Responding To Ginger Taylor: On Autism And Vaccination, Do Not Confuse Correlation With Causation

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | August 26, 2009 11:41 am

Over at Age of Autism, Ginger Taylor posted a letter to us regarding Chris’ recent LA Times interview with Lori Kozlowski. She begins:

Lori, Chris and Sheril,

I am an autism parent with an MS is Clinical Counseling from Johns Hopkins University and a contributor to Age of Autism. I maintain my own blog at Adventures in Autism.

I saw Lori’s piece today and would like to point out a few things that seem incredibly obvious from where I am sitting, but you genuinely don’t seem to have on your radar (from what I could tell from the article), in regards to why America is not embracing “science” as you think they should. I hope you will be open to hearing from me for a moment, because there is a problem, but the problem may not be the public.

I feel like you may have confused actual hard “Science” with “things that most scientists think”, as there seems to be a denial of the fact that scientific consensus has quite often been (and most assuredly still is in many places) wrong.

I was going to respond this morning, but Orac’s already done a terrific job:

We humans are hard-wired to leap to conclusions and confuse correlation with causation. If we weren’t, we might not need science nearly as much as we do to determine what causes what disease and what treatments work for what disease. Harriet Hall explains it well when she observes that “I saw it with my own eyes!” is not enough. We humans confuse correlation with causation all the time. Given the millions of children who receive vaccines around the age range that the first symptoms of autism most frequently manifest themselves, it is to be expected that some children will regress after vaccines by random chance alone. To those parents, it seems for all the world that the vaccines caused the regression.

Orac goes into great detail explaining all the trouble with Ginger’s argument. Go read his full response at Respectful Insolence

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture, Education
MORE ABOUT: age of autism, autism

Comments (25)

  1. Cain

    Sheril, This might sound like a back handed complement but I don’t mean it that way.
    I’ve enjoyed reading “The Intersection” over the last few days more then any time since I found the blog. “The Intersection” often fells like the Mooney show but since you recently took the reins there is more variety in the posts and more interaction with commenters. Keep up the good work and I hope you continue to contribute at this level after Mooney returns. High Regards

  2. Absurdist

    The variety comes if the blog does not remain hung up on the religion vs new atheism debate. This blog actually used to be quite interesting until both the new accomodationists and new atheists took over. Variety would restore the blog to its previous admirable stage and we look forward to it. IMHO this is what the authors should do; address the two or three most comprehensive and thoughtful negative reviews of their book which focus on the New Atheism, and then largely move on to other matters, posting atheism-related topics only rarely. That will keep the blog from constantly devolving into a forum for shouting matches between atheists and accomodationists.

  3. Joe Bogus

    Can we get past the morons? Yes, I know — they’re everywhere — but is that ALL you can talk about?

    Please, ignore the birthers, deathers, creationists, antivaxxers, etc. Remember what Robert Heinlein said: “Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig.”

  4. As someone who took part in those new atheism debates, I agree. The debate quickly turned into a circular firing squad with little productive use other than the lesson “think twice before you launch a personal jab at someone”. This column is much better when it’s informing us about things.

    (It’d be even better if I could get more than a few words of each article in my RSS feed- especially when I’m on my mobile.)

  5. NewEnglandBob

    Can we get past the morons? Yes, I know — they’re everywhere — but is that ALL you can talk about?

    Please, ignore the birthers, deathers, creationists, antivaxxers, etc. Remember what Robert Heinlein said: “Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig.”

    I think we need to go after the birthers, deathers, creationists, antivaxxers, accomodationists, etc. more vehemently.

    It is high time for a pig roast.

  6. dugmaze

    This article and the responses are nothing short of hilarious.
    I especially like the part, “We humans are hard-wired to leap to conclusions and confuse correlation with causation”.
    Under that description, please explain to me, in scientific studies ONLY, how vaccines have eradicated disease. Now I’m not one of your anti-vaxxers. At least not yet.
    That’s why I’m asking this very important question. And I will leave my e-mail in case someone can actually verify this for me.
    Save your hate mail. It means nothing to me. I’m willing to wade through it to find some answers.
    Because that’s what the real problem is. You guys have all the answers without having any answers. Think about it.

