Data Quality Whistleblower Fired
by Guest Blogger, 7/25/2004
A Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) biologist has been fired after filing a data quality challenge that accused the agency of using flawed science in approving development projects in Florida panther habitat. The biologist, Andrew Eller, received a letter dismissing him after 30 days, for reasons of engaging in "unprofessional" exchanges with the public and completing projects late. Eller claims that the dismissal amounts to retaliation for his work to protect the panther habitat from development, including his data quality challenge. Under the Endangered Species Act developers and government agencies must consult with FWS before initiating work that would affect panther habitat. Eller filed a data quality request along with the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) challenging the data FWS used in defining panther habitat. They charged that the agency used daytime-use habitat rankings to define the overall habitat and that such data would be incorrect because the panther is most active at night. The challenge asserted that using the more accurate nighttime data could vastly change the extent of panther habitat. Additionally, the petitioners charge that incorrect survival rates and telemetry data are used. An outside expert panel reported similar flaws in a report last year. A spokesman for the agency asserts that Eller's dismissal is based solely on his performance -- he was suspended three times in the past. Eller says he has been "at odds with management for two years now on panther science," and admitted that one suspension was warranted -- he used inappropriate language with a consultant. However, he claims that any overdue projects were due to understaffing of his office.