Jamie Steer

Dr Jamie Steer is interested in exploring and challenging current attitudes to biodiversity and conservation in New Zealand. He is particularly keen on spotlighting the assumptions behind our understandings of acceptable and unacceptable wildlife, and considering how these might come to change.

Minister right to be wary of gene editing – Part 2 - So Shoot Me

Jun 19, 2019

The Minister of Conservation’s recent direction to put the brakes on research into gene editing for predator eradication has proven a bone of contention with some. That’s regrettable because her decision is well justified. See here for Part 1 of this two-part series. 4. We should progress with the research anyway A fourth objection is that the Minister has prevented the technological research that is needed to test the feasibility of a genetic approach to eradication. On the face of it this is a reasonable objection. But it’s also a very high stakes game to be playing. The Minister is correct in her assertion that there is no social mandate for the use of gene editing for predator eradication in New Zealand. There has been no published research on what the public thinks about this to date.[1] … Read More

Minister right to be wary of gene editing - So Shoot Me

Jun 18, 2019

The Minister of Conservation’s recent direction to put the brakes on research into gene editing for predator eradication has proven a bone of contention with some. That’s regrettable because her decision is well justified. In a recent Letter of Expectation to Predator Free 2050 Limited, Minister Sage instructed that no resources shall be directed towards the development of gene editing technology[1] for killing rats, stoats or possums. Her reasons for the restriction were essentially the same as those she voiced back in December 2017 when she commented that: “Gene editing is an unproven technology for predator control. Gene technologies are problematic and untested and have significant risks…They have no social licence to operate. There is a lot at stake and there is a need for the utmost caution…” Despite such forewarnings it apparently took the board of … Read More

Plague Skink II: Revenge of the mudslingers - So Shoot Me

Mar 27, 2019

I’m recently reminded of why I’m not on Facebook. In a moment of weakness I took a look at the Sciblogs Facebook page. The first thing I came across was a commenter ruminating on a recent post of mine: ‘Oh FFS, Sciblogs! Not MORE straw-man pseudoscience from Steer?!?!?!?’ Charming. Another was more positive though, referring a friend to a post of mine with this comment: ‘If you’re feeling sciency today, read this; it’s very interesting’ Isn’t that nice? Alas, it was met with the following parry from another: ‘If you are feeling sciency, read something other than Jamie Steer. He’s just pushing a barrow’ Ouch! Another had this treat to offer about a post of mine: ‘Garhhgrr what is this?! Tinfoil hat soapbox platformism by someone who knows little about lizards. If you want to write an article … Read More

Biodiversity: Do non-native species count? - So Shoot Me

Feb 04, 2019

Should non-native species classify as a kind of biodiversity?  The answer, one would think, is straightforward and should be uncontroversial. We need look only to the international Convention on Biological Diversity to find it. And the definition there is clear: biological diversity (or ‘biodiversity’) is defined as: ‘the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.’ Unsurprisingly, it’s the same definition we use for our national biodiversity strategy here in New Zealand. Nativeness is not a determinant of whether something classifies as ‘biodiversity’. If it lives, it’s essentially in. Full stop. Why then has a scientist’s recent perspective that non-native species should be considered a form of biodiversity caused such angst? … Read More

The plague skink: Science or scaremongering? - So Shoot Me

Jan 22, 2019

Introduced species can cause significant changes in their receiving environments. For any new species, a wide range of effects can be contemplated – both positive and negative. In the absence of evidence, caution is surely needed. Introduced by accident in the mid-1960s, ‘plague skinks’ (Lampropholis delicata) have been known for all but about the last eight years as ‘rainbow skinks’ in New Zealand. I’ll get to that recent name change in a minute. For now I’m going to stick with calling them rainbow skinks. Rainbow skinks are tiny, egg-laying lizards. They live for about 2-4 years in the wild, enjoying busy, active little lives – munching bugs, sun basking and just generally keeping busy scuttling about the place. Anyone who has seen them around Auckland on a hot day will know that they are also super quick. First introduced … Read More

