Journal of the History of Biology

, Volume 44, Issue 1, pp 103–123

A Difficult Time with the Permit Process

Special issue: Environmental History

DOI: 10.1007/s10739-010-9244-6

Cite this article as:
Benson, E. J Hist Biol (2011) 44: 103. doi:10.1007/s10739-010-9244-6


In the 1970s, new forms of public scrutiny were applied to the research methods of field biologists in the United States, particularly those studying endangered species and marine mammals. This paper shows how such scrutiny affected researchers’ choice of research methods through an analysis of a key moment in a decade-long controversy over the conservation of bowhead whales. In 1978, researchers at the Naval Arctic Research Laboratory received funding from the Bureau of Land Management to radio-tag bowhead whales. Although this promising but still largely untested technique might have answered one of the central scientific questions in the controversy, it ultimately went unused. Technical considerations played a role in the decision not to use the technique, but the most important factor was scientists’ concerns about potential backlash from Iñupiat whalers and animal protectionists. The same forces that had made marine mammalogists more influential than ever and that had put into their hands the resources necessary to develop more effective research techniques also placed serious constraints on where, when, and how they could do their research.


animal welfare bowhead whales endangered species environmental regulation indigenous hunting 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for the History of ScienceBerlinGermany

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