Endangered Species: an explainer

Endangered Species: an explainer


Hey everyone did you know that the Field Museum and The Brain Scoop are nonprofit and now we have super exciting news! You can support our program directly by donating to one of the cards in this video. All of the donations are completely anonymous and every single dollar goes exclusively to supporting our programming. We appreciate whatever you can give and thanks so much for helping to make this happen. And now to our video! May 20th is endangered-species day! But, what’s an endangered species anyway? For starters all of the specimens you see around me are just a fraction of the species currently recognized as threatened, endangered, or even extinct by the Endangered Species Act. The United States Endangered Species Act, the ESA, was signed on December 28 1973. It provides for the conservation of species that are endangered or threatened throughout all or a significant portion of their range and the conservation of the ecosystems on which they depend. It’s unlike any other conservation plan in the world and since its implementation the ESA has celebrated success stories including that of the popular peregrine falcon and those of lesser known species like the Alpine flower Robbins Cinquefoil. The first few lines of the ESA state the Congress finds and declares the various species of fish, wildlife, and plants in the United States have been rendered extinct as a consequence of economic growth and development untempered by adequate concern and conservation, YIKES! That’s basically Congress saying, look guys because of our eagerness to build and expand without consideration to our collective word “we” as in people are having a huge and negative impact on lots of other organisms and that’s not fair. Essentially the Act aims to do three things prevent listed species from being killed or harmed, protect habitats essential to the species survival, and create plans to restore healthy populations. Today there are approximately two thousand two hundred and forty five species currently listed by the ESA six hundred and fifty of these live outside of the US or are in foreign waters you don’t have to live inside the U.S. specifically in order to receive protections the species recognized by the ESA are classified into one of a few groups: threatened, endangered, and candidates up for listing in either category. Endangered species are those which are an eminent threat of extinction, while threatened species are those which are at risk of becoming endangered. How does a species gain endangered status? A species achieves recognition as a potential candidate for listing in one of a few ways the first is that a private citizen group or organization petitions for a species to be considered for listing by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. If you have enough information documentation and motivation you too can put forth a petition to list a species you’re concerned about. With substantial evidence in support of your claim the Fish and Wildlife Service may determine listing for the species could be warranted. The second way is through a candidate assessment by FWS biologists. This is a long process of assessment, reassessment, monitoring, and reporting on a species of concern as they attempt to prioritize those organisms which are most heavily threatened. Unfortunately, this can take a significant amount of time at a minimum it might take 18 months between a proposal submission and the listing of that species and that’s just the listing implementation of protection programs takes even longer. Similarly there’s no limit on how long a species sits in candidate limbo so it’s not unusual for a lower priority organism to be an eligible candidate for years like more than 20 years. The Warm Spring Zaitzevian Riffle Beetle is one of a handful of insects that went up every few years between 1984 and 2002. It’s a water beetle for Montana found in a habitat smaller than the size of your average studio apartment. Through a series of unfortunate events a cement water collection box was built around much of their habitat in the early 1900s by the 1970s someone put a solid metal lid on the box choking out light which prevented algae their main food source from growing. At that point they were nominated to become candidates up for protection by the ESA but they weren’t quite a top priority. Species which are at a higher risk for extinction race to the top of the priority list and each candidate species is assigned a recovery priority from 1 to 18. 18 being the lowest priority. Priority level is assigned according to things like the degree of threats, uniqueness of its taxonomy, and the recovery potential and although the Zaitzevian Riffle beetle never quite made it to priority number one action was taken to restore their stream ecosystem and their population numbers even without legal protection but as one species moves off the candidate list others move on the most recent report of species awaiting their review listed 59 different ones including the bivalve quad Rula patrina commonly known as the Texas pimple back which brings me to my next point. What sort of species are covered by the ESA? Out of the 2,245 species listed more than half of those 1,354 are animals 901 are plants there are 280 invertebrates and 90 of those 280 invertebrates alone are clams. Invertebrates comprise 21% of all listed animals you might think there would be more invertebrates simply because their biodiversity dwarfs of vertebrates so from the outside it appears to be a trend toward listing the more charismatic organisms. Take a group like the millipede despite their ecological importance there are no millipedes recognized as threatened or endangered that’s not to say millipede habitats or populations aren’t threatened only that perhaps there isn’t enough information on a species nor enough millipede advocates in the world to go ahead and petition for their candidacy, but arguably if you listed a few species of millipedes that would also preserve their habitats in turn offering protection for other organisms. Understanding this conservation groups have likely had more success protecting those less adorable organisms by instead seeking out support for the better studied charismatic creatures. Believe me I have tried to get I stand with unionid bivalves off of the ground and it has not been easy regardless if the ESA is a popularity contest in favor of the furry and feathery is it considered a good thing to be listed as an endangered or threatened species? Well it’s difficult to say in many ways yes listing a species suggest that enough research has been done to confirm that it is in need of government protection. This can be seen as a step in the right direction for the future of that species and for that ecosystem on which it depends but listing a species also has the tendency to make it more difficult to study or to study species which live in the same habitats as those which are protected. Acknowledging this one of the major goals of the ESA is to prompt enough support for an organism that change can occur before that species even requires governmental protection. This is because once an organism is listed as endangered or threatened certain measures have to be undertaken to ensure its safety. This includes everything from purchasing or securing land where that organism occurs to enforcing strict regulations about any activities recreational or developmental that might affect the species habitat. The case of the greater sage-grouse is a great example of various groups deciding to be proactive about a species protection these birds are completely reliant on low brush sage habitats across Wyoming in the Northern Plains which also happens to be rich farm and ranch land in an area ripe for development. Population numbers have been declining in recent years but to list the bird means to restrict any encroachment on its territory. That’s not considered a sustainable approach even by environmentalists instead environmental agencies worked with private landowners and energy producers to figure out a way to work alongside the greater sage-grouse. This required finding a solution that would leave the sage-grouse is vital habitat intact and still allow for natural gas drilling operations and responsible development of the land to take place and by creating sustainable plans to coexist alongside the greater sage-grouse some 350 other species which live within its habitat are also enjoying the benefits of a responsibly managed ecosystem. The Endangered Species Act is not perfect but perhaps one of the greatest things that has done for species in their environments is to make us accountable for how we interact with the world it has helped us to see that our cities and developments do not have borders separating us from nature but that fragile natural ecosystem still exists all around us and in some cases despite of us. It’s worth recognizing this as a reality and to take ownership in whatever way we can whether that’s by volunteering to monitor a local habitat learning more about endangered or threatened species in your area or by creating an obscure hashtag to promote undervalued flora and fauna every bit of effort counts. The brain scoop is made possible by the Field Museum and the Harris family
Foundation …It still has brains on it

