One interesting aspect of the government shutdown is that it allows us to see how our elected officials prioritize different functions of government. This is playing out today as Republican House members propose restoring funding to more popular pieces of government. National parks and museums? Sure. Cancer research? Alright. Don’t forget to pay our National Guard Members, and benefits for veterans.
The shutdown also forced government agencies to differentiate between critical and noncritical operations. This week in our Biology of Sustainability labs, our students are beginning a study of the effects of environmental estrogens on fish in the Mississippi River. When we tried to access a comprehensive U.S. Geologic Survey study on endocrine-active chemicals from wastewater treatment plants throughout Minnesota (on which UST Biology Professor Dalma Martinovic is a coauthor), we discovered that the website was down. In fact, only those USGS websites “necessary to protect lives and property” are currently accessible.
What makes the cut? Coastal erosion, earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, and geomagnetic activity all have operational websites with tools, maps, and real-time data. Synthetic chemicals in our rivers and lakes–and ultimately in our drinking water–that are turning male fish into females? That can wait, apparently.