Improving the use of science in conservation: Lessons from the Florida panther

Michael J. Conroy, Paul Beier, Howard Quigley, Michael R. Vaughan

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

In a companion article (Beier et al. 2006), we identified 2 sets of unreliable inferences that may compromise efforts to conserve the Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi). In spite of serious flaws in methodology and interpretation, these unreliable conclusions have appeared in prominent, peer-refereed scientific journals and have been repeatedly cited and miscited in support of panther conservation. Future editors and referees may reduce these errors by insisting on adherence to an Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion (IMRAD) format; checking improbable assertions attributed to earlier papers; and refusing to allow scientific inference in publication formats not subject to scientific peer review (e.g., editorials). We urge conservation biologists to view science as an adaptive process and to use the method of multiple working hypotheses (Chamberlin 1890) that are now a central feature of adaptive resource management (Walters 1986, Williams et al. 2002). We advocate a workshop approach, similar to that used for analysis of data for the northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis; Anderson et al. 1999), to deal with scientific disagreement where, as in the case with panthers, stakeholders have entrenched points of view. Finally, we recommend the creation of an independent Scientific Steering Committee to address long-term issues of future research and monitoring of Florida panthers.

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Keywords

  • Endangered species
  • Florida panther
  • Multiple working hypotheses
  • Peer review
  • Puma concolor
  • Recovery plans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Ecology

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