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US scientist fired for posting Alaska wildlife maps

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The US Geological Survey scientist who says he was fired for posting politically sensitive maps illustrating the biodiversity of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on the web has reposted the contentious material.

"I had bad timing!" Ian Thomas, who worked at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland, part of the Biological Resources division of the USGS told The Register.

He says the maps in question contained already publicly available information - as had the 20,000 or so other maps he'd published on the web, including maps of every refuge in the lower 48 states.

"The USGS were briefing Gail Norton on new data, data that isn't public," claims the British-born Thomas. "When all of a sudden someone puts out these pretty pictures - right in the middle of a presentation."

President George W Bush wasted little time in talking up the need for cheaper energy after he got elected, for which he favours drilling in the Arctic reserve, which until now has been off-limits to Bozo's Big Oil Texan backers.

Meanwhile, Thomas says he was dismissed without explanation. The USGS has subsequently told reporters that standard review procedure 'was not followed'. That's an explanation Thomas finds hard to believe.

"They could have told me to take the maps off the Internet. It wasn't like I was going to go out of my way to lose my job," he told us. He admits that his initial contract was for work on migratory birds, but subsequent work had been approved. As a contractor he adds, he isn't in a position to sue for unfair dismissal.

"I guess there's no way I'm going to get my job back now," he says. "but I hope that people become aware of the political pressure that scientists are under."

It's a dangerous place, the Internet.®

Related Links

Ian Thomas' Maptricks web page
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Kuro5hin discussion on the subject
Newsday on Ian Thomas

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