USGS Constrictor report – ineptitude or unethical practices?

Newsletter from the United States Association of Reptile Keepers: [added emphasis mine]

The Wildlife Research Center of the US Department of Agriculture has recently released a peer reviewed scientific paper in Biological Invasions that casts serious doubt on wild claims made by the US Geological Survey that Burmese pythons are poised to spread out of South Florida. –Avery, M., Engeman, R., Keacher, K., Humphrey, J., Bruce, W., Mathies, T., & Mauldin, R. (2010). Cold weather and the potential range of invasive Burmese pythons, Biological Invasions, DOI: 10.1007/s10530-010-9761-4

In an in-house “Open Report” produced by the USGS (Giant Constrictors: Biological and Management Profiles and an Establishment Risk Assessment for Nine Large Species of Pythons, Anacondas, and the Boa Constrictor) authors Gordon Rodda and Robert Reed claim that the risk is high that Burmese pythons will quickly spread across the southern third of the United States; as far north as the Chesapeake Bay, Ohio Valley and San Francisco Bay.

A panel of independent scientists has criticized the report as, “not a bona-fide ‘scientific’ paper that has gone through external peer review”. Scientists further characterized the report as “not suitable as the basis for legislative or regulatory policies, as its content is not based on best science practices”.

USARK has filed a 36 page Request for Correction under the Information Quality Act demanding a response to 16 serious errors, inaccuracies and mischaracterizations within the report. The Constrictor Report is the sole justification for two federal bills and regulatory rule change that would add Burmese pythons and 8 other constrictors to the Injurious Wildlife list of the Lacey Act.

Now in a paper entitled, Cold weather and the potential range of invasive Burmese pythons, published in a refereed scientific journal called Biological Invasions, scientists question the rash conclusions of Rodda & Reed. 7 of 9 Burmese pythons captured from Everglades National Park and held in outdoor enclosures with heated refugia died in the cold last winter at the USDA facility in Gainesville, FL. One of the authors of the new paper, Michael Avery says, "Our empirical observations cast doubt that Burmese pythons can become established and persist beyond the southern portion of the Florida peninsula."

Currently Burmese pythons are thought to be established in an area restricted to 3 counties of south Florida. Estimates on the die off after the cold winter range from 50%- 90%. Anecdotally no pythons have been found since mid March. This new peer reviewed paper is just one more independent piece of evidence debunking the extremely poor work fielded by USGS on the python invasion question. It begs question of ineptitude or unethical practices on the part of USGS producing questionable science with speculative conclusions on the taxpayer dime with little supporting data.

Click here to read press release in Conservation Maven.

[Tim’s note] I find it very disturbing that our governmental agencies adopt such a slipshod and inaccurate assessment of the situation and then proceed to try to make laws based on these assumptions.  The laws they are talking about making will disrupt the livelihoods of many breeders, pet stores, and pet supply industries.  This is not something that should be done with such a cavalier attitude.


Texting etiquette and other electronic rudeness

With the advent of portable devices such as cell phones, netbooks, and self-contained video games, an interesting thing has been happening.  Users of these devices seem to be drawing inward and have less and less regard for the real world around them.

Texting (sending text messages via a cell phone) has really taken off in the last few years, especially with kids.  It may be that they are now so used to being able to contact anyone and anyone instantly that it’s inconceivable not to be able to do that.  As somebody who grew up without cellphones, this is amazing to me.

Is it really so urgent to toss off a text message that you can’t put the stupid phone down and talk to a waitress (who BTW is a real person and deserving of a measure of respect)?  After all, the main feature of sending a text instead of calling somebody is convenience.  You don’t get dragged in to a long conversation and you can respond or not on your own schedule, allowing things like … eye-contact with a bank teller.

It’s sad to see two people sitting in a restaurant, at the same table, totally ignoring each other and either talking on their cellphones or texting away.  What’s the point of being there together?  How rude can you be?  What you are really saying by this behavior is “you are unimportant – some other person is more deserving of my time and attention even though I’m stuck here with you”.

Kids do this at home in spades.  It used to be that when company came over, kids either were out playing in the yard (I’m not sure young people are even familiar with this concept, so let’s change that to “playing on the computer in their room”), or joined the conversation and interaction with the guest(s) in the living room.  These days, it seems acceptable for said kids to be present in the living room, but totally absorbed rapidly pushing buttons with their thumbs.  Rude much?  Personally, when this happens to me, I think that if the brat isn’t interested in whether I’m there or not, then I’m not interested whether he/she is there or not and would prefer to do without their presence.

Part of being a parent is showing your young how to behave with other people.  It’s called “social skill development”.  Too many times these days, electronic gadgets are used to keep kids quiet and out of the parent’s hair.  I have to wonder, if that’s the goal in life, then why have the kids in the first place?  If you really want to abdicate your role as a parent, then don’t BE a parent.  It’s very simple.