Evolution has been running backward ever since hunters replaced predators in the natural order.
Hunters kill the young, the strong, the beautiful. Real predators kill the young and stupid, the old and weak. Hunters weaken every species they go for. Predators strengthen them.
The key to getting evolution going forward, then, is to find a place for natural predation in our remaining wild places.
One place where they are studying this is Texas A&M University in Kingsville. Prof. Mike Tewes uses the famous King Ranch as part of his living laboratory on feline ecology, specifically ocelots and jaguares, the latter being housecat-sized animals native to Mexico.
As we learn what natural predators need, we can learn to accommodate them. Then they and their prey will do the rest, adapting to the other changes man makes in the climate, maintaining biodiversity, moving evolution forward instead of backward.
It's important work. It's not especially technology intensive, unless you consider radio collars to be high-tech. Dr. Tewes could probably use some of the networked motes Intel has been working with, but I don't know if he is interested.
Point is this work is vital, and I will be out of touch part of next month making a contribution to it.
The contribution is named Robin (above). She turned 21 this year. She is my daughter. And I am very proud of her.
Ever since she was a little kid Robin has said her goal was to "work with wild cats, in the wild or in zoos." She has recited it the last decade almost as a mantra. And next month she begins that work, starting as an undergraduate, then (hopefully) joining formally as a a graduate student under Dr. Tewes.
This is a small, personal, fairly non-technical story. Why bother the smart readers of SmartPlanet with it?
Because environmental studies are vital to our future on this planet. We will need many programs like that of Dr. Tewes if we're to learn what we need to know in order to get evolution moving forward again. It is the work of many lifetimes, work well worth doing.
And if someday you have a son or daughter who chooses to engage in it, you will find your life has taken on a much greater meaning.
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com