Letters to the Editor
The ecology/technology disconnect
Recently after finishing an article on an iPhone sized-scanner that can be held up to a person’s chest to see a vivid, moving, 3-D image of what’s inside that will make doctors many times as effective, I turned to local science news.
The excitement from how a breakthrough imaging device is being developed at a cost of $100 million and will be “as cheap as a stethoscope” and promises to save millions of lives from Tahoe to Tibet quickly faded when I read a Tahoe Daily Tribune article on what local scientists are doing.
The director of the Tahoe Environmental Research Center, Geoffrey Schladow, recently told a Tahoe group that “one of the few things scientists know very little about is water movements,” which he said was important because it’s “the currents that transport everything in the water.”
Considering that since 1989 the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency has received $100 million annually to study and improve Tahoe’s environment — the same amount as the development cost of the imaging device — it’s disappointing that local scientists don’t know that it’s currents that transport things in the water.
Schladow pointed out that understanding the movement of water in Lake Tahoe is important because it helps researchers better identify the potential paths of harmful pathogens and substances in the lake, as well as the spread of invasive species.
This is breaking news: Harmful pathogens and substances in one of the world’s purest lakes, one whose water quality exceeds California’s standards for potable water. But the eye-catching part was helping researchers better identify the spread of invasive species.
I’ve become increasingly skeptical of TERC’s invasive species science since Schladow carpeted five acres of Emerald Bay two years ago with 35 tons of rubber mats to control Asian clams — mats that are currently being rolled up with no plans for their reuse.
When it was reported that the program to suffocate non-native clams — and many times more the number of native Tahoe animals — was mercifully ending, Schladow said whether the Asian clam control program should continue in the future is now “a community decision of do we want to try to control these [clams] at a cost, or throw up our hands and say, that’s it.”
It’s not only gratuitous but irresponsible for Tahoe’s leading environmental researchers to toss its failures back to the community and imply that because it didn’t receive enough money to continue the program, it’s not their fault that a project fails, but the community’s. Hopefully, more money will be channeled to local scientists with worthwhile projects than those who study the obvious or do more harm than good.
I am the author of “Tessie, Quagga Mussels, and Other Lake Tahoe Myths.” To learn more about Tahoe’s AIS programs and to sign a petition asking TRPA to perform an independent aquatic invasive species risk assessment to determine if there are any species that threaten Tahoe and justify boat inspections, go to SaveTessie.org.
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