Chronicle of Higher Ed decries the diversity-driven corporatization of America, suggests some solutions

May 9, 2021 • 11:15 am

An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Amna Khalid has some information about the “diversity and inclusion racket,” and also some solutions that may help achieve real equality beyond the ubiquitous “diversity training” known to be ineffectual.

Chronicle is a much better venue than, say, Inside Higher Education, and it’s worth paying attention to their pieces. The author of this one is Amna Khalid, Associate Professor of History at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota.

Khalid descries the expensive expansion of deans and administratiors involved with diversity and inclusion, which have burgeoned at the expense of other administrators and faculty. It’s not that they aren’t addressing a problem, but are doing so in an expensive and largely useless way, and eating up huge amounts of cash that could go to genuinely advance equal opportunity and affirmative action. Seriously, is “yoga for women of color” a way to achieve equality?

Have a look at the dosh involved here:

. . . . the University of Virginia scholars Rose Cole and Walter Heinecke applaud recent student activism as a “site of resistance to the neoliberalization of higher education” that offers a “blueprint for a new social imaginary in higher education.”

But this assessment gets things backward. By insisting on bureaucratic solutions to execute their vision, replete with bullet-pointed action items and measurable outcomes, student activists are only strengthening the neoliberal “all-administrative university” — a model of higher education that privileges market relationships, treats students as consumers and faculty as service providers, all under the umbrella of an ever-expanding regime of bureaucratization. Fulfilling student DEI demands will weaken academe, including, ironically, undermining more meaningful diversity efforts.

We’ll get to the “more meaningful diversity efforts” in a second, but Klahid has other fish to fry, including the largely performative acts undertaken by colleges to satisfy what they perceive as the public demand for a response to perceived “structural racism”:

The rampant growth of the administration over the years at the expense of faculty has been well documented. From 1987 to 2012 the number of administrators doubled relative to academic faculty. A 2014 Delta Cost Project report noted that between 1990 and 2012, the number of faculty and staff per administrator declined by roughly 40 percent. This administrative bloat has helped usher in a more corporate mind-set throughout academe, including the increased willingness to exploit low-paid and vulnerable adjuncts for teaching, and the eagerness to slash budgets and eliminate academic departments not considered marketable enough.

College leaders, for their part, have been more than happy to comply with the recent demands for trainings and DEI personnel. Nothing is more convenient from an institutional perspective than hiring more administrators and consultants. It simultaneously assuages angry students and checks the box of doing the work of improving campus inclusivity, without having to contend with the sticking points of university policies and procedures where real change could be achieved: tenure-review processes, limited protections for contingent faculty, and student admission and aid policies that produce inequities.

Instead of tackling those challenges, institutions can rally behind quixotic rhetorical goals such as eradicating systemic and structural racism on campuses. They can, as Portland State University has done, pledge to apply “an antiracist lens to every signal we send, every model we create, and every policy we enact.” Or, like the University of Louisville has done, they can announce their aspiration of becoming “a premier anti-racist metropolitan university.”

We all know the money that is going to these efforts is often useless; as Khalid notes,

“The vast majority of college administrations have simply genuflected to student demands for trainings. The most galling aspect of institutional responses, one that is conspicuously neoliberal and anti-educational, is the embrace of the-customer-is-always-right attitude. Evidence and research suggest that diversity-related trainings are not effective. According to the sociologists Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev, diversity training has“failed spectacularly” when it comes to reducing bias. To the contrary, these trainings can reinforce stereotypes and heighten bias. Yet colleges and universities across the country have chosen to disregard the evidence and instead pander to the “customer.”

The fact that colleges are indeed responding to public pressure rather than fulfilling their mission to educate is nowhere more evident than in the investment in diversity training, which actually furthers divisiveness, afflicts “majority” students with deep guilty and “minority” students with a sense of being permanent victims. If diversity training doesn’t work, do not use it. 

