NPS director names first-ever science advisor... great idea but will it help Cape Hatteras? - Shooting The Breeze


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NPS director names first-ever science advisor... great idea but will it help Cape Hatteras?

Friday 16 October 2009 at 4:06 pm. The National Park Service’s new leader, Jon Jarvis, has appointed Dr. Gary Machlis as the first-ever science advisor to the director.

The science advisor, according to a media release, will play a key role in advancing science within the Park Service and advising the NPS director on science policy and programs.
“Applying the very best science and scholarly research to management of national parks is critical,” Jarvis said in the release. “The appointment of Dr. Machlis to this new and important position will advance the role of science within our agency as we meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. Dr. Machlis is a proven leader and innovator within the scientific community.”

This is what Machlis will do in his new job, according to the release:
In his role as science advisor to the director, Machlis will provide his expertise and advice on matters of science and will help in the effective delivery of scientific information to NPS managers, decision makers, the Department of the Interior (DOI), Congress, stakeholders, park visitors, and citizens. He will help assure that NPS uses the best available science to address the complex natural and cultural resource challenges facing the service, from climate change to science education for youth. Dr. Machlis will work to advance the director’s and DOI Secretary’s commitment to science as a means of managing and preserving the resources entrusted to the NPS.

This will come as a huge relief to the people of the Outer Banks, who have been asking to see the science behind the consent decree, which now substitutes for resource management by the Park Service on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Perhaps Dr. Machlis can tell us something more about how scientists formulated those huge buffers around nesting piping plover chicks.
Machlis received his B.S. and M.S. in forestry at the University of Washington, and his Ph.D. in human ecology at Yale University.

I had to Google “human ecology.”

The field addresses the “human dimensions of environmental problems.”  Rutgers University says that human ecologists “use their expertise in the natural and social sciences to study the effects of human activities on the environment and the impact of environmental changes on individuals and communities.”

We sure could use Dr. Machlis at Cape Hatteras to shed some light on the “human dimension of environmental problems,” such as closing down large areas of the most popular beaches from April into August to protect nesting birds.

Machlis is no stranger to the Park Service.

In 1995, he was appointed as the first Visiting Chief Social Scientist for the NPS. In that capacity, he established the Social Science Program in the Washington, D.C., office of the NPS, providing leadership on social science activities throughout the National Park Service. He had a lead role in establishing and coordinating the Canon National Parks Science Scholars Program, which funds doctoral students in the United States, Canada, and Latin America studying issues of importance to national parks.

In 2002, Machlis became the Park Service’s Visiting Senior Scientist and coordinator of the Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit, a partnership between 13 federal agencies and universities.

He is currently a professor of conservation at the University of Idaho and has written several books on conservation. According to the media release, his recent research has been published in journals as varied as Climatic Change, Society and Natural Resources, BioScience, and Conservation Biology.

While Machlis has been busy as Visiting Chief Social Scientist and Visiting Senior Scientist with the Park Service, he has also been busy in private enterprise.

He is listed as a founding principal of the Ilahie Group, LLC, a niche consulting company with offices in Moscow, Idaho, and Alexandria, Va. The company’s philosophy is “to help scientific, professional, and governmental organizations plan, communicate, operate, and serve their own clients more effectively and efficiently.

Curiously, among the clients that the Ilahie Group lists on its Web site is the National Park Service.

“I am enthused and grateful for the opportunity to serve as the first Science Advisor to the NPS Director,” Machlis said.  "This is an extraordinary time to advance science within the Service, and I look forward to working with the DOI and NPS leadership, our outstanding scientists, partner agencies, field professionals, and the scientific community.”

Machlis’ job description spells out that he will be responsible for the “effective delivery of scientific information” to, among others, stakeholders, park visitors, and citizens.

Well, we know some stakeholders, park visitors, and citizens who are interested in getting some scientific information about management of the seashore beaches.

eight comments

Scott Lambright

Well, I am not holding my breath waiting on any answers. Looks like he is for "Change"

He was an endorser

Scott Lambright (Email ) - 16-10-’09 18:20
Mike Berry

"Human Ecology" isn’t by any means a mainstream hard science; it’s what we call a soft science. But I like the description of the discipline where it studies "effects of human activities on the environment and the impact of environmental changes on individuals and communities.”

Perhaps the new NPS science advisor might want to study the negative effects that the poorly designed, non natural resource improving consent decree has had on the economy of the Outer Banks. He might also want to look at the social costs and tensions brought about by the denial of human access the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area.

Well, at least NPS is talking about science. Now let’s see if they do any or present any.

