This past Tuesday, April 30, Professor John Marzluff entertained a special visitor: 10-year-old Olivia Rataezyk of Issaquah, Wash., a big admirer of his work with corvids.

Olivia and Professor Marzluff
Professor Marzluff points out a crow’s nest to Olivia outside of Anderson Hall.

Olivia had come to campus with her mom to learn more about Marzluff’s research, and also to share some of her own. In preparation for her visit, the young scientist came armed with a notebook of questions and a copy of In the Company of Crows and Ravens, written by Professor Marzluff and Tony Angell. Olivia then kept Marzluff on his heels with a series of challenging inquiries—including if crows ever laugh or deliberately try to humor their friends, or whether crows ever intentionally kill one of their own.

She also more than impressed the professor with some of her own research. One of Olivia’s projects includes color-coding different sizes of peanuts to see whether crows in her backyard will learn to trust the color system and favor one particular color, which she assigned to the largest peanuts. Results are still pending, but her methodology appeared to pass muster with Marzluff.

After exploring Marzluff’s lab—where Olivia got to see his famous crow masks and learn how to live-trap the birds—and then a quick tour outside of the herons nesting across from Anderson Hall, Marzluff bid farewell to a beaming Olivia by signing her book and posing for a photo with the aspiring wildlife biologist. She then headed home with a brand-new School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS) sweatshirt.

We sure hope to see Olivia again soon—eventually, perhaps, as a SEFS student!

Olivia and Professor Marzluff
Marzluff and Olivia, clutching her freshly autographed book, at the end of her visit.

Photos © Karl Wirsing/SEFS.