Oh and there’s also the money to be made by administrators and the doyens of anti-racism, for example Kendi and DiAngelo:

Hiring executive DEI officers is the primary way in which many colleges have signaled their commitment to antiracism and diversity. More than two-thirds of major universities across the country had a chief diversity officer in 2016. Even in lean times, institutions of higher learning appear to have continued appointing executive diversity officers. Consider the University of California system, where in 2010 faculty and staff had to take up to three and a half weeks of unpaid leave due to a $637-million cut in state funding. Later the same year the San Francisco campus appointed its first vice chancellor of diversity and outreach with a starting salary of $270,000. In 2012, faced with the threat of a $250-million cut in state funding, the San Diego campus nonetheless hired its first vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion, with a starting salary of $250,000.

The other chief beneficiaries are diversity trainers and consulting firms. Diversity training is a billion-dollar industry. A one-day training session for around 50 people can cost anywhere between $2,000 and $6,000. Speaking fees for Ibram X. Kendi, the antiracist scholar at Boston University, are $20,000, and Robin DiAngelo, the author of White Fragility, charges $50,000 to $75,000. Some colleges, I’ve been told, are forking out north of $140,000 for multi-session antiracism and diversity training for faculty and staff.

Imagine charging $50,000 to $75,000 for a lecture that you can skip by paying $8.16 for her book!

So what does Khalid recommend in the place of this cash-bloated waste of time? Here are her solutions:

But instead of asking for bureaucratic solutions such as trainings, students would be better served if they insisted that colleges redirect resources towards things such as increasing financial aid, providing better academic support systems for underrepresented students, and instituting educational initiatives.

A good example is the University of Pittsburgh’s multidisciplinary course “Anti-Black Racism: History, Ideology, and Resistance” introduced in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, and which all first-year students are required to take. Drawing on the expertise of Pitt faculty from the humanities, social sciences, public health, sciences, and the arts, as well as Pittsburgh-area activists, the course focuses on the Black experience and Black cultural expression, and it considers the interplay of race with ethnicity, gender, class, sexuality, and nationality.

Other efforts, like tailored coursework, seminar seriesdiscussion panels, student speak-outs, collegewide teach-ins, exhibitions, performances, and common readings allow institutions to harness the knowledge and expertise that their faculty, students, and staff already have on issues of race and inequality.

Alas, such thoughtful responses have been few and far between. The vast majority of college administrations have simply genuflected to student demands for trainings.

First and third paragraphs: I approve completely with her solutions, along with more efforts aimed at affirmative action. Since so many students are roughly equally qualified for admission to universities, especially elite ones, why not choose those who have, by virtue of past racism, deserve a form of educational reparations? But discussion must be free, open, and not guided to achieve certain ends. That isn’t education, but social engineering.

As for the “educational initiatives” like Pitt’s required course in “Anti-Black Racism”, this sounds more to me like propaganda than a real learning experience. It is an attempt to imbue students with a particular ideological attitude, as you can see on the course’s webpage. To wit: it is a precis of Critical Race Theory, and just as likely to be as divisive and ineffective as is diversity training. The objectives:


After meaningfully engaging with the content in this course, students should be able to:

  1. Describe and explain key ideas and concepts concerning the social construction of race and ethnicity
  2. Identify historical and current structures of power, privilege, and inequality that are rooted in Anti-Black racism
  3. Explain how anti-Black racism acts individually, interpersonally, institutionally, and structurally
  4. Identify and describe the contribution of scholars and experts on anti-Black racism at Pitt and in the larger community
  5. Articulate and critically examine personal beliefs and opinions about race, antiracism and antiblackness and describe the weight these beliefs and opinions carry.
  6. Explain how institutions and policies contribute to and enable Anti-Black racism
  7. Identify some of the many existing organizations that provide anti-racism programming and opportunities

Does anybody think that these “goals” will be achieved by free and open discussion among the students? No, this is indoctrination pure and simple, and is required of all first-year students. (I, for one, would object to the idea that “ethnicity” is purely a social construction.) The first thing they learn, then, is not to think for themselves, but what  to think, and how to keep your mouth shut if your opinion isn’t an approved one. I’m curious why Khalid things this is palpably superior to diversity training.

