Ethics in Lethal Sampling for Research
The editors of Biological Conservation recently rejected papers citing ethical considerations related to lethal sampling of the study organisms. They note that all of these studies had IACUC approval, but that approval does not necessarily make lethal sampling ethical, particularly for endangered species or species in protected habitats. The authors go on to start a dialog about challenges and solutions for study design, specifically asking researchers to seriously question if their study is actually important enough for lethal sampling and/or if there are non-lethal means (even if more timely or costly) to collect data.
The paper is a short and thoughtful read, real food-for-thought. However, it is not open access. I would have liked to see the editors pay or waive their own open access charges, particularly for a paper that challenges everyone in conservation to think deeply about the impact of their work on nature.
Brown Rat Phylogeography
Congratulations to SNPits blogger Emily on her new phylogeography paper. Brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) are a globally invasive species transported around the world by humans. This study identified five routes of range expansion from the natal range in northern China and Mongolia, including: southward to SE Asia, two independent eastward expansions into North America, a westward expansion in Europe, then a global expansion of European rats mediated by European colonization and trade. The study also identified fine-scale population structure at the spatial scale of cities and/or neighborhoods within cities. This population structure information could be used to monitor rat eradication programs for the conservation of endemic island biodiversity. Rat eradication is difficult both because they are hard to find, but also prolific breeders. Thus, if a rat population bounces back after eradication effort, was it due to population growth of survivors or a new introduction? Genotyping pre- and post-eradication individuals can help answer this question.