Silent Spring

Karl Magnacca kmagnacca at WESLEYAN.EDU
Mon Jan 30 22:49:03 CST 2006

On 31 Jan 2006 at 17:37, Robert Mesibov wrote:

> A bit over a year ago I published a paper,
> Mesibov, R. 2004. Spare a thought for the losers. Australian Zoologist
> 32(4): 505-507, [...]
> Reactions fell into 3 classes: (1) Good idea, but someone else should do it;
> (2) I'm not a field person, are we really losing species?; and (3) How dare
> you be so defeatist? Nobody actually responded with: "I agree, how can we
> best do this?".

Well, how can you be so defeatist?  I mean, there's no question that
some things will turn out to be un-saveable and will inevitably go
extinct shortly after they're discovered.  But concentrating on them to
the exclusion of those that can be seems like bad priorities.  If you're
going out to try and discover things knowing that neither you nor anyone
else will ever try to do anything for them, what have you accomplished
at the end of the day?

That's the problem I have with articles like Halliday's and (it sounds
like) yours.  If you're only recording something for the sake of
recording it, and not to use that knowledge to help its survival or
otherwise expand science, then there's no point in doing so.  To use
Rich's burning library analogy, it's like coming up to the scene and
saving the card catalog instead of the books.  Maybe that isn't what you
really mean, but the message that comes across is what matters in such
communications, especially with non-biologists.

> I mainly sample in agricultural landscapes in the state of Victoria,
> Australia, salvaging non-flying, narrow-range litter invertebrates from tiny
> remnants of native vegetation. In 2005 I found (and described and published)
> a millipede which is down to its last 50 hectares. I honestly don't think it
> has much of a future.

50 hectares is pretty big for a bug!  We've got giant Drosophila here
that persist in not much more than that, and they use a very variable
and ephemeral resource.  Maybe it's doomed anyway because those last 50
hectares are about to be bulldozed, but my point is, giving up before
you even try will guarantee failure.

Karl Magnacca, USGS-BRD, 808-985-6076
PO Box 11, Hawaii Natl. Park, HI 96718
"Democracy used to be a good thing, but now it has
gotten into the wrong hands."   --Sen. Jesse Helms

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