Still, there are useful solutions to the problem of inequality, and Khalid limns some. And, if nothing else, she highlights how corrupted American colleges and universities have become by what they see as societal demands.

In the end, I fear there is no going back here. Even my own University is gradually becoming imbued with social justice philosophy to the extent that dissent from received opinion is chilled: something absolutely new to our unique University tradition, in which all discussion is welcomed, even if not agreed on.

In my worst nightmares, I fear that colleges are no longer places to explore ideas, discuss them no matter now contentious or unpopular, and learn how to think and argue. They are instead becoming instruments: instruments of social engineering by administrators who want to turn out students like themselves, with a liberal bent. Not that there’s anything wrong with liberalism—I adhere to it—but you must arrive at it by cogitation, not indoctrination.


Readers’ wildlife photos

May 9, 2021 • 8:00 am

It’s Sunday, and that means we have a themed batch of bird photos from John Avise. John’s captions are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

Eponymous Birds, Part 1: Non-Passerines

Eponymous species are those named after a particular person, typically the scientist or explorer who discovered and described that species.  Dozens of North American birds are eponymous.  Today’s post provides several examples that involve non-Passeriforme species (next week’s post will show some eponymous members of the Passeriformes).  To learn much more about each person after which a bird was named, you can do a Google search (such as “Buller, ornithologist”; or “Buller’s Shearwater”) and read the relevant Wikipedia link.  Because nobody is faultless, I wonder how many of today’s eponymous names will ultimately survive the ruthless scrutiny of Critical Race Theory!  All of these pictures were taken in Southern California.

JAC note: Do notice that the majority of the birds contain the eponym in their Latin binomial as well as in their common name. If you’re going to eliminate the eponyms, you nevertheless still must keep the Latin name, which cannot be erased.

Buller’s Shearwater, Puffinus bulleri:

Brandt’s Cormorant, Phalacrocorax penicillatus:

Swainson’s Hawk, Buteo swainsoni (light phase):

Swainson’s Hawk, dark phase:

Cooper’s Hawk, adult, Accipiter cooperii:

Baird’s Sandpiper, Calidris bairdii:

Bonaparte’s Gull, Larus philadelphia:

Forster’s Tern, Sterna forsteri:

Heermann’s Gull, Larus heermanni:

Costa’s Hummingbird, Calypte costae:

Gambel’s Quail, Callipepla gambelii:

Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii:

Ross’s Goose, Chen rossii:

Vaux’s Swift, Chaetura vauxi:

Wilson’s Phalarope, Phalaropus tricolor:

Wilson’s Plover, Charadrius wilsonia:

More death on Botany Pond

May 9, 2021 • 7:34 am

I regret to inform you that Honey has lost two more ducklings. I found two small fluffy bodies on the North Duck Island this morning. I don’t know if they were pecked to death or suffered from inclement weather (it’s cold and rainy). This is a devastating loss as I thought the ducks had reached a detente yesterday, though it could be the weather.

That’s all I have to say. My beloved hen has only four tiny babies, and who knows if they’ll survive?

All of Dorothy’s ten appear to be alive.

Sunday: Hili dialogue

May 9, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on a chilly and rainy Sunday, May 9, 2021: National Coconut Cream Pie Day.  It’s also Mother’s Day, with the apostrophe implying the celebration of only a single mother (shouldn’t it be either “Mothers Day” or “Mothers’ Day”?), National Butterscotch Brownie Day, Lost Sock Memorial Day (where do they go?), and National Moscato Day, celebrating a wine that is often dire but can be superb.

