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Tristan Adventure 5: always have a Plan B, Dave

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One of my favourite films, for a variety of reasons, is the Newfoundland production called “Rare Birds”, where Phonse, played by comedian Andy Jones, often quips “Always have a Plan B, Dave. Always have a Plan B”.  In field work, you also often need a Plan C, or D, or E, especially when working in remote places.


As I’ve written before, our main goal on Tristan this year was to photograph the Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross from a helicopter, and ground-truth to get a reliable population estimate – the first assessment of any kind since 1974.


That didn’t really work out.


Poor weather, rain, low cloud, and fog kept the helicopters on the SA Agulhas II grounded during our 5-day window for flights.  All is not lost, however, as we can try again next year.  So when faced with two and a half months on a remote island with the main study objective scuttled, what does one do?  Boil rats.  Well, more of a slow poaching, really.


As I wrote in the last Tristan Adventure post, the bird populations on Tristan aren’t what they used to be.  There are, however, both rats and mice on Tristan, and though we don’t have any plans for an eradication, understanding the ecology and demography of the rats and mice is needed for any future attempts.  So with that in mind, we set about trapping.


A typical round of trapping goes something like this: in mid-afternoon, we head out to set traps.  We have about 50 snap traps, and the two of us take half, attach them to numbered plastic poles, record the GPS position, habitat type, and bait the trap with a smidge of peanut butter.  Since much of rodents’ activity is just after sunset, we go back after dark (usually between 9 and 10 pm) to check each of the traps, retrieve any caught rats or mice, and re-bait as needed.  The next morning (early, or else the rats start to balloon up as the temperature rises, which I don’t have to tell you is generally unpleasant), we go again, retrieve any rodents, and pack the traps in our backpacks, ready for the next night.


Then it’s off to the lab!  We take general body measurements (head and body length, tail length, length of the right hind foot, and length of the right ear), identify the sex, and then dissect the stomach so we can look at the contents.  We also remove the skull, skin it, and put it in the well of a muffin tray (though strictly speaking, muffins have not/will never be made in this tray, so perhaps we could call it a rat tray?).  A little hand washing powder, some water, and two days at 80 ºC, and voila! A rat skull that’s ready for measuring and aging.


Why, you might be asking, would we go to all this trouble? Understanding the age structure of the population is important should there be any future eradication attempt.  The same goes for figuring out when the breeding season is, how fecund the females are, and if there are any differences among Tristan’s habitats or altitudinal gradients.


So while we didn’t plan to study rat ecology this austral spring, having a Plan B allowed us to easily switch when things didn’t work out quite as we expected.


As I write, the MV Baltic Trader is sitting off Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, about halfway through offloading its cargo. When it’s done (hopefully in a few days), I’ll hop aboard, and if the weather’s good, be in Cape Town in 9 days.  My 2014 Tristan Adventure is coming to a close, but plans for next year are already in the works.

Tristan Adventure 4: an island without birdsong

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I’ve spent a good chunk of the last 10 years working on seabird islands.  During the breeding season, birds look for the safest spot to raise their young, and this often means they find themselves on coastal cliffs, offshore islands, and remote parts of the world.  This natural order of things is thrown on its head when novel predators like mice, rats, or cats are introduced.  The birds, having evolved over millions of years in the absence of ground-based predators on breeding islands, are prime targets because they have no behavioural defences.  In some cases, like I wrote in my last installment, the birds are, in a word, screwed.


The main island of Tristan da Cunha had rats and mice introduced in the 1880s, about 75 years after the island was settled permanently, and had cats from the early 1800s until about 40 years ago.  Today, Tristan is an island without birdsong.


When the UK established a garrison on Tristan in 1816, Captain Dugald Carmichael, Fellow of the Linnean Society, accompanied the voyage, and recounted his journey on December 16, 1817, recorded in the Transactions of the Linnean Society as “Some Account of the Island of Tristan cla Cunha and of its Natural Productions”.  It offers us a unique perspective on what this island was like almost 200 years ago before rats, mice, cats (now absent), dogs, livestock, and people arrived on the most remote inhabited island in the world.


