If you know a Federal scientist, give them a hug. It’s been a really bad week.

From a friend who works for the forest service:

“This week my colleagues and I have had to deal with confusing gag orders and onerous requests for information and justifications of our work. In one case, I was given only half an hour to write statements on a number of pending agreements to explain why they were in the “public interest.” Note, these agreements involve *already allocated funds*, that have gone through *numerous justification and vetting processes already*. I have no idea how these justification requests will be used, but signs out of other agencies are ominous.

All of that said, the *single most pressing issue* for us right now is the blanket hiring freeze. We can muddle through with a hiring freeze on permanent staff, but my work and that of many of my colleagues (and much the functioning of the rest of the Federal system) depends on temporary and seasonal workers.

If this part of the ban is not lifted, then I will not be able to complete a number of projects that are critical to learning how we can best restore arid ecosystems in the Western United States. These lands are under threat from increasing fire frequency, invasive species and other disturbances. These lands support and sustain wildlife, pollinators, rare plants, clean air, clean water, Native American tribes, recreationists, sportsmen and ranchers. These lands are part of our heritage as Americans.

If you would like to help Federal scientists and other Federal employees continue to provide the public service that you have *already paid for* as a tax payer, please consider adding *lifting the ban on temporary and seasonal hiring* to your list of things that you are calling your Senators and Representatives about. Thank you.”

Science will not be silenced

I was on a tour of Berlin this past summer and there’s a monument outside of Humboldt University. It’s a room full of empty bookshelves, meant to remind people that during Hitler’s rise to power the Nazi’s striped books from the University library and burned them. My tour guide mentioned that when you start censoring science and knowledge, you know you’ve got a real problem.

In his first week in office, Trump has done just that. There is a TON of information out there about what happened in the last 24 hours, I’m going to summarize SOME of it here.

First Trump signed an executive order to freeze all grants and on-going projects. The following was posted by scientists on social media.

“The EPA was just directed to freeze all grants. This means that grad students and researchers funded on EPA funds are now without funds. All ongoing studies are stopped.It happened in a moment with a memo, by executive action, with zero input or oversight.It could happen to any Federal institute, including the National Science Foundation, which funds research at universities around the country — including the health insurance and living stipends of many, many students. Trump also froze all federal hiring yesterday.Please, if you can safely raise your voice, raise it loudly. Call your congresspeople, call the White House, write op-eds and articles and blog posts. This is only Day 4. Please, stand up for science and the environment. This is the emergency we were all worried about. (Share widely. I did not write this. It was copied and pasted from a scientist who wants to remain anonymous. The fear of retaliation is real.)”

A gag order on both the USDA and ESA followed quickly, which means that scientists are not allowed to communicate science. This is not normal. 

In response, Badlands National Park twitter feed went rougue, in direct defiance of the order, began posting nothing but climate change facts. Those tweets have since been deleted.

Today was a bad day for the environment, but a terrible day for scientists. Meanwhile, the Republicans in the House quietly closed any investigation into the Flint water crisis.

Before now we were talking in hypotheticals, about what might happen if Trump was the president, what that might mean for science or for the environment. The reality is scarier than I imagined.

Please don’t take this likely. Call your senators or congressional representative. It is not acceptable to silence scientist, let them know we will not stand for this.

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Fact Check

“Alternate facts” are not a thing. The great thing about facts is that they are true regardless of whether you choose to believe them or not.

So let’s take a moment to check some facts about science that are being “altered” under the Trump administration.

Luckily, NPR has already done that for us, thanks NPR! Some of them are old, some of them are recent, all of them are problems.

But it’s important to first understand the facts. And here they are. 

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How one turtle’s tale helps promote ocean conservation

Sea turtles are in trouble. They are notorious for swallowing things they shouldn’t and given the amount of plastic that ends up in the ocean this is unlikely to stop anytime soon.

But the baby sea turtle at aquariums, like the one at Monterey Bay, are helping people see the importance of protecting these curious little eaters.

Read about it over at Scientific American!

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The Remarkable Comeback of the Przewalski’s Horse

Finally some good news! The only truly wild horse in existence (other horses that are thought of as wild are actually only feral) has been teetering on the edge of extinction for a long time now. There was a point where it went entirely extinct in the wild.

But due to a vigorous captive breeding program, and successful reintroductions, this slightly stocky but ultimately adorable horse population is on the upswing!

Read about their history and resurgence over at Smithsonian! 

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Big Picture of the Little Bones in Tuatara

Tuatara are a “living fossil” found in New Zealand. And it turns out it is also an excellent system to study the evolution of sesamoid bones (typically small bones found in tendons and near joints.

Want to know more about these awesome creatures, and what this can tell us about human and lizard anatomy?

Read about it here! 

Or enjoy these photos.

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Elephant Refugees Flee to Last Stronghold in Africa

We’re not talking about refugees. Not the kind that are flocking to Europe from Syria, but the four legged kind that are being over hunted.

A national park in Botswana is struggling to support the staggering number of animals fleeing from poaching in other countries.

Read about it over at National Geographic!

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