Google celebrates Mother’s Day with a gif that links to tips on how to celebrate (click on screenshot):

News of the Day:

The New York Times reported that a bomb placed outside a girls’ school in Kabul, Afghanistan (most likely by the Taliban) killed at least thirty and wounded dozens more yesterday; but last night’s evening news reports the death toll of over fifty. What kind of filthy, misogynistic pig would try to kill women for trying to learn? The only thing that was heartening about this reprehensible act was the interviews with the wounded girls in hospital, one who said that she was going to become a doctor no matter who tried to stop her.

By the time you read this (I’m writing on Saturday), the remnants of the Chinese rocket booster will likely have struck Earth as it tumbles to the surface. It’s unlikely someone will be hurt, even though the pieces could be sizable (up to 200 pounds!), as there’s a 70% chance the debris will land on water. Still, there’s a not negligible chance that some debris could land in an inhabited area. I will give a free autographed copy of WEIT to anyone who is struck but survives.

UPDATE: CNN reports that most of the booster burned up, but some landed near the Maldives. It’s unclear whether any debris hit the island.  CNN also says that “NASA has lambasted China for its failure to ‘meet responsible standards’ after debris from its out-of-control rocket likely plunged into the Indian Ocean Saturday night.”  As if the Chinese will pay any attention!

Also in the NYT, Liz Cheney, soon to be deposed as a Republican House leader for her opposition to Trump, is the subject of a column by Frank Bruni, who tells us (as if we didn’talready  know) that Cheney has a record of diehard conservative voting. No, she’s not perfect (a “perfect Republican” is an oxymoron), but she’s sure as hell better than Mitch McConnell. Bruni ends with a moment of charity:

But Americans deserve the truth, and Cheney, not McCarthy [the House Minority leader], is telling it. So she can’t be discounted as a villain having a rare good-ethics day, just as she shouldn’t be anointed St. Liz. She refuses our tidy categories. How frustrating. How human.

Great: South Carolina is bringing back the electric chair, which seems to be one of the cruelest ways to execute anyone. Because of a lack of lethal-injection drugs, the state hasn’t killed anyone in over a decade, and so the new bill, passed by the state legislature, allows death row inmates to choose between the electric chair and a firing squad. The article will also tell you how that state executed 14-year-old George Stinney, Jr. in a gruesome spectacle, a boy later exonerated of the murders for which he was convicted. (The jury deliberated all of ten minutes.) There’s a 22-minute YouTube reenactment of this tragedy here. And here’s 14-year-old Stinney’s mug shot, taken the year he was executed. Because he was too small for the electric chair, he had to sit on a Bible as he was executed.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 581,056, an increase of 675 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 3,298,072, an increase of about 12,300 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on May 9 include:

  • 1662 – The figure who later became Mr. Punch makes his first recorded appearance in England.

Wikipedia notes this: “The Punch and Judy show has roots in the 16th-century Italian commedia dell’arte. The figure of Punch is derived from the Neapolitan stock character of Pulcinella, which was anglicized to Punchinello. He is a variation on the same themes as the Lord of Misrule and the many Trickster figures found in mythologies across the world. Punch’s wife was originally called “Joan.”

Here’s Mr. Punch:

  • 1671 – Thomas Blood, disguised as a clergyman, attempts to steal England’s Crown Jewels from the Tower of London.
  • 1726 – Five men arrested during a raid on Mother Clap‘s molly house in London are executed at Tyburn.

A molly house is where gay men met to find partners. Sodomy was a capital offense in England until 1861, and the men were executed for “buggery.”  And people say that we haven’t advanced in morality?

  • 1926 – Admiral Richard E. Byrd and Floyd Bennett claim to have flown over the North Pole (later discovery of Byrd’s diary appears to cast some doubt on the claim.)

