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    Every Creeping Thing: True Tales of Faintly Repulsive Wildlife: “Conniff is a splendid writer–fresh, clear, uncondescending, and with never a false step; one can’t resist quoting him.” (NY Times Book Review)

    The Species Seekers:  Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff is “a swashbuckling romp” that “brilliantly evokes that just-before Darwin era” (BBC Focus) and “an enduring story bursting at the seams with intriguing, fantastical and disturbing anecdotes” (New Scientist). “This beautifully written book has the verve of an adventure story” (Wall St. Journal)

    Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time by Richard Conniff  is “Hilariously informative…This book will remind you why you always wanted to be a naturalist.” (Outside magazine) “Field naturalist Conniff’s animal adventures … are so amusing and full color that they burst right off the page …  a quick and intensely pleasurable read.” (Seed magazine) “Conniff’s poetic accounts of giraffes drifting past like sail boats, and his feeble attempts to educate Vervet monkeys on the wonders of tissue paper will leave your heart and sides aching.  An excellent read.” (BBC Focus magazine)

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Posts Tagged ‘stock assessment’

Why Genius in the Lab Needs Genius in the Field

Posted by Richard Conniff on February 18, 2015

Ceci n'est pas un joke.

Ceci n’est pas un joke.

We praise the almost mythical image of the lone genius.  But we cannot live without other people, and it is doubtful that such lone geniuses exist even in the ivoriest of ivory towers.

Heather Tallis, a lead scientist at The Nature Conservancy, has an engaging new essay about the need for the unacknowledged but at least equal genius required to make great scholarship yield great changes in the field.  The example she cites interests me because I have been writing here lately about how to fix the problem we face when a third of the seafood on our dinner plates is illegally caught. (See here, and here, and here.)

This is an excerpt from Tallis’s essay:

But the single-genius model is less helpful for fixing most environmental and social problems — the solutions to which often lie not in individual brilliance, but involve catalyzing and coordinating small innovative actions among thousands or even millions of people.

The light bulb was a great invention, but it didn’t change the world until there was a power grid providing electricity to every house. Both the bulb and the grid were brilliant inventions, but we hear a lot more about Thomas Edison (the bulb) than we do about whoever invented the grid (the person is so not-famous I can’t even figure out who it was).

Here’s an environmental example of the same situation from some of my colleagues. Fishery stock assessment and management is a classic realm of sophisticated, advanced science. Rigorous models have tens if not hundreds of parameters, and require Ph.D level scientists to run and interpret.

It’s costly, too: The collection of data on stocks to inform these assessments can run in the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. The best assessments use large research vessels and whole teams of university professors and government scientists. These resource-heavy requirements are part of the reason that 95% of the world’s fisheries regularly go un-assessed.

For example, Atlantis is arguably the world’s best stock assessment model, and Beth Fulton, the CSIRO scientist in Australia who developed it, is truly brilliant. The model is a masterpiece of sophistication and complexity and it has had staggering success as far as these kinds of complex models go.

But it’s been applied in 20 marine fisheries globally….of the 15,000+ fisheries that need to be assessed.

To get all fisheries globally on stable footing, we need

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