Wednesday, July 1, 2009

science journalism 101

This story from the Scituate section of shows how little people know about the piping plover -- even the people who are supposed to be protecting them. In general, piping plovers nest on the beach, not in the dunes. The preferred nesting habitat is between the wrack line and foredune near dunes that are sparsely vegetated. Putting symbolic fencing around the dunes without knowing where the nests are does little good. The places that have successfully hatched nests and fledged young put up the symbolic fencing around the nests, not just marking off some area where they hope they will nest.

This situation could be avoided: "If someone accidentally steps on a nest that is not between the makeshift fence and the dune because the birds have laid eggs outside the boundary, Jones shrugs and says so be it, although he slowly walks the beach trying to avoid nests and eggs."
If he's out there looking for nests, why can't he put the string fences around the nests?

Reporting like this perpetuates the dangerous (to the plovers) myth that piping plovers nest, live, and feed on the dunes. This leads to sad situations like what happened on Wells beach in Maine last year. A well-meaning rescuer placed a piping plover chick in the dune grass where it was unable to get food. It died.

I wish the Boston Globe could be a little more responsible in science journalism and get their facts straight. I wish someone could explain plover protection to the Scituate conservation people. How 'bout Mass Audubon lending a hand?

Sorry if I'm ranting. I get upset over stuff like this too easily.

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