Here’s the plane that supposedly flew over the Pole. Now that feat seems dubious:

  • 1942 – The Holocaust in Ukraine: The SS executes 588 Jewish residents of the Podolian town of Zinkiv (Khmelnytska oblast. The Zoludek Ghetto (in Belarus) is destroyed and all its inhabitants executed or deported.
  • 1945 – World War II: The final German Instrument of Surrender is signed at the Soviet headquarters in Berlin-Karlshorst.

Here’s the last page of that instrument of surrender:

  • 1960 – The Food and Drug Administration announces it will approve birth control as an additional indication for Searle’s Enovid, making Enovid the world’s first approved oral contraceptive pill.
  • 1974 – Watergate scandal: The United States House Committee on the Judiciary opens formal and public impeachment hearings against President Richard Nixon.
  • 1979 – Iranian Jewish businessman Habib Elghanian is executed by firing squad in Tehran, prompting the mass exodus of the once 100,000-strong Jewish community of Iran.

Notables born on May 9 include:

  • 1860 – J. M. Barrie, Scottish novelist and playwright (d. 1937)

Barrie was most famous for creating Peter Pan. Here he is (Barrie, not Pan):

by Herbert Rose Barraud, sepia carbon print on card mount, 1892

Carter is of course the man who discovered and excavated King Tut’s tomb. Here he is opening Tut’s coffin in 1922:

And two rebels born on the same day:

A tweet sent by Matthew about Sophie Scholl, beheaded in 1943 along with her brother and a comrade for opposing the Nazis. Sophie was only 21.

  • 1927 – Manfred Eigen, German chemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2019)
  • 1949 – Billy Joel, American singer-songwriter and pianist

Here’s Joel explaining his hit “PIano Man” at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre in 1994:

Those who died on May 9 include:

  • 1931 – Albert Abraham Michelson, German-American physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1852)
  • 1977 – James Jones, American novelist (b. 1921)
  • 1986 – Tenzing Norgay, Nepalese mountaineer (b. 1914)

Tenzing and Hillary, the first people to summit Everest:

  • 2010 – Lena Horne, American singer, actress, and activist (b. 1917)

Here’s Horne doing her timeless hit, “Stormy Weather,” and I believe that Cab Calloway is conducting the orchestra:

  • 2020 – Little Richard, American singer, songwriter, and pianist (b. 1932)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Paulina shows Kulka to Hili on the windowsill. Hili doesn’t like it, but at least she’s not hissing! You can see Szaron lounging on his blanket to the left.

Hili: What are you doing on my windowsill?
Kulka: I’m looking at you fuming.
In Polish:
Hili: Co ty robisz na moim parapecie?
Kulka: Patrzę jak się złościsz.

Here’s a picture of Kulka taken by Andrzej:

From Linda, a new Pearls before Swine cartoon:

From Facebook via Alex:

From Jesus of the Day:

Titania keeps pace with the ever-changing list of Approved Words:

From Luana: Walt Disney has gotten into the heavy-duty antiracism business. Here are two tweets, but there are more:

From Simon, who really wants this sign. Grammar and punctuation matter!

Tweets from Matthew. This whole thread has some amazing feats of bird migration:

A lovely glass sculpture of a tarantula:

New life: a lamb is born. This guy really knows what he’s doing!

Tweet of the week!

More on Botany Pond

May 8, 2021 • 2:00 pm

Things seem to have improved since the tragedy yesterday on Botany Pond. Honey has gotten a lot more aggressive, and will chase Dorothy and her babies away. The babies seem to be staying closes to the appropriate mothers, and everybody is eating well. I am more determined than ever to save the remaining babies, though I will be mourning the dead one for some time to come. And I’ve recovered a little bit of hope.

Here’s the duckling who, attacked by Dorothy, swam underwater a long distance and I found her surfaced, sodden, and still being pecked. I jumped in the pont, rescued her (I don’t know the sex of this duckling), dried her, warmed her, fed her, and took her home to sleep with me. Here she is the morning I took her to the rehabber. She was much improved.

