Fellow Biologist, I got out of marbled murrelet/snowy plover surveys long ago because of the MRB monopoly. Not only did MRB hold a training monopoly, but they used their unique position to compete for surveying contracts, or to strong-arm subcontracts from other firms.....and this was encouraged by local agency biologists. It was grossly unfair at face value, and I (and others) thought the whole scene was deeply repugnant.
Again, this isn't just an MRB problem. This is a problem of an insular North Coast, hipper-than-thou community of consulting and agency biologists who have been gaming the system for a long, long time. I'm certainly glad I wasn't within 100 miles of MRB when the lights came on.
JJ says: "Sean’s degree, whatever, he can do surveys, train people to do surveys and write reports. There’s other people out there doing surveys without degrees, this isn’t rocket science."
I disagree on at least two counts.
First, of all, millions of dollars are often involved, and stakeholders need some degree of confidence in the scientific objectivity and integrity of these studies. In my own formal education, in addition to the importance of sound methodology, I had the sanctity of honest, objective, reliable, verifiable data collection and analysis drummed into me year after year.
Second, when biological consulting firms ignore academic credentials, they betray all of those who have majored in biology in college and can't find work in our field. They also substantially cheapen the work, fueling an ongoing race to the bottom.
A birder is to a biologist as a coin collector is to an economist. McCallister is a birder. I still have an extensive coin collection from when I was a kid, but I don't call myself an economist.
RT, The Wildlife Society has a "Certified Wildlife Biologist" program that has similar requirements. Unfortunately, people like me have been 100% unsuccessful at lobbying to have the designation provide any meaningful status beyond getting to put "CRB" after your name.
As for your question to Ryan, the story describes agency folks who obviously don't want to have to do MRB's work over from scratch. My opinion is this: When an academic biologist is caught faking work, his reputation is trashed, his career is over, and the credibility all the work he'd ever done is damaged beyond redemption. Why should it be different for consulting environmental scientists? And how can stakeholders have any faith in the work of someone being prosecuted for fraud? This seems rather obvious to me.
The insularity of the North Coast is partly to blame for this. Many of us outsiders, having worked with LeValley in the past and having intimate familiarity with how this type of work is completed and invoiced, are not so quick to assume that his role in the grift of the Yurok Tribe can be explained away by invoking his naïvety. My experience with LeValley is that he is a shrewd businessman -- I decided about a decade ago that he was a little too shrewd for my tastes, and stopped doing business with him.
As for McAllister, his credentials are not unimpeachable, contrary to what the locals insist on repeating ad nauseum. McAllister does not have a degree in biology and would never have progressed past the title of "biological technician" at my firm (he would have faced an uphill battle getting hired in the first place). Yes, he's an excellent birder. If the community of predominantly HSU-graduate biologists on the North Coast feel that this skill substitutes for a formal education, I don't know what that says about value they place on their own HSU degrees in biology. As for me, I take it as an insult that I spent many years and many tens of thousands of dollars earning my undergraduate and graduate degrees, and I have less professional status than Sean on the North Coast, as I've been reminded many times.
Of course, McAllister's honorary professional title at MRB says less about LeValley than it says about a "profession" that refuses to establish and enforce academic standards among its own ranks. In California, it's easier to call yourself a consulting biologist than it is to call yourself a haircutter.
In Print This Week:
Dec 5, 2013
vol XXIV issue 49
The North Coast Journal Weekly
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