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Permits, Permits, and more Permits!

If you ever look at a scientific story with any vertebrate, you're probably not aware of the amount of work that goes into even preparing for a study on said animal. Endangered animals are a sexy system to work with, and they certainly are newsworthy but it often takes months or years to be able to work on these animals.

Australia is known to be fairly difficult in terms of permits, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Australia is probably one of the best developed countries when it comes to protections of their natural resources. They have made mistakes in the past (i.e., introducing Cane Toads), and Australian legislators and natural resource managers seem determined not to repeat the errors of the past (well, for the most part, aside from current debates to mess with the Great Barrier Reef).

This is something that I am becoming very familiar with. To begin with, I have to get Animal Ethics approval from the university that I'm working with. This ensures that any animals involved in the project are treated humanely. After getting this approval, I must now work on permits to get approval of the State governments to work with the frogs. This means getting a permit for each state (In this case, New South Wales and Victoria), and then if I plan on working within protected areas (i.e., national parks), I need separate permits for those areas. And these permits are specific, everything from what species I'm working, what species could be affected by my research, specific locations of where I'm working, etc. After the research concluded, I'll need export permits from Australia to take tissues out of the country, then import permits from the US Fish and Wildlife to take the tissues into this country.

This can be somewhat frustrating, but it is a necessary frustration. Each permit can take 1-2 months to get approval (assuming there aren't amendments - this can extend the time). Often permits need to be applied for sequentially, so after all is said and done, I'm probably going to be looking at 6+ months of waiting for permits for my research (and I won't be working on endangered species).

So next time you see a sexy news story about a new species being discovered, or being introduced back into the wild, or a conservation program starting with an endangered species, think about how much time was put into that story that didn't directly involve the animal themselves. It is am impressive effort that researchers go through to do this research!

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