- News Home
17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
- About Us
Technician Sacked Over Caribou Map
23 March 2001 7:00 pm
Tensions over the Bush Administration's desire to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) are causing jitters at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), where a flap over a flawed map of caribou calving grounds has triggered the dismissal of a contractor and a flurry of outrage on the Internet.
Ian Thomas, a cartographer contracted to make bird maps at USGS's Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland, liked to post maps on all manner of conservation topics--from tiger habitats to Chinese land cover--on his USGS site. On 7 March he put up some new maps of refuges, including one cobbled together from several government maps that purported to show areas in the arctic refuge needed by caribou. The map touched on a red-hot political issue: The Bush Administration's proposal to drill for oil in ANWR, which environmental groups vehemently argue would be disastrous for caribou and other wildlife. When USGS caribou biologist Brad Griffith in Alaska saw the map, he e-mailed Thomas and told him to take it off the Web, saying it was out of date, overestimated habitat needs, and was "completely inappropriate."
Before Thomas could respond, however, the matter reached Patuxent officials, who say it was only the latest instance of Thomas straying from assigned duties into his own projects and then posting them on Patuxent's site without getting anybody's approval. "We don't just put anything up. ... He was doing whatever he wanted to do, and we had no scientific confidence in the information," says Jay Hestbeck, the center's research chief. On 12 March, Patuxent brass barred Thomas from his computer and shut down his site for "peer review."
The move didn't silence Thomas. He's now working temporarily at the World Wildlife Fund and is publicizing his experience on a new Web site (www.maptricks.com). His dismissal is meant to be "an example to other Federal scientists" of what can happen if they don't keep their distance from hot issues, he says. Even Griffith says if ANWR were not such a hot issue, Thomas wouldn't have gotten into trouble. Some at Patuxent agree. If the map had shown "chickadees in Chincoteague," he'd still be on the job, says Sam Droege, a zoologist at the center.