Although I didn’t get any sleep when she shared my bed (she slept in my armpit), I really do miss her. There’s something about sleeping with a newborn duckling that’s incomparably sweet. I don’t think one can ever forget it.

On my way to rehab!

Honey, alert and aggressive, standing guard over her six remaining offspring.

Dorothy with her babies (she still has ten):

A lovely little girl was engrossed in drawing the pond and the ducks. I asked her if I could photograph her drawing, and she said “yes.” Here it is with Dorothy (left), Honey and her ducklings (right), and one of the Duck Islands with the tree on it:

A bird at the pond. I’m absolutely sure many readers will know what it is, but I don’t.  Let us know!

The same bird. I love its yellow breast and yellow pate.


McWhorter on Maher

May 8, 2021 • 1:00 pm

Reader Paul called my attention to the appearance of John McWhorter on Bill Maher’s show last night, along with Rick Wilson, Rob Reiner and Elissa Slotkin. Here’s the whole one-hour episode, and the McWhorter segment extends from 7:35 to 22:10.  I haven’t listened to the rest. (For a five-minute segment, go here.)

It’s clear that Maher is a huge admirer of McWhorter, who doesn’t pull any punches in this interview (he says, for example, that the only use for Robin DiAngelo’s book White Fragility is “to keep tables from wobbling”). McWhorter also denies that most black people have internalized themselves as victims of a white-supremacist system.

Richard Dawkins’s new book

May 8, 2021 • 12:00 pm

Reader Luke sent me this notice, and no, I didn’t know of Richard’s new book. The cover is below along with the Amazon blurb, to wit:

Including conversations with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Steven Pinker, Matt Ridley and more, this is an essential guide to the most exciting ideas of our time and their proponents from our most brilliant science communicator. Books Do Furnish a Life is divided by theme, including celebrating nature, exploring humanity, and interrogating faith. For the first time, it brings together Richard Dawkins’ forewords, afterwords and introductions to the work of some of the leading thinkers of our age – Carl Sagan, Lawrence Krauss, Jacob Bronowski, Lewis Wolpert – with a selection of his reviews to provide an electrifying celebration of science writing, both fiction and non-fiction. It is also a sparkling addition to Dawkins’ own remarkable canon of work.

Click on the screenshot to go to the Amazon site:

Luke also wrote this and sent me a screenshot:
You may know this already, but Richard Dawkins’ new book Books Do Furnish A Life was published yesterday (in the UK at least). I was delighted to see that the last chapter before the epilogue is his glowing review of WEIT!
You can see Richard’s entire review of my book, called “Heat the Hornet” at this link. And don’t think I wasn’t immensely pleased with his encomiums!

David B. Wake (1936-2021)

May 8, 2021 • 10:45 am

by Greg Mayer

David B. Wake, emeritus Professor of Integrative Biology, Curator, and Director of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley, died on April 29, 2021. Dave was a herpetologist and evolutionary morphologist who not only exerted great influence in his core disciplines, but also made notable contributions to conservation, systematics, evolutionary genetics, and paleontology. In conservation, his contributions were not just in conservation biology as an academic pursuit, but in actually conserving the world’s biodiversity, especially amphibians.

Dave Wake in his MVZ office (from his lab website).

Dave was born and grew up in South Dakota. He went to Pacific Lutheran College, and then down the coast to the University of Southern California for his Ph.D. with Jay Savage (another notable herpetologist), which was on the comparative osteology and evolution of salamanders of the family Plethodontidae. This species-rich family of lungless and mostly American salamanders remained the central, though not exclusive, object of his research over the whole of his long and very productive career. It was at USC that he met Marvalee, who became his wife, and who is a formidable herpetologist and morphologist (specializing in caecilians) in her own right.