“Further on, the ground becomes more firm, but is perforated in all directions by the various species of Petrel, which resort in myriads to the island during the season of incubation, and burrow in the earth”


Here, Carmichael is referring to the habit of many seabirds to nest in burrows underground.  These are chiefly petrels and shearwaters, which abound on other islands in the Tristan group, like Nightingale, Inaccessible, and Gough.  But today, there are scant few burrowing petrels, and those that remain are on steep cliffs, offshore sea stacks, or suffer low reproductive success and survival thanks to the rats and mice.


“As we walked down the mountain on our return, we passed among flocks of albatrosses engaged in the process of incubation, or tending their young. There are four species of them that breed on the island, none of which hatches m0re than one egg at a time ; the Diomedea spadicea, exulans, chlororynchos, and fuliginosa


In modern parlance (and with the benefit of a better understanding of albatross plumage changes and taxonomy), these are three species: D. exulans and D. spadicea are Tristan Albatross (D. dabbenena, male and female respectively), D. chlororhynchos is the Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross (Thalassarche chlororhynchos) that I’ve written about before, and the last is now Phoebetria fusca, the Sooty Albatross.  There are few places now where the albatross could be said to form flocks, and Tristan Albatross has been extirpated from the island entirely.  Sooty Albatross breed on steep cliffs, and the density of Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross nests is surely lower than that even 40 years ago.


Just last week, we went with staff from the Tristan Conservation Department to the Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross study colony at the top of Hottentot Gulch, about 800m above the settlement.  After a 3-hour climb, we found ourselves at the edge of this “colony”.  About 10 person-hours later, we had found a grand total of 30 nests, and covered an area I would estimate to be around 30 hectares.  Clearly many fewer than in Carmichael’s time.


This is to say nothing of the landbirds.  There is one native landbird remaining, the Tristan Thrush (Nesocichla eremita).  A finch (or more properly, a tanager), and moorhen (Gallinula nesiotis) are gone, and the Gough Moorhen (Gallinula cormeri) was introduced in the 1950s, but exists mainly above the settlement plain.  The result is that around town, the sounds of birds singing, calling, courting, and otherwise announcing their presence is absent.


So how did this come to be?


Like many other remote islands, there is a history of harvesting birds on Tristan, though today this is no longer permitted on the main island (there is a small subsistence harvest of shearwater chicks on Nightingale).  Cats on South Africa’s Marion Island consumed more than 400,000 birds a year when they were present (from the early 1950s until officially eradicated in the early 1990s); cats were present on Tristan for much longer (early 1800s through the 1970s), and likely exacted a massive toll on the breeding seabirds.


But disentangling the role harvesting played from the catastrophic effects of introduced predators is practically impossible.  Regardless of their relative importance, the result is the same – when we’re out hiking and we see a slope, a hill, a cliff, a plain and think “there MUST be birds there!” we are nearly always wrong.


What we do know, though, is that the conservation ethic on the island is as high as it has ever been, and the folks we work with in the Conservation Department are dedicated, resourceful, and fantastic to work with.  With about 3 weeks left for me on Tristan, I’m already looking forward to coming back.

Tristan Adventure 3: Mice predation causes devastating Tristan Albatross breeding success

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The third installment of my Tristan Adventure series is over at the RSPB Saving Species blog:


“One of the most important tasks during takeover is the Tristan Albatross (Diomedea dabbenena) chick count. These wanderer-type albatrosses breed only on Gough (with one pair on Inaccessible Island; they were extirpated from Tristan over 100 years ago) where mice – yes, mice! – are the main predator of their chicks. You might be wondering how a 25 g mouse can take down a 9 kg albatross chick, but I can assure you that a) it does happen, and b) it’s a big problem.”


Read the rest over at RSPB’s Saving Species.

Tristan Adventure 2: why am I here?

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Why, one might ask, would a Canadian scientist working in the UK travel via South Africa to the most remote inhabited island in the world? The answer involves 19th-century British garrisons, fishing boats in Brazil and Namibia, Napoleon, a helicopter, and my mad Photoshop skillz.

Tristan da Cunha comprises 4 main and 2 smaller islands.  There’s the main island of Tristan da Cunha, which includes the 2060 m high Queen Mary’s Peak, and is 96 km2.  About 40 km south are two other islands: Nightingale (4 km2) with its associated Alex (or Middle) and Stoltenhoff Islands, and the aptly-named Inaccessible Island (14 km2).  Gough, the last island, is 350 km to the south, and the second largest (65 km2).  And to paraphrase the classic movie, of all the islands in all the oceans in the world, the Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross (Thalassarche chlororhynchos) had to nest on these four. And only these four.