96 thoughts on “Endangered Species: an explainer

  1. It's interesting, I actually thought about extinction priorities only yesterday.
    I'll hopefully be dabbling in beekeeping soon, so I thought: I wonder if the benefits of the endangered or threatened animals are being looked upon, at all. They must be. Emily? 🙂

    I realize my question is inadequate, so heeere's an example: Could you pitch, for example Honey Bees and Panda Bears against each other, and who would be more important for humans, and/or Earth?

  2. On the other end of the spectrum, will you be talking about invasive species and the measures taken to reduce their effects on environments? I ask this because here in Kansas and neighboring Missouri, we have a big problem with the zebra mussel infesting our waterways and due to the disruption caused to the food supply are choking off the native species in the areas they take over. Same could be said of Kudzu in the southeast U.S.

  3. You should start a social media thing asking people to share an endangered species to raise awareness. I am going to do it, but if you do it on your facebook, twitter and tumblr you'll have a bigger impact. Thanks for the video.

  4. black bears of florida. and our cougars. we had to start cross breeding them with a northern mountain lion just to try and save them. there's no way you'd find a 'pure' Florida cougar. from what our FWC says.

  5. there is no card in the video yet? i really hope Brainscoop set up patreon pages. it works well for other education channel. btw CURSE YOU PANDA!! the single overly funded species (for conservation) that did nothing good to ecosystem

  6. I love brain scoop videos so much. It seems like the ESA can now be used as a bargaining chip for ecologists. They can talk to land managers and be like "neither of us want this ecosystem completely shut down for research or development. Let's work together to be responsible here." If developers refuse to come to the table, than the ESA can be revoked. It's nice to have that trump card on the side of science!!

