[Coral-List] What can SCIENTISTS do? Coral-List Digest, Vol 54, Issue 23

Kosmynin, Vladimir Vladimir.Kosmynin at dep.state.fl.us
Tue Dec 18 19:50:12 EST 2007

I think Misha is right in his message about what scientist's task is.  Our
work as scientists is to keep doing our research in order to know more about
reefs, corals, coral reef ecology, etc.  This knowledge will be used for
management and conservation.  We [scientists] won't be as useful there [at
taking action] as the conservation professionals, says Misha.  I tend to
disagree, because it should not be a gap between scientists and
conservationist when action is taken. There are many scientists who took a
job to work as conservationists or in management practice, but there are many
managers who had no scientific background.  It would not be right thing for
scientist to just watch conservation efforts.  Scientists should be part of
this process too, otherwise decisions will go (and often are going) to bosses
who make their decisions rather on political base than on scientific. 
As much as it sounds helpless at the moment, documenting of decline still is
very important as well is very important to document any other process on
reefs. This documenting comes mostly from monitoring programs and reef
assessments, and these data are not just documentation of the decline, but
the data which help scientists to correlate different events in reefs with
events in the ocean, atmosphere, etc., and helps to find causal connections.

I don't think we don't have much data on the mechanisms of decline and very
little if anything on the ways to counteract it on a local scale.  Such data
exist, and examples of successful action at local scale exist too (for
example what was published about Kaneohe Bay).  But I do agree with Misha
that it is far not enough, we need more research on mechanisms of decline.
For example, we have a lot of argues about separation of local, regional, and
global causes of decline, which was present in this discussion too. I
remember years ago one US senator said: "...we are not going to waste
taxpayer's money to satisfy scientist's curiosity!" 
I wish he would know where we would be without scientist's curiosity!
Apparently senator did not learn enough to see where real waste of money is.

Having deal with bureaucrats (including some of those who run governmental
science-related programs), it was very hard to prove them the decline even
with data in hands, and it still is this way about global warming, ice
melting, etc., etc., and it will be in future.  They are representing rather
business, than science at their workplace, so their behavior is logical.
Phil's frustration about inability to make bureaucrats believe in scientific
data is from first hands experience, not from newspapers.  As much as Misha
right saying that to make the world taking action is not exactly our job, and
suggests passing it to politicians, scientists as citizens of particular
countries (or the world) cannot stay completely away from this process.  As
soon as one will give this role to politicians, lawyers will have more
influence than scientists. 

So, thinking what scientist can do, I agree the research comes first.  But
all other parts of life also shall not be ignored, from planting trees to
fighting bureaucrats for right decisions in management. This list is great
for scientific exchange, but it is also a tribune for discussion of all
questions related to management, conservation, education, etc.  That is what
we have here over years.  Our audience in the list is much broader than just
scientists, so I don't think we are preaching to a choir discussing
environmental issues, our message can reach public.  Let us keep doing it,
people are learning from these discussions.

Vladimir N. Kosmynin
Bureau of Beaches and Coastal Systems
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
3900 Commonwealth Boulevard
Mail Station 300
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-3000
e-mail: vladimir.kosmynin at dep.state.fl.us
Tel: (850)414-7817
Fax: (850)414-7725     

Message: 2
Date: Tue, 18 Dec 2007 09:50:10 -0600
From: mikhail matz <matz at mail.utexas.edu>
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] What can SCIENTISTS do??
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Message-ID: <EED18CD1-0CBB-4C55-A315-0296502BC163 at mail.utexas.edu>
Content-Type: text/plain;	charset=US-ASCII;	delsp=yes;

I have a more specific question:
How can coral research help reef management and protection?

It is not as trivial as it seems. Most of our environmentally  
relevant studies thus far were directed at documenting coral reef  
decline. We don't have nearly as much data on the mechanisms of  
decline and very little if anything (hence my question) on the ways  
to counteract it on a local scale.

No doubt, documenting the worldwide decline of coral reefs is  
extremely important to raise public awareness, but now we're largely  
past this stage - Al Gore et al can take over from here. Public and  
politicians are already quite well aware of the problem, as the Peace  
Nobel indicated this year.  Surely much persuasion is still required  
to make the world take action - but this is not exactly our job as  
scientists. We won't be as useful there as the conservation  

For those of us who are scientists, our part of the problem is coral  
reef decline, our skill is research - so what can we do to help?  
While conservationists are struggling to convince the world to cut  
CO2 emissions, what can scientists do to help reefs survive - until  
the world listens? Looks like it may take a while...


Mikhail V. Matz
University of Texas at Austin
Integrative Biology Section
1 University station C0930
Austin, TX 78712
phone 512-992-8086 cell, 512-475-6424 lab
fax 512-471-3878
web http://www.bio.utexas.edu/research/matz_lab


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