And, all else being equal, the Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross would continue its albatrossy existence, doing what albatross do (fly, dance, breed, and repeat for 30, 40, 60, or even 70 years).  But all else is not equal.

The first problem, if you are an Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross, is that you are large and delicious.  Tristan had no indigenous population, and the community here today traces its origins back to only 1817 when William Glass and his family remained behind when the British garrison stationed to (somehow) prevent the liberation of Napoleon from “nearby” St. Helena (which is actually more than 2000 km away, but the closest habitation to Tristan).  On islands that were in all respects wild and rugged, the Tristanians had to adapt to the local conditions for survival, and that included harvesting the seals and seabirds that used the island.  Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross were a delicacy, and the eggs (measuring XX x XX mm), as well as chicks laden with fat (weighing > 2 kg each) were harvested right up through the 1950s.

In the 1950s, up to 2500 eggs were taken each year on Nightingale, with a further 1700-2000 chicks harvested later in the season (a collecting permit, incidentally, cost 1 shilling).  In fact, most of the seabirds on Tristan were exploited in some way or another.  Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross are now protected under the Conservation Ordinance of 2006, and what limited poaching used to exist has all but fizzled out.

The second problem, if you were an Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross, is that somewhere along the line, black rats were introduced to Tristan.  The current best guess is that they arrived on a shipwreck in 1882.  Rats love to eat, and when they produce 3-5 litters of 5-8 pups/litter it doesn’t take long to go through a fair number of birds. Petrels, close relatives to albatross that usually nest in burrows in the ground, are generally harder hit than albatross, which nest on the surface on pedestal nests, but the rats undoubtedly took their toll.

The third problem, if you were an Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross, is that longline fisheries, particularly those in Brazil and Namibian waters, tend to catch a lot of Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross.  In Brazil, 0.011 birds are caught for every 1000 hooks set (and when there are hundreds of thousands or millions of hooks set, you can see the numbers add up quickly).  They’re also the most common bycatch species in pelagic longlining and trawl operations in Namibia.

So in the face of these former (in the case of harvesting) and current (rats, bycatch) threats, the natural question is “Well, how many are there, and is that changing?”.  As I write this in early September 2014, I can let you in on some inside knowledge: we honestly haven’t a clue.

In the early 1970s, a chap named Richardson was on Tristan and its other islands, and came up with what were then the best estimates of the population of most of the breeding seabirds, including the Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross.  Since then, there was some work done on Gough about 10 years ago, a count on Nightingale in 2007, and a guess at the population breeding on Inaccessible in the early 1980s.  But the main island of Tristan remained uncounted since 1974.  Back then, the estimate was 16,000-30,000 pairs, making it the largest breeding colony for the species.

There are about 5300 pairs at Gough, 4000 at Nightingale (with another couple hundred pairs on Alex and Stoltenhoff), and 1100 pairs on Inaccessible.  Even together, they don’t eclipse the estimate from Tristan.  But that estimate is horribly out of date, and a lot has changed since 1974[citation needed].

Which brings me to the purpose of my visit: figuring out just how may Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatrosses there are.  Now, this is much easier said than done, but thanks to our project partners at the Tristan Conservation Department and with the logistical support of the South African National Antarctic Program and Department of Environmental Affairs with the helicopters of the research ship S.A. Agulhas II, a couple hundred photos, a pile of computer memory, and the aforementioned Photoshop “mad skillz” we’ll photograph the entire island in about 3 hours from 100-200m above ground.  You can actually see albatrosses on their nests since their white backs stand out against the brown, green, and otherwise dark ground.  Stitch ‘em together and what have you got? Bippity boppity boo A massive image file where we can count the nest.

But it’s not that “easy”.  The photos will undoubtedly miss some nests, so will be supplemented with a healthy dose of groundtruthing where we hike up, count the nests in a set area, and compare this to the photo count to come up with a correction factor based on nesting habitat and other features that impede detecting the nests from the helicopter.