  7. If the cards aren't working for you, you can donate at Network for Good, and designate the donation to The Brain Scoop: https://www.networkforgood.org/donation/MakeDonation.aspx?ORGID2=362167011

  8. I'm happy to donate a bit to the Brain Scoop. But it would be even cooler if you had Brain Scoop merch that supported the channel. Just sayin' 🙂

  9. Holy crap, donating was really easy! Screw this "anonymous" thing….I LOVE THE BRAIN SCOOP ENOUGH TO GIVE THE DOLLARS. (Not many dollars, but some dollars, because I need to be protective of my dollars, but you can have some of my dollars, because you will use my dollars wisely.)

  10. In the end, it's all humans' fault.

    Sometimes I wonder why mother nature created life where one of them (us) could eventually evolve so significantly intelligent over the next closest organism (chimps?).

    Imagine chimps were the most intelligent life on Earth, how peaceful and undisturbed Earth would be?

  11. Is there like, maybe a cool looking fish that shares habitat with the unionid bivalves that we could push for to help the bivalves?

  12. Soon is apparently very afraid of this topic. Or better at hiding than I'm used to. I guess Soon didn't want to risk the possibility that infrequent viewers might not recognize him and think he was a member of an endangered species?

  13. Hi Emily ….. try taking a breath occasionally! Slow down! We native English speakers have trouble keeping up with you which is a shame because you have got so much to say that is really worth hearing.

  14. I live in Florida and we have the Gopher Tortoise here. The tortoise itself is only threatened, but over 350 different species rely on their burrows to survive; especially in the case of a wildfire. They call it a "Keystone Species"

  15. I really liked this one! it was like a nice condensed summary of what we learned in my Conservation Biology class last semester.

    – > Just one thing (though i guess it doesn't matter too much and it would probably be too difficult to change now) the labels that went up at the beginning of the video switched around the Utah prairie dog and the black-footed ferret. The prairie dog is definitely in the front and the BFF is in the back (though I can only see its little feet) =)

  16. Does our part in whether an animal is becoming endangered or extinct come into play? What I mean is if a certain species is dying out due to factors that humans aren't directly responsible for, are measures still taken to help that species out? It's kind of a cold way of looking at things, but maybe for some species it's just their time to go. The Prime Directive in Star Trek comes to mind where they're not supposed to (but most of the time they usually do anyways cough Janeway cough) intervene in other being's affairs even if they're in danger.

    My thoughts on it are that humans have such a huge and profound effect on the environment that it would be very very hard to know for sure, so we may as well save all that we can. But at the same time species have been changing and evolving since the dawn of time and we can't just stop that from happening.

    Do we have a responsibility to let things play out as nature would intend as if we never existed in the first place?

  17. This is one of my favorite videos that @thebrainscoop has made. I'm currently trying to find out the best approach for culling the invasive Cuban Tree Frog in Florida. While I'm not a fan of killing, I'm less a fan of humanity's unintended impact on our local ecosystems. The Cuban Tree Frog has slowly been displacing more than 3 other native frog species and affects native lizard an insect populations as well.

  18. In a world with so much change, the outro of Brain Scoop videos remains comfortingly familiar! 😀

  19. I wish I could advocate for all of Florida's native species. There are so many non-native or exotics that are proliferating here. There are pythons, caiman, (and possibly Nile crocodiles,) in the Everglades. I've seen quaker parakeets, iguanas, cuban anoles, egyptian geese, curly tailed lizards, fire ants, geckos, muscovy ducks, mallards, and brazillian pepper trees and that's just in my neighborhood. I don't know if it's possible to get a handle on the endangered species and save all of them if we can't even stop illegal and legal exotic and non-natives from being loose in environments that they don't belong. I don't even know what animals are FL natives because I rarely see them. The list I wrote is a partial list. It would take many comments to list all the strange and ordinary critters and plants that aren't originally from here but have made it their home nonetheless.

  20. What is the US doing? Hurrying things along by listening to the Koch brothers and letting them do whatever they want.

  21. I'd grown up in Chicago, but I didn't really get enthusiastic about the Field Museum until your video series. I really appreciate that you've raised the visibility of their collection and activities, and will definitely be donating to the museum directly.

