One dimension of my research seeks to integrate paleontological, historical, and genetic data to inform conservation strategies. Outside of my research, I have additional policy interests:
Determining Extinction Risk & Conservation Status
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is responsible for maintaining the Red List of Threatened Species, an international registry of species categorized by their degree of extinction risk. Scientists from all around the globe contribute their knowledge to accurately categorize species according to factors such as population size, global range extent, projected declines, and the presence of threats such as invasive species or habitat loss (& more here).
The IUCN Small Mammal Specialist Group is in charge of ensuring these categories are up to date for, as you guessed, small mammals including rodents and “insectivores”. Using data and natural history observations from my dissertation research, I am working to inform category re-assessments of Hispaniolan mammals. These categorizations can be difficult for elusive small mammals for whom little is known about how they use habitats and what resources they depend on. Assessing extinction risk requires interdisciplinary data ranging from genetics to local ecological knowledge.
Support for Federal Science Funding
Representing the American Society of Mammalogists, I participated in the 2016 Biological & Ecological Sciences Coalition Congressional Visit Day to advocate for continued NSF funding support in the 2017 fiscal year budget.
As part of a wonderful team of graduate students from California and Alaska, I met with Congressional staffers from multiple House and Senate offices to discuss the need for sustained, reliable investments in federal science funding institutions, particularly the NSF.
Mapping Global Change for Policy-Makers, Bio 128 Class
“If these are such big problems, why aren’t you scientists shouting it from the roof-tops? And why are you scientists only talking to each other? Why don’t you give policy makers and the general public something we can use?” – Gov. Jerry Brown of California
Citizens—farmers, business owners, fishermen, workers, teachers and scientists—agree: our planet is changing. From droughts in California to mudslides in Texas, oil spills in Louisiana to earthquakes in Oklahoma, it is clear that human activities threaten the natural life-support systems that we all depend on in our daily lives.
We created this ‘story map’ to help people recognize the impacts of global change already occurring in their own lives and communities. The story map contains a collection of geo-located news articles (from newspapers, radio, and television) describing the impacts that our changing environment exerts on cities, farms, and natural landscapes. These articles provide a diversity of perspectives from citizens across the US, and complement existing scientific knowledge of global change.
Our 2014 Map focused on California, and is being used by the California Governor’s Office of Planning & Research.
Our 2015 Map was made at the request of federal policy-makers associated with the White House, and has stories from all 50 states. Our geographic approach allows Senators and Representatives to easily search for news from their districts. We also provide regional reports summarizing scientific data and popular media.
We designed this tool for anyone interested in how global change affects us all, from the local to the national level. Please visit our website for more info, or visit my teaching and outreach pages.
Legal & Political Dimensions of Species Listing
I have studied the political dimensions of species listing under the US Endangered Species Act, as administered by the US Fish & Wildlife Service. In 2011, I addressed the role of conservation genetic data in the listing status of gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountain distinct population segment.
Using a policy process framework, I interviewed relevant stakeholders in Washington DC including Defenders of Wildlife, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the Humane Society of the US, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Farm Bureau to understand the political and legal dimensions of bills in Congress to de-list wolves. Interviewing Congressional staffers in states such as Idaho, Utah, and Montana, I developed a framework for understanding the tension between local anti-wolf efforts and national pro-wolf conservation sentiments, while addressing the legal pathways for scientific data to enter the discussion. Unfortunately, gray wolves were the first species to be legally de-listed by Congress using a budget rider, entirely by-passing routes for management and scientific guidance.
From this experience I learned the importance of stakeholder engagement and coalition building – scientific data, no matter how strong, cannot stand alone. Scientists must know how their data can be input into a decision-making process and ensure that the results can be interpreted outside of academia. I also learned the “wolf management” strategy of “shoot, shovel, and shut up“….. the consequences of science communication failure.