been recognized in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, and he also has taken first prize in the underwater category in the Nature’s Best International Photography awards.<br /> <br /> Thirty years after graduating from Hope, Dr. Laman is excited to see how the college’s science programs have grown. He appreciates that the college places even more emphasis today on having professors actively involved in research and giving students the same opportunities he had.<br /> <br /> “It was really good then, and it’s only gotten better,” he said.<br /> <br /> From 2004 to 2011, Dr. Tim Laman ’83 and Dr. Edwin Scholes made 18 expeditions to the Pacific to document all 39 species of Birds of Paradise and their unique mating habits. Dr. Laman took more than 39,000 photos over those eight years — more than 1,000 per species.

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