Park service accused of manipulating data

March 28, 2012 8:52:24 PM PDT
There are new allegations of scientific misconduct by the National Park Service at the Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin County. Did the park service manipulate data to make a local oyster farmer look bad?

At Kevin Lunny's Drake's Bay Oyster Company, workers use a pneumatic drill to break apart oysters.

There are discrepancies on how loud the drill is and they aren't the only discrepancy about noise in the National Park Service's report.

"There has been a repeated pattern of misconduct on the part of the National Park Service," biologist Corey Goodman said.

Goodman has been a frequent critic of science used by the park service. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has published over 200 hundred scientific papers. He was asked by a Marin County supervisor in 2007 to look into how the park service was conducting scientific research and he's been pouring over data on his own time ever since.

Goodman analyzed sound data in the National Park Service report. He found that none of the reported audio levels on equipment at the farm came from actual measurements -- most were lifted from the Federal Highway Administration roadway construction noise model user's guide. Measurements of the sound generated the Lunny's motor boat actually come from a study done for the New Jersey Police Department in 1995.

"The data doesn't come from Drake's Estero, the data doesn't come from the oyster farm, the data comes from 3,000 miles away," Goodman said.

In fact, the boat referenced in the report isn't even a boat at all, it was a jet ski.

"The measurement of the jet ski was off by about 18 fold; in other words, it was 18 times louder than the oyster boat," Goodman said.

Goodman believes the park service intentionally mislead the public to make the farm look bad because the outcome of a final report will determine whether the farm stays open or closes at the end of the year.

ABC7 asked the National Park Service to comment, but we were refused.

"The National Park Service has a predetermined agenda and basically forcing the data, misusing and abusing science, to fit their agenda," Goodman said.

Goodman uncovered the discrepancies after comparing the study to a draft version of the environmental impact report released last June.

"All of those references, those citations were deleted," Goodman said.

This isn't the first time questions have been raised about the science used by the National Park Service. In January, Congress asked the Department of the Interior to have the National Academy of Sciences conduct an independent review of the draft environmental impact report. But to date no report has been commissioned by the academy.

However, the Department of the Interior did pay a Florida company to conduct an impartial review on their behalf.

Among the reviewers was Christopher Clark, a renowned bioacoustics researcher at Cornell University. He believes the sound data proves the farm is having a negative impact on wildlife, writing the park report is "robust."

Clark refused to answer ABC7's questions after Goodman told him the data wasn't from the oyster farm at all. He did tell the environmental news site Greenwire that he believed the data "represented measurements taken from Drakes Bay Oyster Company activities."

Goodman filed an official scientific misconduct charge with the Department of the Interior earlier this week. Officials there say "this allegation will be reviewed under the standard procedures contained in the department's scientific integrity policy."

Written and produced by Ken Miguel


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