Monday, December 1, 2008

Green Lecture Series: Ron Popowski '91 speaks on saving endangered species

Ron Popowski ’91, came back to his alma mater recently to talk about his successful career working with wildlife. Popowski, a biologist, is currently working at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in New Jersey after a long list of various experiences all over the nation. The list begins with him volunteering locally as a high school and college student. He then found himself in Utah as a wildlife biologist under the U.S. Forest Service in an intermountain research station. Popowski also worked with animals in Arizona, Colorado, California, New York, and Florida. Working with animals may not exactly sound appealing, but it is the kind of animals he works with that makes his job exciting. What kind of animals you ask?

Endangered animals. Popowski shared his passion for endangered species with the student body of Gallaudet. In his talk here at our university, Popowski explained how saving an endangered species can take a long time because it takes a while to get a particular species on the endangered species list. Getting a species on the endangered species list can take years. For some species, it is too long of a period and they go extinct. Politics are, unfortunately, such a big part of this process. In order to get a species on the list, wildlife biologists like Popowski first have to do extensive laboratory research including recording habitat needs to counting or predicting how many organisms there are actually left to create something they call “a plan.” A plan is information put together to design a plan for the species for its road to recovery, which is what Popowski does as a biologist- he goes out and studies species then creates plans for such species. After this is done, this plan is brought to a special committee in the Congress, which usually after some time will put the species on the threatened species list. This list does not really mean anything, just the fact that the species will be monitored but no money will be granted to protect the species. Then after some time and money is circulated, the species probably will finally be put on the endangered list. By this time, it is often too late to make a complete recovery for this particular species.

So, why invest so much time and money for so little success? Popowski does not have a straightforward answer but says it is how the system works. However, he does explain another new and interesting alternative. All U.S. national parks should be used more for conservation and left alone. By being protected, the animals and plants that thrive in the park will be safe. He is proposing that a way to protect endangered species is to actually buy land. By buying land and turning it into private or public park space, the animals residing there can remain safe. Often biologists will be asked to come into those areas for possible recovery efforts. It takes a lot of heart to put in so much effort to protect endangered species. But this is what Popowski does, and you bet he loves every minute of it!

by Rachel Benedict

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