    God Bless.

  7. Pearls

    How many parents claiming that their child took a nose-dive following vaccination would it take to generate some interest in finding out if there actually might be some correlation & what that correlation might be?

    Perhaps if the scientific community showed more interest in science & less in consensus (aka conformity or peer pressure) & salesmanship (propaganda, to put it politely), the public would not view them with such distrust. Phlogiston, anyone?

    There are a number of plausible theories that have not received any attention. For example,
    “allergies & autoimmune diseases are on the rise – which involves an imbalance of the immune system to the th2 side.

    Vaccines contain adjuvants & other ingredients which can cause a th1 or th2 shift (but predominantly th2) of the immune system. For a child teetering on the brink, it is enough to push their immune system over the edge.

    The real issue is not whether or not vaccines cause autism, but which of so many possible factors are involved & how much do they contribute to it (as well as multiple other neurological & autoimmune disorders).”

    Regardless of the invective, the numbers keep rising (though there is no real increase – only better diagnoses — that is, until we want to point out that the numbers have continued to rise after removing thimerosal) – and our affected kids are growing into disabled adulthood – while people waste time sneering at & ridiculing the efforts to find an answer.

    If we wait for more of the type of “science” we have received to date, we can look forward to helpful information on how our children can be assisted on to a better life & thereby remove the burden of their existence on society – all with the same salesmanship used to promote the safety of the current vaccination program. I can’t wait – and I mean that most literally…

  8. wow

    You are not able to come up with your own response and thus rely soley on the thoughts and words of another as a rebuttal. Hmm…..interesting. Pretty much says it all for me! No origianl thoughts or ideas, not able to defend nor deny of your own facility or faculties. The word sheeple comes to mind.

  9. MadScientist

    Confusing causation with correlation is only a very small part of the problem. I would recommend Ben Goldacre’s book “Bad Science”; Ben describes many of the other problems such as selection bias, statistical innumeracy, and so on. While Ben’s book may give people some small idea of where things go wrong, he also has a fair sized list of references for people who want to learn more. In science (and mathematics) there are numerous cases in which what humans might think as “obvious” is actually plain wrong. One easy one of course is that it is obvious that the sun revolves around the earth.

  10. MadScientist

    @dugmaze: That’s one of the trivial ones. You can get historical data on rates of infection and mortality from various places including the Centers for Disease Control. Before the introduction of mandatory vaccination a number of truly horrible diseases were rampant. Smallpox disfigured many people and was a fair killer as well. Polio similarly disabled and disfigured numerous people. Tetanus was a common killer. Anyone with the misfortune of being introduced to rabies was guaranteed to die. In the case of rabies the vaccines are now so effective that not many people die of the disease in the USA even though the exposure is still there; if you look at statistics in other countries where rabies is present but people do not receive treatment for whatever reason, the mortality rate is still 100%. For people who have a risk of developing tetanus, the tetanus vaccine has produced a huge reduction in the mortality rate compared with the pre-vaccine era. In the case of smallpox, only a few years ago we had successfully eradicated the disease from the human population; a convenient side-effect was that we had also eradicated the disfiguring but lesser killer Cowpox.

    Now let’s get back to people’s favorites: measles, mumps, and rubella. The historical data shows quite an incredible drop in the infection rate since the introduction of widespread vaccination; the infection rate has been reduced to such a level that a graph of the data including the pre-vaccination era can give the misleading impression that for some period between 1970 and 1990 the infection rate was negligible. Now in comes the anti-vax crowd, immunization rates drop and there is a huge increase in infection rates which shows up quite easily even in comparison with the historical data.

