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This commentary was adapted from an oral presentation delivered at the 86th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Mammalogists in Amherst, Massachusetts, on 18 June 2006 to recognize receipt of the Joseph Grinnell Award for Excellence in Education. Our continued ability to conduct fieldwork in mammalogy and train the next generation of field mammalogists is threatened by social, institutional, and bureaucratic changes that have accelerated over the past decade. These changes include continued decline in field-based natural history studies in the United States, bureaucratic regulations that are increasing in both number and complexity, increased acceptance of radical animal rights propaganda by our youth, increased fear of nature among United States citizens, and poor understanding of risk in an increasingly risk-averse society. These factors, among others, have made it increasingly difficult to conduct field research in mammalogy, and this commentary shows how these changes influenced the national response to discovery of a new rodent-borne disease, hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS), in 1993. Current guidelines to protect field researchers from HPS may, in fact, be destroying the very enterprise whose practitioners they were designed to protect.

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