What We’re Reading: May 27, 2016

Cut the (Coffee) Crap
Still looking for an #EarthDayResolution? Well #CutTheCrap! Wildlife Alliance is working to raise awareness about animal cruelty, and rescue civets fed only coffee berries for the luxury coffee trade. The berries pass through the animal’s digestive track, changing the chemical composition of the mostly undigested berries. The berries are collected from the excrement, then processed to make high end coffee beans. The animal cruelty is related both to the small cages they are kept in, but also to an imbalanced diet meant to produce more coffee beans. If you’d like to #CutTheCrap, don’t buy civet coffee and/or donate to wildlife organizations working on rescue efforts.

Conservation with a Side of Drama
Not sure why this mini-drama in the journal Evolutionary Applications hasn’t gotten more coverage. In a recent perspective piece, a USGS conservation geneticist put the Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) and its scientists on blast both for not being able to fully understand and incorporate genetic data into policy decisions, but also for a lack of reward for the work needed by to make Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing decisions. The author then recommended the US develop a synthesis center where people with the various skills needed to make management decisions (ie- genetics, pop viability analysis, policy makers, etc) could work together to protect species. Yet this center would be housed outside of FWS, implying that FWS scientists would be cut out of the process.

Of course this didn’t sit well with FWS employees, so they wrote a point-by-point response (note both articles are open). Of acute interest is that the response details scientific capacity within the Service that, I do not believe, has been well articulated to academic conservationists. Maybe FWS fails to recognize its opacity, and the solution is not to move the science out of FWS but to encourage FWS to broadcast what they do. These two papers scratch the surface at some truths from two camps with the same goal, to protect endangered species. But it’s clear to many that speaking up against FWS practices and decisions is a bad career move. If you want to see that in action, check out the backpedaling in the response to the response!

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