Mike Berry (Email ) - 16-10-’09 19:37
Jim Boyd

This appointment is another disaster for the future of our beach access. Look at the Rutgers definition of Human Ecologists, they "use their expertise in the natural and social sciences to study the effects of human activities on the environment". This is a precise definition of what SELC/DOW/Audubon claims to do!
Mr Machlis’ human ecology background shows him as an advocate for humans in ecological settings involving other humans (ie urban sprawl, etc). There is absolutely nothing in this guy’s background that even remotely indicates that he will be an advocate for humans in ecological settings like ours involving shore birds and turtles and our alleged atrocities against them.
I say read it and weep.

Jim Boyd (Email ) - 16-10-’09 20:35
John Alley

Best available science rears it’s head again.

The term doesn’t say whether the science is right or wrong, just what we have at present.

The environmental groups love the Patuxent Protocols and taught them as best available science. I seem to remember, that then Supt. Beli requested the study to take no consideration of the dual mandate of resource and recreation.

My favorite best available science was a question to the plover expert as to why regions with larger plover populations had smaller closures then the ones down here, where you can park three aircraft carriers, end to end.

The answer was that our plovers may be able see further, based on the topography.

The best available science led to a program in Florida that eradicated the raccoons, in order to protect the turtle eggs. Oops, we forgot that the raccoons ate the ghost crabs, which also liked turtle eggs, no real net gain, unless you were a raccoon, who defiantly saw the experiment as a loss. Here in the seashore we hunt down anything that may even remotely imperil the chosen few and terminate them. It sucks to be on the wrong side of the best available science.

Sense the environmental groups blame all the troubles on humans; I want the best available science to explain why an area that was closed to humans had a similar false crawl ratio to areas open to humans.

If it were really about the birds the best available science would have us building habitat that attracts them. The tern numbers tell us we should create a bunch of sites that look like the roof on a big box store, which they seem to really like. Cora June Island is a great example but the NPS can’t count them. They are forced by environmental groups into having a population of highly mobile birds who must be where they want them to be.

Until the NPS stands up for the original intent of a recreational seashore we will continue to see best available science turn a treasure for the public into another Pea Island, where they move turtle nests to protect the species. Not so in NPS controlled areas where we loose a large percentage of nests to known over wash areas. Yet the NPS has to consult with the USFWS on protection of turtle nests. How does the USFWS do what they think is best for the nests and allow the NPS to not follow their lead. In Texas they have a successful turtle-hatching program that values the hatchling over let nature take its course. Here we argue about whether moving a nest will disturb the ratio of males to females. How does the best available science determine that balance? One does one thing and another does something else. Both think they are doing the right thing.

It seems that even supposedly cooperating government agencies don’t agree on what the best available science is.

John Alley - 17-10-’09 00:37
Salvo Jimmy

Until the “best available” opinion BS I saw at REG-NEG can move up to at least near the standard of the “best available” I had to operate my nuclear powered sub that was nuclear weapons capable, it will remain “best available” BS as far as I’m concerned.

I believe I had good solid science. At REG-NEG I saw nothing even remotely to what I had; only BS “opinion” at best. Some extrapolated from areas that don’t even resemble the Seashore environment.

Just because it’s “available” does not mean it’s more than BS.

Salvo Jimmy (Email ) - 17-10-’09 08:56
Fred Westervelt

All have alertly picked up on the term “best available” science. We have a right to expect a higher bar than this. Whether we can successfully demand better is, however, doubtful. Another warning term in this person’s background is “social science”, more widely known as “sociology” before they went fancy. This will become applicable, if at all, only after we obtain acceptable “biologic science”, for which I’m sure there is a preferable term. Just remember, tho’- all this is for the birds.

Fred Westervelt (Email ) - 17-10-’09 16:09
Matt Stubbs

The term “best available” is a cop out. It only means we will not work hard enough to have concrete evidence to prove their point. If these groups really cared about the human aspects of the park systems they would have to admit the best science available is being presented by the only side that cares for both animals and humans. Yes that is US. This guy needs to change the term “best available” to the “best reviewed” or even the “best”! I really dislike the idea that our government can just throw out the term “best available” and ignore the fact that thier science has so many holes in it that even a bunch of beach bums can refute it. It is like settling and I never settle.

Matt Stubbs (Email ) - 18-10-’09 09:19
Scott Lambright

Regardless of the “Science” or what ever you want to call it, the overriding guidance and law that DOI and NPS is obligated to follow, is that regulation of the various areas of the National Park System shall be “to the common benefit of all the people of the United States.” Any decision that they make wrt to a NPS asset shall be conducted in the “Light of high public value” and shall not be exercised in derogation of the values and purposes for which the areas had been established. In CHNSRA’s case, it is a “National Recreational Seashore.”
That is to say for any decisions made, deference and priority shall be given to Humans over flora and fauna, specifically when Congress has mandated this quite clearly in the Enabling Legislation.

Scott Lambright (Email ) - 18-10-’09 10:13

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