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  • Posts

    • The Ornithological Council is financially supported by our ten member societies and the individual ornithologists who value our work. If the OC’s resources are valuable to you, please consider joining one of our member societies or donating directly at Birdnet.org. Thank you for your support! Your field work this season may have been affected by COVID but at some point we’ll all be able to get back out in the field. Make sure you have the permit info you need to be ready to get out there! The Ornithological Council has updated the information available on its website regarding permits. New information about Endangered Species Act and CITES permits has been posted and the pages for permit requirements for each of the 50 states in the U.S. have been updated. Check it out here!
    • The following news and analysis are provided by the Ornithological Council, a consortium supported by 10 ornithological societies. Join or renew your membership in your ornithological society if you value the services these societies provide to you, including OrnithologyExchange and the Ornithological Council. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a proposed definition for “habitat” under the Endangered Species Act. The ESA defines “critical habitat” as “(i) the specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the species, at the time it is listed ... on which are found those physical or biological features (I) essential to the conservation of the species and (II) which may require special management considerations or protection; and (ii) specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the species at the time it is listed ..., upon a determination by the Secretary that such areas are essential for the conservation of the species.” Neither the regulations nor the Act itself define “habitat.” Until now, USFWS has applied the criteria from the definition of ‘‘critical habitat’’ and assumed that any area satisfying that definition was habitat. A recent Supreme Court decision held that an area must first be considered ‘‘habitat’’ in order for it to then meet the definition of ‘‘critical habitat’’ as defined by the Act.  The new rule proposes to define “habitat” as “the physical places that individuals of a species depend upon to carry out one or more life processes. Habitat includes areas with existing attributes that have the capacity to support individuals of the species.”  The proposal also includes an alternative definition: “the physical places that individuals of a species use to carry out one or more life processes. Habitat includes areas where individuals of the species do not presently exist but have the capacity to support such individuals, only where the necessary attributes to support the species presently exist.” USFWS is soliciting comments on both proposed definitions. Comments are due by September 4 and can be submitted electronically (click on the blue comment button).  ******* USFWS PRESS RELEASE U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries Propose Regulatory Definition of Habitat Under Endangered Species Act: Changes would improve clarity around description of habitat, address Supreme Court ruling July 31, 2020 Contact(s): Brian Hires, 703-358-2191, brian_hires@fws.gov The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service have proposed a regulatory definition of the term “habitat” that would be used in the context of critical habitat designations under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The proposed definition is part of the efforts of the Trump Administration to balance effective, science-based conservation with common-sense policy designed to bring the ESA into the 21st century. “Our proposed definition of habit is intended to add more consistency to how the Service designates critical habitat under ESA,” said Rob Wallace, Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. “Improving how we apply this important tool will result in better conservation outcomes and provide more transparency for countless stakeholders such as private landowners, industry, and states.” “The Court’s ruling provides the Trump Administration and Secretary Bernhardt the opportunity to create a new definition that will help ensure that all areas considered for critical habitat first and foremost meet the definition of habitat. We are proposing these changes on behalf of improved conservation and transparency in our processes for designating critical habitat,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Aurelia Skipwith. “We value public input, especially on actions that directly impact our many stakeholders which range from industries to private landowners.” Nearly three years ago, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Commerce began considering improvements to the regulations the federal government uses to implement the ESA to make them more efficient and effective. Last year, the Service finalized regulatory changes to section 4 of the ESA dealing with the listing, delisting and critical habitat, and to section 7 consultation processes. Today’s proposed definition of habitat will continue to improve implementation of the ESA and will address a 2018 Supreme Court ruling in a case regarding dusky gopher frog critical habitat (Weyerhaeuser Co. v U.S. FWS) that any area designated as critical habitat must also be habitat for the species. The ESA defines critical habitat and establishes separate criteria depending on whether the area is within or outside the geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing. It does not define the broader term “habitat,” however, and the Services have not previously defined this term in implementing regulations. Combined with last year’s regulatory reform, these actions will increase the clarity of the ESA, improve partnerships, stimulate more effective conservation on the ground, and improve consistency and predictability around critical habitat determinations. "Protecting, conserving and recovering endangered and threatened marine species and their habitat is a collaborative effort among federal, state, tribal and local officials, as well as non-governmental organizations and private citizens. For more than 45 years, the Endangered Species Act has enabled this collaboration. As such, we encourage our partners and the public to submit comments on this proposed action,” said Chris Oliver, Assistant Administrator, NOAA Fisheries. As defined in the proposed rule, habitat contains food, water, cover or space that a species depends upon to carry out one or more of its life processes. This broad definition includes both occupied and unoccupied critical habitat. The proposed rule was sent to the Federal Register on July 31, 2020, and public comments will be accepted for 30 days upon its publication. The Service will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means the agency will post any personal information provided through the process. The Service is not able to accept email or faxes.    
