Julia Fine was all set for the next chapter. She’d packed her bags and moved out of her apartment, and was days away from making the drive from Pennsylvania to Utah, where she planned to start work as a postdoctoral scholar with the Agricultural Research Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research agency.
“I had made all the plans,” said Fine, a bee researcher who recently completed her doctorate in entomology at Pennsylvania State University. “I was supposed to start as soon as possible.”
But on Jan. 23, just three days after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the 28-year-old researcher got a perturbing phone call. The president had ordered a
“I was told that my position was frozen for an indefinite amount of time,” Fine said.
A USDA spokesperson told The Huffington Post the agency could not comment on how the freeze might affect individual researchers. When pressed on how the order had affected employees at the USDA, the spokesperson sent
Much is still unknown about the hiring freeze and how it will affect federal agencies. It has
Organosilicone surfactants are “inert” chemicals, meaning they’re used in agriculture and elsewhere to enhance the efficacy of active ingredients, Fine explained. “You’ve probably heard a lot about the
For their study, Fine and her colleagues fed organosilicone surfactants to honeybee larvae while simultaneously exposing them to viruses found in nearly all hives. They found that when the larvae were exposed to both the chemical and the viruses together, they died at a higher rate than the bees exposed to either the viruses or the chemical alone.
Exactly what is causing mass die-offs ― not just of honeybees, but of other native bee species as well, such as the
Fine said her research could be extremely consequential for both bee health and agriculture, since farmers rely on bees as pollinators.
“We are very close to being able to make sound recommendations to growers that will prevent the effects we observed in the laboratory from occurring in the field,” she said. “This research could help increase food security.”
“So many crops that we depend upon require insect pollination,” she went on. “This is not basic research ― it’s very applied research. It’ll have impacts on the economy and on our access to food.”
But Fine still has to conduct more research before she can make recommendations, which she was planning to do through the USDA postdoc.
Specifically, she said the precise amount of organosilicone surfactants in the environment still has be measured to understand just how much of it honeybees are being exposed to.
“We also need to examine their effects in other species, including other pollinators,” Fine said. “We know that native pollinators can also be affected by honeybee viruses, and are also likely to be exposed to organosilicone surfactants. Because of the declines in native species like the rusty-patched bumblebee, we need to consider that these chemicals may also affect them.”
With no other plans and her travel already set up, Fine decided to make the drive to Utah anyway, despite not knowing what would happen when she got there. She arrived last week and has been looking into other possible sources of funding for her research, while hoping that Trump lifts the hiring freeze.
“I’m still in limbo,” she told HuffPost, speaking on the phone from a friend’s home in Utah, where she’s living for now. Most of her belongings are still in storage, and her research is on indefinite hold.
A ‘War On Scientists’
Trump’s first two weeks in office have been tough for the country’s scientists.
Like the federal hiring freeze, Trump’s executive order restricting travel from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days has
A number of researchers have told HuffPost they are considering
Several prominent universities and colleges have
“I fear we’re going to see a war on scientists inside the government,” Norman Ornstein, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said last week at an American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting.
The ‘First Anti-Science President’
Following Trump’s win in November, the Science Advisory Board, an international community of scientific and medical experts, conducted a
Trump is a vocal climate change denier, and many of his Cabinet choices have been lambasted as “anti-science.” Scott Pruitt, Trump’s nominee to head the EPA, has
Jeff Ruch, executive director of the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, told The Hill last week that scientists are bracing for more clashes with the federal government going forward.
“We asked some environmental employees and one said, ‘
Dominique Mosbergen is a reporter at The Huffington Post covering climate change, extreme weather, conservation and extinction. Send tips or feedback to dominique.mosbergen@
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