    The not so obvious thing is that vaccination trials (in fact any proper drug trial) are carefully planned to eliminate confusion between causation and correlation and also eliminate far more bizarre but fairly well known interferences such as the “placebo effect”.

    There is a lot of information out there for people who care to look and learn. The antivax crowd only spread lies.

  11. AnaB

    This common refrain, “Autism sets in around the time of vaccines so parents confuse the regression with the vaccine” – Since this refrain is used by those claiming to base their views on the science, could someone please show me the scientific studies that reveal, “the time when Autism sets in.” Especially since parents and pediatricians report have children slipping into their own world anywhere from 3 months of age to 3 years, with reports of when varying from child to child. So, if you are going to talk about, “vaccines being given around the time when Autism sets in” could you please be more specific?. You accuse parents of using generalizations when doctors use generalizations like I just mentioned to explain things they don’t understand or can’t explain. In other words, prove your “around the time vaccines set in theory” or perhaps it would be best to quit using that refrain. Its tired and based not-whatsoever in your precious “science”.

  12. I need not attempt to defend my friend, Ginger; she’s more than capable of doing so herself. But to pretend that the views of the mainstream are not the product of consensus and convenience more than they are the product of rigorous science goes beyond mere disingenuousness. The studies always cited by the so-called “scientific” community are all epidemiological in nature; they can neither prove nor disprove any connection. Moreover, none of the studies have looked at the complete picture, and all of them have significant flaws in their respective designs. The answers have not yet been found, and until those answers appear, people like Ginger and like me will continue to demand that someone address the questions raised by the common experience of so many of us.

  13. Do not assume that correlation precludes causation. And do not assume that epidemiology equals science.

    Correlation is an indicator of a possible causal relationship. The epidemiological studies simply do not disprove any causal connection between vaccines, vaccine ingredients and autism disorders. Former NIH head Dr. Bernadine Healy has said that the epidemiological studies are not specific enough to address the impact of vaccines on vulnerable population subsets. These studies have also been criticized for design flaws as Wade points out.
    Science is based on observation and it is parents who are best placed to observe what happens with their children and when their children regress into autism.

    If the scientific community wishes to end parental concerns about vaccines and autism then the scientific community should stop insulting parents, stop with the false “science vs hysteria” narrative, and start doing the research necessary to prove what factors genetic, environmental and biological are involved in causing the increasing numbers of autism diagnoses.

    And please don’t tell me that a diagnostic definition change in 1994, allegedly expanded availability of autism services and greater awareness, explains skyrocketing autism rates between 1994 and 2009. No one doubts that the definition change would have increased such diagnoses but not sufficiently to explain a change over 15 years from 1 in 500 to 1 in 150 with a recent study suggesting 1 in 100.

    If Discover is truly about discovery stop insulting parents and start advocating for real autism research to be done.

  14. Skeptic

    -The studies always cited by the so-called “scientific” community are all epidemiological in nature

    The connection between cigarette smoking and lung cancer and between high cholesterol and heart disease also was found largely through epidemiological studies. So according to your logic should we disregard these and go on a nicotine and fat binge?

  15. Not at all Skeptic.

    Again, I do not say that vaccine autism causation has been shown but I do say that the epidemiological studies to date do not disprove a link. I am not a scientist and do not pretend to be one. I respect conflict free, well designed, research which is not the case with the vaccine autism studies.

    My father is a lung cancer survivor after years of cigarette smoking. Remember conflict plagued epidemiological studies, studies done for big tobacco, were used to “disprove” any tobacco lung cancer connection for many years.

    Bernadine Healy who supports vaccine programs has said that the epidemiological studies to date are not specific enough to identify possible vaccine impact on vulnerable population subsets. It is no accident that the Poling case was settled. She was a member of a vulnerable population subset in that she had an existing mitochondrial disorder which was “aggravated” by vaccination resulting in “autism like symptoms” … and even I a humble, unwashed, irrational parent of an autistic boy, knows that autism is defined entirely by its symptoms. There are currently no existing biomarkers for autism. Therefore the government settlement clearly acknowledged that her “autism” was caused by the impact of vaccines on her mitochondrial disorder. It is also no accident that the Poling child’s father was a neurologist and professor who had to be taken seriously unlike other parents.