After finishing his degree, Dave spent 5 years as a professor at the University of Chicago, but in 1969 he was lured back to California to Berkeley and the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, and he stayed there the rest of his career. He was the Director of the Museum from 1971 to 1998; he retired in 2003, but continued a rich research output: over 400 publications are listed on Dave’s website. Dave’s legacy is reflected not just in the enormous outpouring of his own work, but in the stunning roster of the undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, and collaborators who have flourished under his influence. The “People” page on his lab website reads like a who’s who of herpetologically-oriented evolutionary biology. (And there are many others not listed, such as “grandstudents”, who fell within at least the edges of Dave’s penumbra.)

Berkeley has put out a fine notice, and we are fortunate that Dave himself contributed to a biographical paper published in Copeia in 2017, and a transcript of an interview he did with his longtime MVZ colleague, mammalogist Jim Patton, is available; I have drawn from these sources for some of the above account.

When I was applying to graduate schools in 1978, I applied to Berkeley, and went out to visit in the winter of 1979, where I was graciously and generously received into the home of Dave and Marvalee (and their son Tom– now a zooarcheologist at UCLA). I was enormously impressed by his overview monograph on tropical American salamanders, published a few years earlier with James Lynch, and by the MVZ and the group of students and faculty there.

I had also applied to Chicago and Harvard, and I soon realized that there were close connections among the herpetologists at all three places. I wound up going to Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology to work with Ernest Williams, but one of Dave’s graduate students Pere Alberch, whom I had met on my visit to the MVZ, the next year came to the MCZ to be the curator of the herpetology department. (Pere, who died tragically young, was later Director of the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid, and one of the founders of the modern sub-discipline of evolutionary developmental biology, or “evo-devo”; Dave wrote his obituary for Nature.) There was an “MCZ-MVZ axis”, which passed through Chicago (including the Field Museum in Chicago). The strength of that connection was driven home by Dave himself many years later, when in 2017, he remarked that, in devoting himself to the study of plethodontid salamanders,  he had “consciously modeled his approach on Williams'” work on anoles. It is fitting that he and Marvalee both spent their last sabbatical year in 2002 at the MCZ, the long-serving director of which is Jim Hanken, yet another of Dave’s students.

Although I did not wind up in Berkeley or working with Dave, I would see him at meetings and on visits to California, and want to extend my deep condolences to Marvalee, Tom, and all their family and friends.

Dave’s major works are too numerous to mention, so I include here only the 1976 monograph that so impressed me as an undergraduate; a University of California publication on the history of the MVZ; and his obituary of Pere Alberch. I’ve also included the biography in Copeia mentioned above, and two articles analyzing Dave’s research program by James Griesemer, a philosopher of science who had been an undergraduate in Dave’s lab.

Griesemer, J. 2013. Integration of approaches in David Wake’s model-taxon research platform for evolutionary morphology. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44:525-536.

Griesemer, J. 2015. What salamander biologists have taught us about evo-devo. pp. 271-301 in A.C. Love, ed. Conceptual Change in Biology: Scientific and Philosophical Perspectives on Evolution and Development. Springer Verlag, Dordrecht.

Rodriguez-Robles, J.A., D.A. Good, & D.B. Wake. 2003. Brief history of herpetology in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley, with a list of type specimens of recent amphibians and reptiles. Univ. Calif. Pub. Zool. 131: xvi+119. pdf

Staub, N. and R.L. Mueller. 2017. David Burton Wake. Copeia 105(2):415-426. pdf

Wake, D.B. 1998. Pere Alberch (1954-1998): Synthesizer of evolution and development. Nature 393:632. pdf

Wake, D. B., and J. F. Lynch. 1976. The distribution, ecology, and evolutionary history of plethodontid salamanders in tropical America. Sci. Bull. Nat. Hist. Mus. Los Angeles Co. 25:1-65.

I am grateful to Jonathan Losos for reading a draft of this, and providing suggestions.

