Modern Wild Faunal Resource System Management
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Also see Giles, R. H., R. G. Oderwald, and A. U. Ezealor. 1993. Toward a rationally robust paradigm for agroforestry systems. Agroforestry Systems 24:21-37.
Research, like the good doctor, has an aura about it of objectivity, formality, and rigor but it is not an aura needed in all fields. Research has solved some problems, given us some advances, and has given many people a useful pattern of thought for over a century. Increasingly, that pattern is being shown wanting. Research is said to answer questions, but it is also said that if you ask the wrong questions you will get wrong answers. Research is said to be descriptive, but of what? There are many "scientific questions" which cannot be answered by science. A few people say that research is predictive, but don't people have something to say about what happens in the future? There are many, many problems faced by people for which research has neither the answer nor an approach. A substitute is needed, at least an alternative. The needs are conspicuous in wild fauna resource management - throughout the world.
It is easy to be hypercritical about anything. I am not a devil's advocate, merely an observer with a little energy left over for suggestions.
One problem with research came upon me like a hawk over my tree stand: suppose there are about 300 important bird species in India. (For now, let us not quibble about the actual number or the meaning of "important"). There are needed about 200 observations about each bird to complete all entries in a wildlife information system. These 200 items are selected from a much longer list. It is a group of need to know vs. nice to know observations selected by a variety of wildlife workers. Many facts are known for deer but many are not; deer are one of the best known animals. Some take years of study, others only a brief period. I round off my estimate at a very conservative estimate of one year needed for each observation, then I suggest an even more conservative $50,000 required to pay and equip a scientist for a year. It includes all travel, rent, equipment, computers, support staff, and salaries but it has never been analyzed exclusively for wildlife research people. (Frankly, I think the amount exceeds $50,000.) While several observations will be made in a few days, I assume I can make one official entry in our database per year. The cost of doing all of this is $3,000,000,000! If there were 1000 scientific wildlife researchers, it would only take 60 years. We cannot meet the research needs of the birds of India alone, much less those of the world, by the conventional, accepted research pathways. We have not even mentioned the similar research needs of the mammals, reptiles, amphibians, mollusks, oh yes, the fish and equally as important - the insects, whether we study them as disease vectors, critical food supply for some other animals, or object of specific management, such as the butterflies.
Once there was the notion of "do basic research" then publish it. It was a rule and the hidden assumption behind it was that one day your findings would be discovered and put into practical use. In wildlife systems, one day may never come. Irrelevant is the perfect word for a discovery made for a species that has just become extinct.
In the most logical of all areas, research, I now perceive an illogical underpinning. It is illogical for us to continue using the classical, experimental, inductive approach to gaining wildlife knowledge. Wildlife resource workers will never gain the budgets needed, the staffing and expertise, the time, or the requisite use rates of conclusions-reached. It is irrational for us to proceed in the current fashion.
I feel as though I have painted myself into a corner. How do I get out? I am not sure. I need help; I beg for it; I am confident that it is available. Perhaps I can build a bit of a structure from my little corner to help with a bridge (if that is what is seen as needed). I fear, not for myself, but for the wildlife resource, if I should be left in my gloomy, freshly-painted little corner. Only these changes are mentioned here, mostly to give the idea examples. More will be given in future Antler Points where I acknowledge the power of conventional research patterns but believe that, with such patterns, alternatives are needed. These might include:
Not wishing to describe the system needed, at least I see its potential for providing relevant answers to questions, as shown here, of increasing complexity:
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Last revision January 18, 2004.