The recent USDA hiring freeze may be hurting bees

I want to start with the following statement: I know the title of this post is a pretty loose link.

But hear me out. One of the less talked about moves by the executive branch since the inauguration is the hiring freeze at USDA and EPA.

This means postdocs, researchers, graduate students and temporary positions. So for example, Julia Fine who was set to start a postdoc studying bee decline in Utah on a USDA funded position was informed that her position is frozen. Indefinitely.

Since Fine is the lead author on one of the recent prominent studies of bee decline, then this hiring freeze is hurting bees.

Want the more complete story (boy I know I do), read about it over at the Huffington Post.


Sharing words from a federal scientist.

Today is my 3rd anniversary as a federal civil servant. I work as a biologist and decision analyst for an environmental conservation agency. To become qualified to do this work, I earned a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, a doctorate, and two years of post-doctoral training. Respectively, that equals 14 years of higher education. And I am not unique. Rather, I’m daft compared to my colleagues. They’ve got the book-smarts plus the experience and institutional knowledge that is only gained through time in Service. I feel so very lucky to be surrounded by such highly-qualified, intelligent, and dedicated professionals.
Today should be a proud day. A day of celebration. Instead, I feel sick. And demoralized. Gag orders on federal scientists? Government professionals being targeted for their work on climate change? That’s me. That’s my colleagues. We are the “swamp” that our new president keeps referring to, and I am disgusted and offended by his reference to our contribution and commitment to Public Service. Though, as an ecologist, I can’t help but point out that swamps are highly productive and important ecosystems, and draining them leads to disasters like Katrina… a point totally lost on our president.
And then there’s the issue of jobs. Our new president says he wants to bring back jobs. Which makes me wonder, do our jobs not count? Does the American public truly believe that 3 million civil servants deserve to be treated as though we’re contestants on some reality show? The myth of the “lazy, entitled” federal employee is just that. A myth. Because we exist in a consistently under-funded, not-for-profit workplace, we must do the work of two or three people to meet our performance objectives. Our workplace is a fast-paced and industrious environment. One in which we constantly struggle, like the rest of you, to find some measure of work-life balance.
The difference, I think, is that when we go to work everyday, our objective is not to maximize the number of dollars in our personal bank accounts. Nobody gets into this business for the fortune. There is no fortune for a career civil servant. We make the commitment to serve because we care deeply about social justice. My goal at work is to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. I am exceedingly aware that my salary comes from tax-payer dollars. I could not go to work if I thought those dollars weren’t benefiting the citizens of this country. And guess what? I pay taxes too.

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.”

Fight anti-science rhetoric by getting scientists to run for office

STEM the Divide is a new initiative by the 314 Action committee (314 are the first three digits of pi, so it’s a committee run by the right kind of nerds). Inspired by committee’s such as Emily’s List, the stated goal of the group is to connect people with science backgrounds to the expertise and funds needed to run a successful campaign.

Intrigued? Read about it over at the Washington Post.

Or consider signing up for 314 Action’s email list, consider running for a state or local office, or donate.


This Thanksgiving, Be Thankful for Science

In a deeply divided country, some people are dreading going home for the holidays. The anticipation of political conversation, about who voted for who, and about the racist, misogynist bigot who is planning to soon lead the United States.

So instead of talking through some of these issues (although I encourage civil discord!), the New York Times has given us a list of science and health stories from 2016 that you can discuss instead!

You could talk about how science views fat and what we know about weight loss! Or instead of talking about fleeing the country, perhaps consider a move to Mars instead! Or you can talk about dogs, and what science knows about their relationships! 

Or you can talk about climate change, funding rates, the importance of teaching evolution and minorities in STEM! Not recommended by the NYTimes but always recommended by NiB.

Also, consider subscribing to the New York Times.


Who will be first author? Flip a coin

Over at Dynamic Ecology Megan Duffy just did an awesome blog post about how to determine authorship. From alphabetical ordering to a coin flip, to the current status of the British Pound vs. American Dollar, and my personal favorite, authorship was determined by a twenty-five-game croquet series, things are not as straightforward as they may seem.

Read about it over at Dynamic Ecology!