Monday, April 17, 2017

The Scientists that Cried Frog

Few professions are extended as much respect as scientists; their work is trying, their schooling is extensive, and their results are important for proper societal functioning. Yet with this respect, scientists maintain notable amounts of responsibility. It isn't uncommon for people to expect scientists to study issues and develop novel solutions, such as in healthcare, ecology, and everyday life. While this has elevated careers in science to maintain a certain prestige, this respected seat in society comes with a great price. This price can easily be seen in recent efforts to protect declining frog populations.
In the late 1980's, herpetologists and frog scientists noticed frogs were becoming less and less common at a rapid pace. This decrease was unlike normal population behaviors, as scientists were recording spontaneous disappearances across the globe. This crash generated notable concern in certain scientific communities, and the race was on to figure out what was causing this overwhelming decline. 
Countless scientists tried desperately to find the answer, but the problem proved to be more complex; currently, specialists think that this population crash was a result of climate change, a rampant fungal disease, and deforestation. While it is hard to separate the influence of each of these on frog population dynamics, some scientists were quick to identify a sole problem: climate change. And here is where we discover the scientists who cried frog.
Rather than state a synergism of events was likely responsible for frog collapse, some scientists blamed the events solely on climate change. Soon, news outlets were running stories stating frogs were the first victims of climate change and the narrative lost its basis in refined and reputable science. The truth was, scientists were still actively investigating the causes behind frog numbers crashing, and climate change was not the sole participant in this issue.
Undeniably, climate change has affected frogs, just like it has every ecosystem on our planet. Its affects can be seen today, and we will certainly witness an even stronger effect on our planet as time goes on. But prematurely blaming climate change for any and all ecological disruptions is dangerous and ill advised. As a community, scientists must be aware of frenzied reactions to certain issues, and provide as much clarity as possible. 
This is even more important, given recent shift in political climates. With entire governments denying our climate is changing due to human activity, we must be steadfast in the research we conduct and publish. Otherwise, we will lose trust, and this loss of trust will cause problems when scientists must sound the alarm to alert individuals of pressing problems.
Careers in science and research are both rewarding and tiresome, and the scientific community is so influential in improving the world we live in. That is why it is essential we maintain our integrity and do our best to portray the realities of our world. This couldn't be more important, as scientists from countless concentrations are trying to educate the world on the pressing issue of climate change. That's why we must maintain scientific integrity and avoid the unfortunate mistake of a scientist crying frog.
Bryce Pepin
Tufts University

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