The life of a statistician can be more interesting than you might first think. Take Dr. Fred Ramsey, a Statistical Ecologist, who has performed wildlife surveys all over the world. He’s worked in Madagascar, the Hawaiian Islands, the Mariana and Eastern Caroline Islands, and other places where he studied birds, turtles, butterflies, and other wildlife populations.
Closer to home in Corvallis, Oregon, Dr. Ramsey has consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a number of endangered species issues. In his 40 years of work, he has garnered many awards and authored many publications on wildlife (to learn more go to http://www.unhas.ac.id/rhiza/arsip/musibah2004/OSU%20STATISTICS%20DEPARTMENT%20-%20Fred%20Ramsey.htm).
Dr. Ramsey has dedicated many years of his life to help restore wildlife populations. He wants to be sure that much-needed protections are grounded in strong science. As he states, “the failure to identify risks can mean extinction.”
One of the major tools the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency uses to study the risk of pesticides to wildlife is a statistically-derived number known as an LD50 — the lethal dose that kills 50-percent of a population.
Dr. Ramsey is quick to point out that while that tool might work for some evaluations, it is not acceptable for evaluating endangered wildlife, “a two or three-percent decline in an endangered population for more than one year can be devastating, and 50-percent mortality is catastrophic.” Dr. Ramsey went on to clarify that, “an LD50 tells you very little about the amount that kills three percent of a population.”
If our imperiled fish and wildlife populations are to be protected from pesticides, tools such as LD50’s must take a back seat to understanding the subtle everyday impacts that can make or break a population.
As Dr. Ramsey and other experts know, the Endangered Species Act serves as an effective safety net for imperiled species because the Act is grounded in the best available scientific information. To protect America’s wildlife from extinction, best available science must continue to inform endangered species-related decisions.