So what, some might be asking.  Without a good idea of how many there are, we don’t know the toll that bycatch is playing on populations.  Taking the same number of birds a year has different consequences for a species with 10,000 breeding pairs than for one with 100,000 pairs.  In fact, the lack of a current population estimate was identified by the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels, an international agreement between several nations (including the UK, and therefore Tristan da Cunha, as well as Brazil) aimed at reducing seabird bycatch (, as a significant gap.  So much of a gap that they actually provided some of our funding for the current expedition.

So that, in a nutshell, is why I’m here.  Along the way, I’ll also be working with the Conservation Department looking at their current albatross monitoring program, we’ll count some penguins, trap a bunch of rats to look at their diet and distribution, and continue the work to better understand the poorly-known burrowing petrels of Tristan.

But next week, I’ll be off to Gough on the SA Agulhas II to get to know the island, hopefully do a similar Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross count there, and contribute to the science underpinning the hopeful eradication of introduced house mice from the island.  I won’t be back on Tristan until early October, and will likely have the next instalment of Tristan Adventure then.

Tristan adventure 1: journey & arrival

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Tristan Adventure 1: Journey and arrival

Hello outside world! I’m safely ensconced in Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, the capital (and only settlement) of Tristan da Cunha. For those just joining us, this trip to the most remote inhabited island in the world (some 2100 km south of St. Helena (which is, itself, not close to much else other than similarly remote Atlantic Islands), and a full 2800 km west of Cape Town, South Africa) is one of the perks of my job working at the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science.  I’m down here to do the first census of Endangered Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross (Thalassarche chlororhynchos) on the main island of Tristan, and to work with the Tristan Conservation Department until the end of November. So, needless to say (and at long last!), the next few months I’ll be living up to the “field” portion of this blog’s moniker more than in the past.

A joyful journey to Heathrow along the M1 and M25 (known as one of the largest carparks in England!), a 3-hour flight delay, 9 hours, and one barely passable airplane meal later, I awoke to the trickle of light coming through the shade of the British Airways 747.  Peeking through the blind so as not to wake my fellow cattle passengers, my first sight of Africa was the red sands of the Kalahari Desert and the Skeleton Coast of Namibia.

About 90 minutes later, we arrived in Cape Town on a spectacular day with Table Mountain in excellent form.  A colleague picked me up at the airport and dropped me off at my accommodation in the City Bowl.  The weekend was spent getting orientated, and seeing another friend who works on large mammal ecology and conservation in Southern Africa.  We journeyed around the Cape Peninsula, taking in the fantastic mammals – eland, bontebok, Cape mountain zebra, rock hyraxes (known locally as “dassies”), and a troupe of baboons while he explained the many and varied conservation, human-wildlife conflict, and management issues he and his students were working on.  And what better way to end the day than discussing lion trophic ecology over grilled ostrich on the Waterfront?

I spent two more days running around acquiring sundry and miscellaneous field equipment at the various (and interesting!) specialty shops of Cape Town before arriving at the offices of Ovenstone Agencies (Pty.) Ltd. in Green Point.  Ovenstone operates the fishery for Tristan rock lobster (Jasus tristani), and two ships – the MFV Edinburgh, a passenger, cargo and factory fishing boat, and the MV Baltic Trader, a passenger/cargo vessel.  I went out on the Edinburgh with 8 other passengers, including a dentist making her 4th trip to the island (and 3rd with her now 4-year-old daughter), the manager of the lobster factory on Tristan and one of the supervisors from Cape Town (originally fro Bulgaria), and 4 Tristanians, including a 7-week-old on his first journey after being born in Cape Town in June.

After 2 days, we were into steady northwest winds, and very lumpy seas.  The saving grace of this voyage was I had the luxury of being seasick in the sink in the privacy of my own cabin.  Now, I’ve been on ocean-going vessels in eastern Canada, the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, and off Australia, and never – never! – have I had such a case of mal-de-mer.  Thankfully, by day 6, the winds had shifted around to the southwest and were from behind.  This afforded several days of small luxuries, like being able to eat more than bread, water, and an apple in the run of a day.

But the northwesterlies had slowed us down, and our 7-day passage turned into 8, 9, 10 days.  On the following Friday (i..e, 10 days after we left Cape Town), we pulled into the lee on the southeastern coast of Tristan da Cunha, the engines stopped, and a wave of excitement permeated the passengers in the mess as we chowed down on oxtail stew.  The only problem was that the settlement, and “harbour” were on the northwestern side (as in, on the exact opposite side of the island from which we current found ourselves at anchor).  The winds were too strong, the swells too great, and the boats that were to fetch us unable to leave the harbour.  But a pleasant day was had by all watching early 1990s British mysteries on DVD, and I spent some time getting some old data in order (after a week of not being able to look at my computer screen without inducing emesis, it was actually quite enjoyable!).

