tags: What, If Anything, Is Big Bird?, taxonomy, taxonomy, evolution, Grandicrocavis, Big Bird, flightless birds, ratites, humor, comedy, science humor, dinosaur humor, Mike Dickison, PechaKucha, Christchurch, streaming video
Years ago, when Zoologist Mike Dickison was in the early stages of his PhD, he gave a joke presentation at a graduate student conference on the taxonomy and evolution of a giant flightless bird. It was the sort of thing you'd see at any conference on avian evolution: a Latin name, reconstructed skeleton, possible place on the great evolutionary tree of birds. The tone was completely serious, despite the subject matter -- the sort of thing that might be found in the Journal of Irreproducible Results back when it was funny.
Then, in the storage cabinets of the Berlin Museum of Natural History one summer's day, Dickison opened a drawer and had a revelation -- an original scientific insight that he is now sharing with the world: he realised what kind of bird he was working with, and figured out something of its evolutionary history.
Dr Dickison's astonishing findings were presented and recorded at the Christchurch PechaKucha #8 in May, and now the audio and (more-or-less) synchronised slides have been uploaded. (A pecha-kucha is a talk in which 20 slides play for exactly 20 seconds each, and the speaker tries to keep up.) All the science is real, and no birds were harmed in the course of this research.
Mike's blog: Statistically Improbable Phrases.