As Professor of Ethno-ornithology, a position unique to the University of Oxford, I sit both within and between the Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology (Department of Biology) and the Institute of Human Sciences (School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography). Holding degrees in Environmental Biology, Plant Taxonomy and Ornithology, and having once considered archaeology as a career, my interests were always broad and included Historical Ecology, but my first love was bound to win – birds.
For thirty years I studied the Great Tit population of Wytham Woods near Oxford, with a special interest in adaptation: e.g., of changes in eggshell patterning over years, which increasingly focused my attention on the ubiquitous influence of human activity on bird populations. It was through teaching ecology and conservation in the Institute of Human Sciences at Oxford, however, that I realised that a significant voice was missing from conservation discourse, centred as it is largely between science and politics. These were the voices of millions of people, across numerous cultures and languages, with no professional interest, power or influence, who nevertheless express their concern for nature in general and birds in particular in their own words.
Having always been interested in the naming of birds, my interest in ethno-ornithology was kindled at an International Ornithological Congress workshop in 2006, convened by Sonia Tidemann, with whom I later co-edited the book Ethno-ornithology: Birds, Indigenous Peoples, Culture and Society (Earthscan 2010). Together with Dr John Fanshawe of BirdLife International, my concern to recognise the unvoiced human appreciation of birds in all its diversity resulted in EWA: The Ethno-ornithology World Atlas, of which I am Research Director. EWA is a collaborative project between the University of Oxford, and BirdLife International funded by the U.K.’s Arts and Humanities Research Council, and by public support. Linguistics is the key to ethno-ornithology in general and EWA in particular, a fact which underlines my recent work on the ecological salience of English folk-names of birds. I am delighted therefore by EWA’s involvement in the Creative Multilingualism programme. Together with EWA Director of Languages and Linguistics Dr Karen Park, and EWA Director of Ethnoecology Dr Felice Wyndham, and continuing our collaboration with Dr Fanshawe and BirdLife International, through the Creative Multilingualism research strand ‘Creating a Meaningful World: Nature in Name, Metaphor and Myth’ we have developed strong research collaborations between linguists and conservationists, and been able to develop the linguistic capabilities of EWA.
Park K., Wyndham F. S., Gosler A. G. and Fanshawe J. "Naming, Creating a Meaningful World: Nature in Name, Metaphor and Myth." In Kohl K., Dudrah R., Gosler A. G., Graham S., Maiden M., Ouyang W. and Reynolds, M. (Eds) Creative Multilingualism, A Manifesto (pp. 47—69) Cambridge: Open Book Publishers. 2020.
Gosler A. G. "What’s in a name? The Legacy and Lexicon of Birds." British Wildlife 30, 391–397. 2019.
Gosler A. G. "The Human Factor: Ecological Salience in Ornithology and Ethno-ornithology." J. Ethnobiology (Special Edn. in Ethno-ornithology) 37, 637–662. 2017. DOI: 10.2993/0278-0771-37.4.647.
Wyndham F.S., Grabowska-Zhang A.M., Gosler A.G., Park K.E., Fanshawe J., Nathan D., Fletcher H., and del Hoyo J.. "The Ethno-ornithology World Archive (EWA): An open science archive for biocultural conservation." (El Archivo Mundia de Etno-ornitología (EWA): Una base de datos abierta para la conservación biocultural), Edición Especial: Etno-ornitologíaRevista Chilena de Ornitología 22, 141-146. 2016.
F. S. Wyndham, K. E. Park, A. M. Grabowska-Zhang, H. Fletcher, and A. G. Gosler. "The Ethno-ornithology World Archive (EWA): an open-science database for bird and biocultural conservation." (Society of Ethnobiology Conference, Cherokee 2014).
A.G. Gosler, S. Bhagwat, S. Harrop, M. Bonta & S. Tidemann, "Leadership and listening: Inspiration for conservation mission and advocacy", in D. Macdonald and K. J. Willis (eds), Key Topics in Conservation Biology 2 (Oxford: Wiley, 2013), pp. 92-109. DOI:10.1002/9781118520178
S. Tidemann and A. G. Gosler (eds) (2010) Ethno-Ornithology – Birds, Indigenous Peoples, Culture and Society (London: Routledge, 2011).