Saturday morning came, and the engines started up.  We rushed up to grab a quick breakfast in anticipation of being ashore for lunch.  But it was not to be.  After a quick peek, the seas were still too rough.  Back to the anchor, and Helen Mirren solving murders in 1980s London.  But, in mid-afternoon, things looked promising, we steamed north, and next thing we knew, the Tristan Conservation boat Arctic Tern was alongside, the Tristan flag flapping stiffly in the wind.  We rushed back to our cabins, suited up for departure, grabbed our cabin baggage (stowed baggage and cargo would have to be landed when it was calmer still), and made our way to the deck.  The police boat had been craned up next to the Edinburgh, we hopped in – 9 passengers, 3 dogs, and bits of kit, and made for the harbour.  In a blink it was all over, and we were bailing out onto the jetty, passing gear up the stairs, and shedding our waterproofs and PFDs.

Of all the beach landings I’ve done on islands in Alaska, Newfoundland, and Australia, this was one of the fastest (thanks to the two 120 hp motors), and consequently most frantic.  Literally within 15 minutes, I went from waiting on the Edinburgh to standing on Tristan da Cunha.

But now, I’m dry (aside from the near 100% ambient humidity), warm(ish, it is winter south of the equator, after all), and I’ve had lovely fish pie, date pudding, and cheese sandwiches.  The island store opened again on Monday and after a visit to the Finance Department (which acts as the island bank – it’s cash only on Tristan), I was supplied for the next few days.  Monday was also when the cargo from the ship, including food, fuel, supplies for the store, and the passenger baggage came ashore.  Two barges go out from the harbour to the ship, anchored about 400m offshore, and the goods are craned from the ship onto the barges, which then chug back to the harbour where the harbour crane reverses the process.  When the ship is unloading, most other work on the island stops (particularly that involving able-bodied men), but that enabled me to take care of some running around (see Clarence, the island’s only police officer, to get my passport stamped and say hello, thank Dawn for arranging our accommodation and learn that one must dial 89 and then an outside number, and stop by the admin building to chat finances).  I can also happily report that the bread maker produced an excellent loaf of whole wheat on my first attempt.  I’ve got less than three months to perfect it.

Science-wise, I haven’t even started yet, and we won’t start gathering data until the S.A. Agulhas II takes us 220 miles south to Gough Island in about two weeks.  It took more than 2 weeks to get from my front door to my field accommodation (which, incidentally, is spectacular), but I’ve seen some incredible wildlife (including my first albatross since 2010, and my first wild penguins!), thought a lot about science, scientific expeditions (including the trials and tribulations, particularly those in the days of olde), made some friends, and can heartily recommend the grilled springbok paired with a Western Cape merelot at a little place on a side street in Cape Town near the cable car to Table Mountain.


A journey to Tristan da Cunha

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Starting this Friday, I’ll begin my journey to the most remote inhabited island in the world – the UK Overseas Territory of Tristan da Cunha.  I’m headed there as part of a project funded by the Darwin Initiative, and the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) to do the first quantitative survey of the endemic Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross (Thalassarche chlororhynchos) on the main island of Tristan, and to update counts from Gough Island (400 km to the south).

About half of the world’s population of “Mollys” breeds on Tristan, and the only estimate is “16,000-30,000″ from 1972-74, and is based largely on expert opinion.  Tristan has introduced mice and rats that can actual eat albatross chicks alive.  Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross are also frequently killed in fisheries as bycatch.  So you can imagine that not having a reliable population estimate of the (possibly) largest breeding population for more than 40 years is a bit of a conservation gap.

We’ll be working with the Tristan Conservation Department, the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, and the South African Department of Environmental Affairs to count them.  Working from the S.A. Agulhas II, we’ll do helicopter flights to photograph the birds as they sit on their nests early in incubation (the albatross are large, white birds and show up against the brown/green vegetation).  But that’s the easy part.  When the Agulhas II departs, we’ll have 2 months of hiking around the slopes of Queen Mary’s Peak to ground-truth our aerial counts.

