Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Sensationalist press coverage - is this always the way the general public will see our work?

This is just a quick post today, and features an article in Engineering & Technology magazine which in turn has quoted me.  I was pretty relieved to see that I'd been quoted appropriately and I come across as a voice of caution.  However, the real reason I'm blogging about it now, is because it raises questions about the 'face' we present to the non-specialist audiences when translocations are covered in the media.

E & T magazine has a print circulation of 180,000, mostly professional engineers, and is published online.  If we assume this is the first time many of these readers have heard about assisted migration, it presents quite a controversial picture.  Importantly, careful reading of this article reveals that it is well-balanced in its portrayal of when out-of-range translocations should be used, but how many people read this sort of article carefully?  Instead, will the take home message to many engineers be that biologists can sort it out - we're not there yet but it won't be long before we can move threatened species with certainty.  Is that the message they will read because that's the message they want to see?

Of course, I don't want to polarise engineers and biologists as 'them and us', we're going to have to work closely to make sure ecosystem functioning is protected whilst we continue to develop the infrastructure to house, educate and employ the 7 billion people on the planet.  But how do we communicate a more nuanced message that can actually achieve results?

Pool, R. (2012). Assisted migration and the ethics of playing  'eco god'. Engineering & Technology Magazine, 7(11). Available at:

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