I have moved on from being a graduate student. Although I don't graduate until December, I have started a new position as a post doctoral scientist of conservation genetics at the Center for Conservation Research (CCR) at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium (OHDZA)! I will be working mostly on projects on lemurs and other species from Madagascar, throwing in the occasional elephant and big cat project to keep myself associated with main land Africa. I'm still settling in but it won't be too difficult a transition when I can see orangutans out the lab window and I get to take a daily safari walk to see all my favorite animals.
Being so close to the action I'll hopefully be able to get the inside scoop (like I did with the Indian rhino. The repro team showed us the birth video only hours after it happened!) and you know I'll be making regular visits to their enclosure to bask in the tail poof glory. I'd have to pass by sloth bears and tigers on the way there too. Darn.
Once upon a time, scientists had faith in their president and government. They believed they were advocates of progress and defenders of the planet. These days, massive cuts to funding, freezes in government agencies employing scientists, and attacks on facts have caused a lot of doubt in our government and it's relationship with science.
Yesterday was Earth Day and thousands of scientists WORLDWIDE marched to show solidarity for the importance of science. I attended the Bryan/College Station March for Science which was small but did a great job of including the local community. As one of the largest research universities in the United States, Texas A&M University does a lot of ground breaking research but most of the community probably doesn't know much about it unless they are directly associated with it in some way. After the march we had a Science Town Hall. There were science demos, the opportunity to "Meet a Scientist" and talks on how science is a part of everyone's life.
I think our little event was a success. And, as for the marches around the globe, I don't know how much it will effect policy, but it got people excited about science. And support from the public is just as crucial to policy as support from politicians, as one can lead to the other.
With our country's political dichotomy, terms like "climate change" and "global warming" cause more division than unification. "Climate change" and "global warming" are terms of a global scale when many don't grasp much outside of a local scale. So, you'll probably find more people who think we have a responsibility to the environment than who believe in "global warming".
"Global warming" is a misnomer, giving nonbelievers ammo for their argument, and "climate change" is used as a political power play to further agendas rather than what might actually be best action. In reality, we are living in a changing environment and whether you believe it is because it's being caused by people or not, there is scientific evidence showing change.
So, regardless of these terms and how their usage effects the public, the environment still undergoes change and, despite personal political beliefs, we, as a species on this planet, have a responsibility of helping the environment and not making conditions worse.
Compromise must be made between sides to make something abstract more tangible. My recommendation, take those terms out of it and focus on actual, tangible issues.
My lion example (sorry for all the commas but try to follow me): Climate change isn't reducing the home range of the African lion, anthropogenic factors (things that are a result of human activity), such as humans coming into lion habitat, which, in turn, changes the landscape, do. A focus on alleviating human-wildlife conflict, teaching carnivore-friendly land use, and the creation of corridors to preserve passageways for movement of species across people dominated areas, for example, will better serve the lion population than trying to "stop climate change." It's something people can more readily relate to and inevitably leads to that bigger picture that "climate change" is trying to encompass but is too abstract for many to understand. It's the same goal just a refocus of the issue. And, I think, the lion conservation community is doing this well.