The Puzzling Demise Of Arkansas' Red-Winged Blackbird Scientists who examine creature die-offs in the wild say Arkansas' blackbird demise seems different from others in the past five years.
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Puzzling Demise Of Arkansas' Red-Winged Blackbird

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Puzzling Demise Of Arkansas' Red-Winged Blackbird

Puzzling Demise Of Arkansas' Red-Winged Blackbird

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

Susan Bence of member station WUWM in Milwaukee visited the lab and has this tour for us.

SUSAN BENCE: Wright, a former marine mammal pathologist, sets a brisk pace as we walk down the hallway.

SCOTT WRIGHT: These are offices for folks on our field investigation team and different scientists have their offices up here.

BENCE: The center deals primarily with dead creatures in an attempt to figure out what went wrong in the wild.

WRIGHT: We have sea otters. That's probably the one marine mammal we work the most with. We have staff here that were on the field, on the ground when Exxon Valdez occurred. They were out there conducting necropsies on all sorts of things.

BENCE: But most cases, well, actually, carcasses, from around the country are shipped to their door. To make that happen, Wright says its investigators head out to visit people in the field.

WRIGHT: State wildlife management agents, biologists in different states, federal, tribal that are responsible for managing wildlife. Most of these events that occur, occur in very rural, remote locations where these folks work. And so they know to call us and say, hey, I've got this die-off, can you please help?

(SOUNDBITE OF FOOTSTEPS)

BENCE: Below ground is the necropsy lab where they do the animal version of an autopsy. Inside the lab, pathologist Dr. David Green is on duty.

WRIGHT: He's working on some intestines right now. I don't know what it's from 'cause he threw away the carcass.

BENCE: So, Dr. Green works exclusively with bird issues?

WRIGHT: No. He spent a great deal of his professional time focusing on amphibian diseases.

BENCE: Nobody, not even Scott Wright, is allowed inside this necropsy suite, or any of the labs for that matter. Spectators have to stand behind thick windows.

WRIGHT: He's collecting samples. He will put it in special containers that go to a dumbwaiter that goes upstairs to the diagnostic lab. And then when they get to the diagnostic lab, we maintain the integrity of the sample.

BENCE: Later in the lab library, we meet Dr. Green. He's sporting an impressively groomed handlebar mustache and exudes professional contentment.

DAVID GREEN: The diversity is just incredible. I still vividly remember the first time I was asked to dissect a pelican.

BENCE: For NPR News, I'm Susan Bence in Milwaukee.

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