    Dr. Healy has called for an observational study comparing vaccinated and unvaccinated populations as has Dr. Julie Gerberding. Such a study makes sense and could help address the vaccine autism controversy, one way or the other, much better than simply repeating the Offit mantra that the science is done and the issue is closed. She has also called for lab and animal studies to be done.

    Let’s get the real autism research done and quit insulting parents who actually have the responsibility of raising autistic children and who actually observe first hand 24/7 their children’s autism conditions … including when they are indeed first noticeable.

    I agree correlation does not prove causation. But it is an indicator of a possible causal relationship and until satisfactory research is done all the name calling in the world will not convince concerned parents that vaccines are safe. As we approach the alleged Swine Flu Pandemic remember the Swine Flu Pandemic of 1976 and the GBS deaths that flowed form vaccines used to tame that imaginary pandemic.

  16. Andrew

    >Remember conflict plagued epidemiological studies, studies done for big >tobacco, were used to “disprove” any tobacco lung cancer connection for >many years.

    Yes, I well remember that. Most doctors recognized that smoking was dangerous but a very few doctors such as Dr. Bernadine Healy worked to discredit this idea, by supporting bogus studies such as those you mention.

    Now, of course, almost all doctors recognize that vaccines are very safe, but a very few doctors (such as Dr Bernadine Healy) disagree. Maybe she’s right this time…

  17. Vaccines are POISON. The only one[s] who benefit from vaccines are PHARMACEUTICALS. Lots of Vitamin D will protect you from the flu and many other diseases. DON’T be fooled by paid off media hype. STOP the sickening assault on humanity.

  18. Harold L Doherty, you’re a moron. It really don’t get more complicated than that. You have no understanding of how science works and no business debating the science of vaccines.

    “I respect conflict free, well designed, research which is not the case with the vaccine autism studies.”

    No, you don’t. You respect cherry-picked research that superficially seems to support your ideology. This is not research; it’s confirmation bias. Many well-designed, carefully scrutinized studies have already sufficiently disproven your gut feelings and there is no significant difference in the rate of autism between vaccinated and unvaccinated populations. So how you can continue to pretend this matter hasn’t been sufficiently settled is beyond me.

    “My father is a lung cancer survivor after years of cigarette smoking. Remember conflict plagued epidemiological studies, studies done for big tobacco, were used to “disprove” any tobacco lung cancer connection for many years.”

    False analogy. The studies disproving your gut feelings were conducted by some of the most reputable health institutions in the world and every reputable health institution in the world accepts the findings. So either you’re saying everyone who actually knows what they’re talking about is epically stupid or millions and millions of people are involved in an unprecedented super-organized super conspiracy. The only other alternative is that you and a small handful of passionate non-experts looking for someone to blame are simply wrong. You tell me which is the most likely explanation.

    Bernadine Healy is crank and the medical community is right for not taking her unprovable assertions seriously. And you are attempting to make an argument from authority. She’s a doctor and she happens to agree with you, so she must know what she’s talking about, right? Wrong. For every Bernadine Healy, there are thousands of other more qualified doctors who don’t agree with you, only they have actual good reasons to support their position whereas you’ve just got the word of a crank you happens to agree with you.

    “It is no accident that the Poling case was settled.” You’re right. Poling’s pre-existing mitochondrial disorder clearly invalidated her as a test cause for the Autism Omnibus cases…unless you’re planning on arguing that every autistic person had a mitochondial disorder from the start. Though I don’t recommend making that argument because of its sheer preposterousness. But the 3 best cases you anti-vaccinationists could find did make it to trial, and they all lost miserably because, according to the judges, they’re evidence was virtually non-existent.