Caturday felid trifecta: Bobcat thanks boy who saved it from fire; Biden’s “Schrödinger’s Cat”; Illustrations of what it’s like to be a cat’s staff

May 8, 2021 • 9:30 am

From apost we have a story and a video about a boy who rescued two animals from a fire, with one (below) becoming a house pet.

A wild bobcat almost died in a wildfire. He was rescued by a young boy, who took him home and adopted him.

Now, this wild animal acts like a domestic house cat, with ample love for the boy who saved his life.

This video shows some of the bobcat’s heartwarming affection for his savior, as he snuggles and caresses his owner. It is so sweet to see how a wild animal can bond with a human.

The boy, George Kraus, rescued this bobcat as well as a young fawn from a fire in his town. The animals were having trouble breathing because of smoke inhalation.

Young Kraus brought them home and cared for them until they were well. It took some time to earn each other’s trust, but before long the big cat became part of the Kraus family.

The bobcat, now named Benji, became a family pet. Benji lives in George’s home as an affectionate over-sized house cat.

Benji loves playing with toys and being with his family. He takes naps on the furniture. He especially loves snuggling, as the video clearly reveals.

I would not try this at home, but I suppose it’s possible. I hope the cat doesn’t decide one day to nip a little too hard! The video, however, is heartwarming.

And what do they feed the thing? Is it even legal to own a bobcat?



You know, well before Biden took office we heard exciting rumors that the family was going to get a cat in the White House. POSH! PIFFLE! LIES! No cat has shown up in the first hundred days, although of course there are d*gs.  So I was a bit dubious when I saw this headline from the Washington Post.

Is Biden “reaching across the aisle” to cat lovers?  Well, don’t hold your breath. We’ve heard intimations like this for months:

Dogs seem to have a way with world leaders. For decades, the powerful have often opted for canine companions. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has one. So does French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Obamas were dog owners, too.

But President Biden is taking a path less followed with a first cat, which is expected to join the Biden family’s two German shepherds, Champ and Major, in the White House. (Donald Trump broke ranks when he became the first U.S. president in 150 years not to have a pet.)

First lady Jill Biden told NBC News on Friday that the Biden’s new cat was “waiting in the wings,” although she declined to say exactly when their feline friend would arrive. She gave no hint on the name, but appears to offer a gender reveal.

“He …,” Jill Biden started, then corrected herself. “She is waiting in the wings.”

Waiting in the wings my tuchas.! It’ll be a cold day in July when the Bidens get a cat. But one can still hope. . .

Biden’s rescue dog, Major, has already had some special coaching to prepare for life with a cat as part of his remedial training following two White House biting incidents.

Biden may not earn full “cat person” credentials in some eyes for sharing his affections with a pair of hounds. Still, the cat club is a small group for politicos at the top.

The genuine ailurophiles mentioned include the great Jacinda Ardern (whose polydactylous cat Paddles was run over by a car, and so no longer exists), and Larry, the Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office, who does exist.. However, all the rest of the moggies mentioned are former First Moggies, like Socks, the Clintons’ cat, or the cat of Stephen Harper, Canada’s former PM. They even mention Winston Churchill, for crying out loud! Couldn’t the paper be arsed to find out existing First Cats? Or maybe there are none save Larry. . .


From Bored Panda we have a series of cartoons by Russian artist Lingvistov about what it’s like to live with a cat (click on screenshot). Anybody who’s had a mog will recognize the tropes; I’ll show my favorite five of the 30 cartoons given.

h/t: Jean

Readers’ wildlife photos

May 8, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today we finish up the last third of Stephen Barnard’s photos sent from his ranch in Idaho. His captions are indented and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them. The title is “Mammals and lanscapes.”

Moose (Alces alces). A cow and two yearling calves in my back yard.

A trio of North American river otters (Lontra canadensis) cruising downstream, making good time, in early morning light. They probably just decimated the rainbow trout spawning upstream.

Some landscapes. The first two are iPhone 12 photos. The last was made with the pano feature and blew my mind.