Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Walkabout wednesday: Wolves, deer and TV ownership. Yes, really.

Really. I'm not really sure how to categorize some of these things I've wondered about this week. Mostly "Our Environment".

My Health

Nothing to see here. Move along. 

Your Education

I've always spouted the party line on methods sections: the goal is to enable someone else to reproduce your research. Stephen Heard argues cogently that is fundamentally wrong, and has been wrong for hundreds of years. Rather
A Methods section is really about establishing the credibility of your approach, and thus giving readers a reason to believe your findings. (In addition, the Methods tell readers what they need to know about the procedures if they are to understand the Results.)
I find myself convinced. I will change what I say to students.

David Pannell wrote about something I've often wondered. Given poor input data, is it better to spend money on improving the input data or improving the decision process. Here's the takeaway:
I found that if you start with a poor quality decision process, inconsistent with the principles I’ve outlined in Pannell (2013), there is almost no benefit to be gained by improving the quality of input data.
That's what I suspected, but hadn't figured out how to articulate well. So much "poor" data ignored when it could be helpful in a well-structured decision analysis.

Our Environment

Wolves again, this time in Idaho. The state department of Fish and Game arranged for a pack to be culled to reduce predation on Elk in the north of Idaho. There are a couple of interesting things here. First, looks like Idaho has plenty of wolves. Second, this is one of those sticky tradeoffs that have to be made when managing multiple species. In this case, we have a declining population of Elk with reduced habitat and a burgeoning population of generalist predators well supported by other prey species. I don't envy IDFG staff; these are difficult questions with a complete lack of consensus among members of the public.

Wisconsin is taking a radical step: asking hunters and landowners how many deer should be on the landscape. That article isn't particularly enthusiastic about the idea, in particular pointing out that these new councils have recommended increases in deer numbers in some areas where CWD is prevalent. That's possibly problematic because diseases are more likely to spread when deer population densities are larger. I'd like to know how these councils went about deciding what their objectives were, and whether or not there was any feedback to them about the consequences of their choices to those objectives from biologists trying to be honest brokers. I'm guessing not. Anyway, it's a cool idea, and kudos to Wisconsin for trying it out. It's worth pointing out that this didn't come from the state management agency, but rather from a "Deer Czar" appointed by the Governor.

I believe the most fundamental driver of conservation issues on the planet is population growth of Homo sapiens sapiens. Turns out that TV ownership may help with that. Who'd have thought that the evil box that sucks our youth in from the outdoors could ultimately contribute to reducing the fundamental driver of extinction? 

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