The Lane Transit District Board Room overflowed with people wearing matching white T-shirts bearing the emblem for the Amalgamated Transit Union 757- the labor union representing the bus drivers, mechanics and more that make up Lane Transit District. LTD board members conversed as they sat around a horseshoe-shaped table, while the evening's few presenters took their seats in the front of the room. The union members buzzed with tense energy as board members appeared unfazed.
The sound of four gray wolf pups filled the room with the piercing sounds of practicing howls. The two parent wolves joined in, adding their voices to the wild melody. With their heads tilted upwards, the pups and parents sang to the sky with high pitched squeals, barks and resonate yowls. A crowd of approximately 65 people watched the video projected on the large white wall and laughed with wonderment.
Almost everywhere he goes, veteran Robert Hendrix of Eugene brings his long-haired chihuahua, Little Man. Although Little Man is a service dog, Hendrix often gets stopped, questioned and sometimes even harassed for having a dog with him. "I don't have an apparent disability and he doesn't look like a service dog," Hendrix said. This has made daily life, including public transportation use, challenging.
Walking into his office, greeted by a "Camp Jurassic Park" sticker on the door, a matching mug on his desk, and an assortment of plastic dinosaur heads scattered around the space, it was unsurprising to learn that paleobiologist Dr. Edward Davis became interested in his field at age 16 after repeatedly watching the "Jurassic Park" movie at the dollar theatre.
Crossing his arms over his short sleeved button-down shirt he leaned back in his chair and said, "I watched that movie and realized I was either going to be a visual effects artist, or a paleontologist." After his acceptance to a graduate program at the University of California Berkeley, he started working in a lab that focused on mammal evolution and changing ecology. It was there that he realized there was a lot more applicable research that could be done with mammal evolution and ecology than dinosaur evolution.
Currently, Davis is an assistant professor at the University of Oregon and the Paleontological Collection Manager at the Museum of Natural and Cultural History. Candidly waving his hands as he spoke and looking across the room as if thinking out loud, he said, "a lot of people think paleontology is just dinosaurs and extinct species, but there is an important part that focuses on the fossil records of species still alive today." He described how his current research looking at mammal evolution through fossils helps conservation biologists predict where animals might migrate as climate change alters habitats.
Paleobiology, as Davis describes it, is essentially using geological data to answer biological questions. Specifically, the field is focused on improving the understanding of evolution and ecosystems in a way that will help us make better informed decisions about conservation biology.
By looking at fossil records to understand how a certain species moved and comparing to the same living species, scientists are beginning to understand the kind of environments certain animals can endure.
His biggest concern is, "The unconstrained experiment in climate change that we're engaged in as a species," and how it will affect wild ecosystems. "I despair a little bit because there are no times in the fossil record where climate has changed as rapidly as we expect it to change," he said with a touch of melancholy. Two decades is how long he believes we have left to get climate change under control before it is irreversible. His current research is trying to understand how species change their geographic ranges when faced with environmental change.
Letting out a robust laugh, he declared his favorite "Jurassic Park" movie was the original because they took care with dinosaur characterization by mostly showing the current best knowledge of the creatures. Davis admitted disappointment in the most recent "Jurassic World" because it failed to incorporate new knowledge of dinosaurs, such as their colorful feathers.
"I think it would be much more frightening to be menaced by a feathered velociraptor that was able to use wing assisted incline running to run up vertical walls," Davis said. "You would not be safe standing on top of a three-story building looking down with a winged velociraptor because it could use its wings!"
Sprigs of freshly plucked sage stood halfway out of the pocket on her long violet skirt. Using a wooden cane, she slowly hobbled around her herb garden past rosemary bushes as tall as she. "Herbs help your body help itself," said herbalist Daphne Singingtree. She led the way past a chicken coop and vegetable garden before slowly lowering into a metal foldout chair under the disco ball hanging from a canvas tent.
Singingtree is an herbal medicine maker and founder of Eagletree Herbs. Her interest in herbs and medicinal plants began in the 70's when she was 12 years old and living in a hippie community called Rainbow Farm. At the farm, she came across the book "Back to Eden" a book on herbal medicine, natural food and home remedies that her interest really began to grow. "It became like my bible. I read that book over and over and carried it around," Singingtree said with speckles of dried plants sprinkled across her black sweatshirt and throughout her braided salt and pepper hair.
She went on to a career as a midwife, using her knowledge of herbs to help maternity patients and birthing. "Midwifery is traditionally about looking at alternatives to standard medical practices," she said. A few years ago, a car accident left her with two broken legs and once heeled, a lifetime of pain and arthritis.
Suffering from daily pain, she began gardening as part of her rehabilitation and found relief from the herbs she grew. Soon after she began gardening, she converted her laundry room into a commercial kitchen where she and her team of interns make over 200 herbal products ranging from culinary, medicinal, and body care. Pain relief products are her best-selling, often including herbs such as wintergreen, nettles, hemp oil and more.
Herbal healer is what she calls herself and although much of what she knows about herbal medicine was learned from a Naturopath doctor, that is, a physician that focuses on naturopathic care, she is adamant that she is not one herself. Though people can purchase herbal medicinals from her such as herb extracts, salves and balms, she will not diagnose people who come to her. Rather, Singingtree chooses to educate them on herbal relief options. For this she does not charge for her knowledge and time.
Though not opposed to Western medicine, she opts for herbs as often as she can. "Drugs sometimes artificially address symptoms, where herbs can address the causes and often have less side effects," Singingtree said. She explained how many modern drugs started as plants before being processed and purified – aspirin came from willow bark, cocaine came from cocoa leaves, valium comes from valerian root.
Recently, she has found an affinity for agrimony – an herb she learned helps coughs and skin irritations. She also said that agrimony supposedly has energetic properties that keep aggressive people away. Leaning back in her chair, with sprigs of sage still in her pocket she gave a full-body laugh and said, "I was at a conference recently and they called it 'asshole spray'." Everyone could probably use a bottle of that.