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Listing the American Pika (Ochotona princeps): The role of science in a political world

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In 2007, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) petitioned the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to list the American pika (Ochotona princeps) as an endangered species. After several petition

In 2007, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) petitioned the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to list the American pika (Ochotona princeps) as an endangered species. After several petition denials, the petition was evaluated during both 90-day, and 12-month reviews. Ultimately, both petitions were denied and the pika was not given protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). During the petitioning years, 2007 through 2013, there were many newspaper publications, press releases, and blog entries supporting the listing of the pika. Information published by these media ranged from misleading, to scientifically inaccurate. The public was swayed by these publications, and showed their support for listing the pika during the public comment period throughout the 12-month status review in California. While the majority of the public comments were in favor of listing the pika, there were a few letters that criticized the CBD for making a poster child out of a "cute" species. During the 12-month status review, the CDFW contacted pika experts and evaluated scientific literature to gain an understanding of the American pika's status. Seven years after the original petition, the CDFW denied listing the pika on the grounds that the species is not expected to become extinct in the next few decades. This case serves as an example where a prominent organization, the CBD, petitions to list a species that does not warrant protection. Their goal of making the pika the face of climate change failed when species was examined.

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2014-05

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Aedes aegypti Thermal Choice Experiment

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The non-native mosquito Aedes aegypti has become a common nuisance in Maricopa county. Associated with human settlement, Ae. aegypti is known to reproduce in standing water sources both indoors and outdoors, within vessels such as tires, flowerpots, and neglected swimming

The non-native mosquito Aedes aegypti has become a common nuisance in Maricopa county. Associated with human settlement, Ae. aegypti is known to reproduce in standing water sources both indoors and outdoors, within vessels such as tires, flowerpots, and neglected swimming pools (Jansen & Beebe, 2010). Ae. aegypti and the related Ae. albopictus are the primary vectors of the arboviral diseases chikungunya, Zika, yellow fever and dengue. Ae. aegypti tends to blood feed multiple times per gonotrophic cycle (cycle of feeding and egg laying) which, alongside a preference for human blood and close association with human habitation, contributes to an increased risk of Ae. aegypti borne virus transmission (Scott & Takken, 2012). Between 2010-2017, 153 travel-associated cases of dengue were reported in the whole of Arizona (Rivera et al., 2020); while there have been no documented locally transmitted cases of Aedes borne diseases in Maricopa county, there are no apparent reasons why local transmission can’t occur in the future via local Aedes aegypti mosquitoes infected after feeding from travelling viremic hosts. Incidents of local dengue transmission in New York (Rivera et al., 2020) and Barcelona (European Center for Disease Control [ECDC], 2019) suggest that outbreaks of Aedes borne arbovirus’ can occur in regions more temperate than the current endemic range of Aedes borne diseases. Further, while the fact that Ae. aegypti eggs have a high mortality rate when exposed to cold temperatures limits the ability for Ae aegypti to establish stable breeding populations in temperate climates (Thomas, Obermayr, Fischer, Kreyling, & Beierkuhnlein, 2012), global increases in temperature will expand the possible ranges of Ae aegypti and Aedes borne diseases.

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2020-05