The only way to reach Tristan is by ship – between 5-7 days’ steaming from Cape Town, South Africa.  Consequently, there aren’t that many opportunities to get there.  Or get back, for that matter.  So for the (northern) autumn, The Lab and Field will be on a bit of a hiatus.  I’m hoping, though, to find time to post a few updates from the field, and hopefully some photos (Tristan does have satellite internet, but it’s been known to go down for several days at a time).  You can also follow along on Twitter with the #TdCadventure hashtag.

So until December, here’s to fair winds and following seas!

“Old” meets “New”: the role of preprints in natural history

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The title of this post is a little tongue-in-cheek because preprints are a relatively recent adoption in ecology, conservation, and environmental science, and natural history is, of course, the foundation of ecology, conservation, and environmental science.  Regardless, though, I think preprints have a huge role to play in natural history.

Preprints are non-peer-reviewed documents that are posted in online repositories where others can comment on them, authors can upload revised versions, and most importantly, get information out.  Preprints are often submitted to journals, and their ultimate version usually contains the same text as the journal article.  Importantly, the preprint is archived, is citable (with a DOI), and gets the information into the world and out of our filing drawers (or more likely, computer folders and field books). The case for preprints in biology is fairly strong, and I’ll add one more: natural history and conservation.

Natural history, I’ve argued (as have many, many, many, many, many others) is an important part of modern science. Sadly, not everyone agrees (but this is my blog, and they’re wrong). But there are still journals that value (and are dedicated to!) natural history, and rightly so.  But even putting together a “natural history paper” isn’t trivial. There are still hypotheses, observations, analyses, and interpretation.

Now, maybe it’s a particular proclivity of ornithologists, but we tend to write a heck of a lot of reports – to government agencies, for permits, and to funders.  These often have some preliminary analyses, lots of methodological detail and background, and in the case of most of my field studies, heaps of “ancillary information”.

During my PhD, my primary field site was Kiska Island, a lovely volcanic island in the Rat Islands group of the Aleutian Islands, Alaska.  It’s a fantastic spot, and cumulatively over the four years, I spent nearly 300 days there (probably the 2nd largest amount of time of anyone alive right now).  Each year, we filed a summary report with the US Fish and Wildlife Service that detailed the effects of introduced rats on Least and Crested Auklets.  But we also did much more than that.  In particular, we (and the other 3-6 ornithological research camps in the Aleutians each summer) compiled an annotate list of bird sightings.

“Hey!” I hear you exclaiming, “That’s some pretty awesome natural history data form a neat part of the world! When will you write it up?”.  Sadly, the answer is not anytime soon.  This makes me sad, but my current job doesn’t allow for Natural History Fridays.  What if you were interested in the distribution and effect of introduced predators on Aleutian Cackling Geese? Or were examining range-wide variation in Glaucous-winged Gull egg size?  You would have no way of knowing that I collected useful data because it’s in an unpublished government report (or other “grey literature”), and doesn’t merit a paper or note on its own.

If I had deposited my annual reports in a preprint repository like PeerJ PrePrints, or bioRxiv, not only would these data be out there, but others could cite my report/preprint.  Furthermore, the publicly available copy wouldn’t just be the one on my old lab’s webpage, but it would be available after I’m long gone, and since it would have a DOI, it would be easy to find.

Tracking down grey literature is a royal pain.  Reports are rare, are often poor black-and-white reproductions, and usually hard to find in the first place.  Citations of grey literature also tend to be more prone to errors, which exacerbates the whole process of finding them.  And, I think most importantly, the information they contain doesn’t always make it into a paper.  All solved if they were deposited on a preprint server.

We are, after all, already producing these reports, and more importantly, they’re already cited frequently, and data appearing in these reports is also in published papers.  So the reality is that nothing would really change, except that the information would be more widely available, better curated, and citable.  I don’t see a downside.

So if you are, in fact, interested in the distribution and effect of introduced predators on Aleutian Cackling Geese, or variation in Glaucous-winged Gull egg size, you will hopefully soon be able to add my wee bits of data to your analysis.  When my various colleagued return from the field, I’ll convince them that we need to deposit our annual reports in a preprint archive.  In the meantime, you can see them on the “Downloadable reports” section of the Kiska webpage.