Science Under Siege: Zoology Under Threat
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Wildlife research has few immediate economic consequences, and over the last 10-20 years has collapsed as a serious research program within Australia's premier research organization, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO). In spite of great public support for biodiversity and for Australia's iconic fauna, higher levels within CSIRO and both federal and many state governments have failed to provide adequate funding. I explore here some possible explanations based on my personal observations. The underlying causes are not confined to Australia, and lie deep in the psyche of politicians and managers who view science as a business that generates values measured only in dollars. A consequence of this economic world view is a fixation on economic growth rather than ecosystem well-being. The result in Australia is that wildlife research is being left to the states and the universities, augmented by private funding through foundations that care about the environment. Long-term, large-scale research questions are not being addressed, and organized and systematic monitoring for biodiversity impacts on a continental scale is nearly absent in Australia. Short-term ecological research is valuable and the contributions of the universities here are excellent, but in light of anticipated climate change we need to adopt a longer vision for understanding our iconic wildlife and the ecosystems that they inhabit.