Predator Free 2050: What are the target species? - So Shoot Me

Jan 14, 2019

Answer: It’s not clear. Ambiguity over target species is counterproductive, both to the goal itself, and to the public’s ability to understand and monitor progress towards it. On 26 July 2016 the then National Government announced a plan to eradicate all of New Zealand’s rats, stoats and possums by 2050. The decision – including the species to be targeted – was recorded in a cabinet minute earlier that month. Background papers show that a range of species were considered for eradication, including all New Zealand’s mustelids (stoats, ferrets, and weasels) and rodents (three species of rats, and mice). However, the final recommendation taken to cabinet was to limit eradication to stoats, rats and possums.[1] This has duly been reflected in all subsequent Government communications on the Predator Free 2050 initiative. At the time of the … Read More

Post #1: My New Year’s resolution – write more posts! - So Shoot Me

Jan 03, 2019

It’s a New Year, and with it, time for a confession: my blogging output has been pretty bad. The good news is I’ve found a solution. Since joining the Sciblogs stable in March 2017 I’ve written a total of 17 posts. That’s less than one a month. And, in truth, it’s even worse than that because fully 13 of them were posted only last month. Frankly, it’s inadequate. And I’m jealous too. I look over at some of the other bloggers and they have numbers like 220 posts, 525 posts, and even 1645 posts (oh, get a life!). If this were a horse race these jockeys would be clear out in front. Scanning across the field your binoculars would next come to the ones in the middle, jostling for position. Then, a couple of hundred metres back, you see a … Read More

From Restoration to Reconciliation: Concluding thoughts - So Shoot Me

Dec 24, 2018

I wanted to end now on a couple of final reflections and thoughts. First, I implore you as the next generation of ecologists to think critically about the assumptions of your disciplines. Don’t just blindly swallow the positions of your older colleagues, including me (OK, not so much me…). Restoration Ecology, in particular, was developed and propagated mostly by baby boomers who often still hold very dearly to it, and the assumptions that underpin it. But there’s an old saying that goes something like ‘science progresses one funeral at a time’, and as the boomers head into senescence over the next few decades, discussion in this space is likely going to ramp up. I’d implore you during this time not to nail your colours to the mast of an older generation; but instead to keep your mind open to … Read More

From Restoration to Reconciliation: Belief 10 – Winners never quit - So Shoot Me

Dec 23, 2018

Some final comments from my interview with Kim Hill:  ‘It’s a very defeatist way of looking at things, and I don’t buy it!’ ‘Please make him stop! He’s such a defeatist!’ ‘So, the answer is don’t care? Do whatever?!’  A lot of people who advocate for novel ecosystems and new approaches in ecology and our understandings of nature and the environment are labelled as defeatist. We’re losers; quitters. But again the very notion of defeatism shows just how one-sided the conversation has been to date. A lot of people really do have the belief that there is only one way of seeing in this space and that it would be unacceptable to consider different views. You often get this quite conceited assertion from New Zealand ecologists, in particular, that you’d have to be ignorant to think differently about … Read More

From Restoration to Reconciliation: Belief 9 – We have to do it - So Shoot Me

Dec 22, 2018

This is this idea that we either do this or something that we love dies – what might be referred to as ‘conservation at the barrel of a gun’. Here’s another collection of quotes from the feedback to Kim Hill again – the last one most notably being from one of New Zealand’s foremost conservation biologists: ‘By accepting many introduced species we also have to accept the loss of many of our unique native species’ ‘…if we accept the presence of introduced predators like rats, stoats, and possums, then we must say goodbye to NZ native birds, bats, lizards’ ‘The choice is simple – we save our most distinctive and valued species, OR we feed them to rats, stoats, etc’ But is all this hyperbole really true? I don’t think so. No, we can actually preserve most of our … Read More