Earthshots: Satellite Images of Environmental Change: Mt. St. Helens, Washington

Patrick Foley patfoley at
Mon Nov 17 09:50:07 EST 2003

Paul and all,

You appear to be taking data from this page and its links. Is this what 
you call speculation?

The interpretation of remote sensing and photographs is always subject 
to ground truthing. Are you arguing that Brower's team has made bad 
maps? That seems worth checking.

If you say their work is speculation, I have to wonder how you define 
the term. There is evidence, perhaps flawed that the Monarch winter site 
is degraded. It is not speculation. Read the 2002 paper in Conservation 
Biology 16:346-359.

Similarly, but in much less documented form, your photographs provide 
evidence that there is little degradation. I have not called your view 
speculation. I have said that you need to back it up and submit 
quantitative evidence for peer review.

Claiming that your "opponents" are guilty of mere speculation, cashing 
in on doomsaying, and have no websites supporting their views is not 
science and it is apparently not true.

For clarity, I want to emphasize that no scientist that I know thinks 
the species Danauus plexippus is in danger of extinction. This weedy 
butterfly has managed to thrive in Hawaii and Australia to just get 
started. What seems to be in danger is the behavioral trait of the 
annual migration to the oyamel fir- pine forest of Mexico. All it takes 
to select against this trait is lower survivorship at the site than at 
other sites. How long need this selective difference prevail? It depends 
on the heritability of the trait and the strength of selection. This is 
a hard trait to study in the lab so far, and it would be speculation to 
guess at the heritability. Studying the winter survivorship is however 
feasible and is being done. I'm glad that somebody is doing it. And I am 
glad that the Mexican government is making an effort to protect the 
sites. And I would be delighted by more research. It is not humanity's 
most pressing need nor the Earth's. But science proceeds best when 
people study what they want to study.

patfoley at


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