Terns have been in the news lately – they’re the champs of long distance migrating. So research about terns is not likely to win any “Ig Nobel Prizes.”
There once was an undergrad biology student who was studying the coordinated flight patterns of sea birds, focusing specifically on terns. For his research paper, he proposed to give terns measured doses of THC (he studied where researchers could obtain marijuana legally), and then to observe their flight patterns.
He hoped to gain insight into their ability to maintain communication and coordination – or not – in three-dimensional space. His proposal was accepted and funded (to much surprise), however, his advisor (PhD Berkeley 1966) suddenly excused himself from the project. Because of the use of THC, the student filled out a mountain of forms, each month. He also set up a lab with a stock of terns and proceeded with his work. After a year of arduous and guano spattered experiments, he completed the study and submitted his 284 page report to a review committee. Then he was called to an examination of his paper and verbally grilled to perfection. Finally, the committee chair rose and said: “There is much good work in this paper, however it is not accepted. You have thoroughly documented the effects of THC on terns, but you have omitted a crucial element – there is no control group.”
The student turned pale and began to quivver. He stammered, “You don’t mean that I….”
“Yes,” the chair interrupted, “I’m afraid so. You left no tern unstoned.”