  22. I'm trying to talk to people about bivalves but they just CLAM up and I don't want to be SHELLFISH and hog the conversations by MUSSELing my way in. Do you have any PEARLS of wisdom for me?

  23. you know I love the topics but it's a little slow on delivery and feels like an info dump, tho I still love the topics XD

  24. Would love to see a part 2 of this explaining more on how the ESA and other federal laws, such as CITES, help to protect animals and plants by regulating the trade of living specimens or parts from dead ones. The ESA and Cites are incredibly important in ensuring the trade of an endangered species' parts is either prevented completely or regulated to make sure no illegal activities are being preformed to acquire those parts. Not everyone who collect skulls or other animal parts knows about ESA or CITES and its really quite terrible as the first thing someone should do when getting into the collecting hobby is research laws; yet that's usually not the first thought to pop into a new collector's head. Would love to see you cover this topic more to enlighten those who are unaware of how important these laws are in protecting endangered species from unregulated trade in their parts or of living animals.

  25. This show is the reason why I will be stopping at the field museum when I go to chicago this summer! Thank you for sharing such interesting knowledge, and for continuing(sp?) to inspire my curiosity. You guys are great. 🙂

  26. Thanks for mentioning the greater sage grouse resolution. Protection doesn't automatically mean exclusion of all humans. Especially if all folks are working together in advance of the crisis stage.

  27. As a female studying environmental science and biology, I look up to you so much! You and your videos make me feel like even my farthest reaching dreams are possible with the right effort.Thank you for all that you do and for being such an inspiration! 🙂

  28. Wonderful video! Yesterday I taught a room of elementary school kids how to draw an oregon spotted frog, which are listed as vulnerable in my state, and got the class to talk about why they should be protected. I wish I could have shown them this video too!

    Species that I think are overlooked far too often are the native bees and wasps in all areas with a lot of human development. Everybody always talks about honeybees, but I have not once heard someone mention small native bees when I tell them I am interested in studying bees.

  29. Just found your channel, you are so freakin awesome! I love when people are genuinely excited about educating others. I have learned so much from YouTube channels like Braincraft, Vsauce and Vi Hart; and now yours! Very excited! Keep up the great work, your doing a wonderful job!

    -A person newly obsessed with science!!

  30. "In spite of us" or "despite us"! Not "despite of us"! (7:35) Cringed at that. Otherwise, a great and informative video. Keep up the great work.

  31. We spend so much attention on charismatic species like pandas, Tigers, rhinos and so on. Meanwhile less charismatic species like bugs and plants and especially fungi go extinct while their waiting for recognition.

  32. I actually live within an area deemed to be a bird sanctuary! There are a lot of things we aren't allowed to do, including killing birds at all. We also have protected beach areas for sea turtles, and anyone living along the water must have their lights off (water facing) when dark falls. Even the street lamps are shuttered so that the light isn't facing towards the beach! It's actually quite nice to live here, because all of us are responsible for helping the animals here.

  33. I would love to donate, I would love to be able to help the great work that you, the whole brain scoop team, and the Field Museum do. Alas, being a college student, I have no disposable income at the time. All I can give is my moral support, and share your videos with those I know.

  34. We humans should be careful yeah sure but we should not help endangered species. This disrupts nature's course. Survival of the fittest if they can't survive without our help then let them perish.

  35. I want a t-shirt! I missed the Hyena drive because study boooo. Brain Scoop always has the best designed merch… I loved the soon raccoon poster and the hyena t-shirt and stickers are gorgeous. There are a couple of youtube shows whose t-shirts I'd like to buy but they are.. ugly.. and the one who sells pretty things doesn't sell them any more!

  36. I'd like a Field Museum-vlog sometimes where Emily just wanders around script-less looking at cool things and showing us them and being excited and making funny off-the-cuff comments

  37. It is sort of surprising that America of Nixon Era was more aware of environmental impact than the america of today. Also the "WORST" president in US history was one of the few to sign stringent acts like the formation of EPA and clean air act. Nixon legacy has been very misrepresented.

  38. I really can't believe that a channel like this has 300k subs, while new gaming and beauty ones easily reach tens of millions. I was so surprised when I looked at the sub count for the first time in years. Sad.

  39. Humans will eventually be next. We are generally not good at planning for the future and are entirely focused on the here and now.

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