Wednesday, January 21, 2004


A student came by asking for ideas for a paper (for another professor's class) on women in science. She is a wildlife biology major, so I suggested women in conservation. I wonder what she will make of reading Caroline Merchant?

Wildlife biology is a major started by schools of forestry so they could train B.A. wildlife specialists for natural resources management jobs. There is an emphasis on managing to goals, whether those goals be the needs of hunters or requirements to protect endangered species. We need to hope that endangered species are good indicator species for the functioning of an ecosystem (as they often are, since that is why they became endangered in the first place), since they tend to drive management.

And yet to say we should be concerned about the balance of an ecosystem instead of about a few species doesn't work either. Ecologists have moved away from the concept of a balance of nature because ecosystems change, they don't stay in stable balance. One of the concerns in the Galapagos is overfishing of certain marine resources, for example sea cucumbers. But how do you see the effect of that in a very complex ecological network in an environment that is subject to big variations? was wondering why predator populations are so small on the Galapagos; we saw a small number of endemic hawks and what seemed like a lot of possible food. I suspect that the population of prey regularly crashes, ue to a year with no rain or el Nino, so growing predator population can't be sustained.
Galapagos Hawk:

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