    • Hello everyone! I'm starting my first independent research project looking at vocal systems anatomy in suboscines. I will be utilizing CT scans of museum specimens to construct 3D printed models of the syrinx, larynx, and trachea of a few different families of Tyrannidae (ideally one from each family). I have access to an excised larynx chamber, and I am hoping to be able to perform some modeling experiments with these models. I am planning on doing some basic biometric analysis as well, and comparing this data to known songs and calls from the species. If you are interested in endorsing my project or supporting it the link will follow: https://experiment.com/projects/how-does-morphology-affect-phonation-in-suboscine-songbirds.   So glad to be a part of this group! Best wishes, Jenny
    • How a scientific spat over how to name species turned into a big pl... https://phys.org/news/2020-07-scientific-spat-species-big-nature.html Home / Biology / Ecology JULY 27, 2020 How a scientific spat over how to name species turned into a big plus for nature https://phys.org/news/2020-07-scientific-spat-species-big-nature.html by Stephen Garnett, Les Christidis, Richard L. Pyle and Scott Thomson, The Conversation Taxonomy, or the naming of species, is the foundation of modern biology. It might sound like a fairly straightforward exercise, but in fact it's complicated and often controversial. Why? Because there's no one agreed list of all the world's species. Competing lists exist for organisms such as mammals and birds, while other less well-known groups have none. And there are more than 30 definitions of what constitutes a species. This can make life difficult for biodiversity researchers and those working in areas such as conservation, biosecurity and regulation of the wildlife trade. In the past few years, a public debate erupted among global taxonomists, including those who authored and contributed to this article, about whether the rules of taxonomy should be changed. Strongly worded ripostes were exchanged. A comparison to Stalin was floated. But eventually, we all came together to resolve the dispute amicably. In a paper published this month, we proposed a new set of principles to guide what one day, we hope, will be a single authoritative list of the world's species. This would help manage and conserve them for future generations. In the process, we've shown how a scientific stoush can be overcome when those involved try to find common ground. How it all began In May 2017 two of the authors, Stephen Garnett and Les Christidis, published an article in Nature. They argued taxonomy needed rules around what should be called a species, because currently there are none. They wrote: "For a discipline aiming to impose order on the natural world, taxonomy (the classification of complex organisms) is remarkably anarchic […] There is reasonable agreement among taxonomists that a species should represent a distinct evolutionary lineage. But there is none about how a lineage should be defined." Species are often created or dismissed arbitrarily, according to the individual taxonomist's adherence to one of at least 30 definitions. Crucially, there is no global oversight of taxonomic decisions—researchers can 'split or lump' species with no consideration of the consequences. Garnett and Christidis proposed that any changes to the taxonomy of complex organisms be overseen by the highest body in the global governance of biology, the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS), which would "restrict […] freedom of taxonomic action." An animated response Garnett and Christidis' article raised hackles in some corners of the taxonomy world—including coauthors of this article. These critics rejected the description of taxonomy as "anarchic." In fact, they argued there are detailed rules around the naming of species administered by groups such as the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature and the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants. For 125 years, the codes have been almost universally adopted by scientists. So in March 2018, 183 researchers—led by Scott Thomson and Richard Pyle—wrote an animated response to the Nature article, published in PLoS Biology. They wrote that Garnett and Christidis' IUBS proposal was "flawed in terms of scientific integrity […] but is also untenable in practice." They argued: "Through taxonomic research, our understanding of biodiversity and classifications of living organisms will continue to progress. Any system that restricts such progress runs counter to basic scientific principles, which rely on peer review and subsequent acceptance or rejection by the community, rather than third-party regulation." In a separate paper, another group of taxonomists accused Garnett and Christidis of trying to suppress freedom of scientific thought, likening them to Stalin's science advisor Trofim Lysenko. Finding common ground This might have been the end of it. But the editor at PLoS Biology, Roli Roberts, wanted to turn consternation into constructive debate, and invited a response from Garnett and Christidis. In the to and fro of articles, we all found common ground. We recognized the powerful need for a global list of species—representing a consensus view of the world's taxonomists at a particular time. Such lists do exist. The Catalog of Life, for example, has done a remarkable job in assembling lists of almost all the world's species. But there are no rules on how to choose between competing lists of validly named species. What was needed, we agreed, was principles governing what can be included on lists. As it stands now, anyone can name a species, or decide which to recognize as valid and which not. This creates chaos. It means international agreements on biodiversity conservation, such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), take different taxonomic approaches to species they aim to protect. We decided to work together. With funding from the IUBS, we held a workshop in February this year at Charles Darwin University to determine principles for devising a single, agreed global list of species. Participants came from around the world. They included taxonomists, science governance experts, science philosophers, administrators of the nomenclatural (naming) codes, and taxonomic users such as the creators of national species lists. The result is a draft set of ten principles that to us, represent the ideals of global science governance. They include that: the species list be based on science and free from "non-taxonomic" interference all decisions about composition of the list be transparent governance of the list aim for community support and use the listing process encompasses global diversity while accommodating local knowledge. The principles will now be discussed at international workshops of taxonomists and the users of taxonomy. We've also formed a working group to discuss how a global list might come together and the type of institution needed to look after it. We hope by 2030, a scientific debate that began with claims of anarchy might lead to a clear governance system—and finally, the world's first endorsed global list of species.     Making a list of all creatures, great and small Provided by The Conversation This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.      
    • Teetering on the edge of extinction due to demand for its prized 'casque', the Helmeted Hornbill now finds itself with a fighting chance of survival thanks to bolstered law enforcement and patrols of its dwindling forest habitatView the full article
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