    “and even I a humble, unwashed, irrational parent of an autistic boy, knows that autism is defined entirely by its symptoms.”
    LOL. You’re claiming to know better than every medical expert on the planet. Face it, man. There’s not a humble bone in your body.

    “There are currently no existing biomarkers for autism.” You know, except for all those autism genes we’ve found.

    “Therefore the government settlement clearly acknowledged that her ‘autism’ was caused by the impact of vaccines on her mitochondrial disorder.

    Man, you’re thick. You can call anything you want autism; that doesn’t make it so. And again, in order for your position to have any validity at all, you have argue that every autistic person in the world had a pre-existing mitochondrial disorder AND was vaccinated. But since, as I’ve already mentioned, there are just as many autistic people in unvaccinated populations, you’re up sh*t’s creek without a paddle.

    “It is also no accident that the Poling child’s father was a neurologist and professor who had to be taken seriously unlike other parents.”
    And…? This is Steven Novella (http://www.theness.com/neurologicablog/?p=341). He’s a neurologist and professor too. He completely disagrees with you. So by your own argument, he must be correct, right. After all, he’s a neurologist and professor. So he has to be taken seriously by you, right? Right?

    “Dr. Healy has called for an observational study comparing vaccinated and unvaccinated populations as has Dr. Julie Gerberding.”
    Yeah, that would be murder…and murder is unethical. So we’ll have to stick with what he got, especially since we’ve ALREADY CONCLUDED THAT AUTISM IS NO GREATER IN VACCINATED POPULATIONS THAN UNVACCINATED POPULATIONS!!!!

    “Such a study makes sense and could help address the vaccine autism controversy, one way or the other, much better than simply repeating the Offit mantra that the science is done and the issue is closed.”
    No, since we’ve already put this matter to bed, and you nut jobs refuse to accept any evidence that disagrees with your gut feelings. So why should we continue to waste time, money, and resources trying to convince people who will never be convinced no matter how compelling the evidence is when we could be spending the money on REAL RESEARCH?

    “Let’s get the real autism research done and quit insulting parents who actually have the responsibility of raising autistic children and who actually observe first hand 24/7 their children’s autism conditions … including when they are indeed first noticeable.”
    We don’t insult well-intentioned parents who simply have the misfortune of swallowing the nonsense of quacks. We only insult those who actively promote propaganda that denies the real causes of autism. And we do that because they’re doing tremendous harm.

    “I agree correlation does not prove causation.”
    Good. So provide one single shred of empirical evidence that leads you to believe that vaccines have anything to do with autism.

    “But it is an indicator of a possible causal relationship and until satisfactory research is done…”
    Done.

    “…all the name calling in the world will not convince concerned parents that vaccines are safe.”
    Of course not. Nothing will convince you of that. You just KNOW the vaccines did it.

    “As we approach the alleged Swine Flu Pandemic remember the Swine Flu Pandemic of 1976 and the GBS deaths that flowed form vaccines used to tame that imaginary pandemic.”
    A. What’s alleged about it. It’s a pandemic. That’s a fact. Consult your dictionary.
    B. Remember the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 that killed many, many thousands of people until vaccines stopped it? Remember that?
    C. The odds of GBS from vaccines – 1:1,000,000.
    D. The pandemic wasn’t imaginary. It’s just that proper precautionary measures prevented the kind of predicted potential devastation. That was a good thing. But then again, you have no interest in actual facts, only what the propaganda sites tell you. Educating you about the the Swine Flu Pandemic of 1976 would be a waste of time. You don’t know the first thing about it and you don’t care.

  19. Sheril, (and Chris)

    It has been a week since I wrote my open letter to you and Chris, and I have not heard a response from you yet. Do you plan on responding to it yourself?

    I see here that you linked to Orac’s response. But I didn’t write the letter to Orac, and was not looking for a response from him, as he did not make any statements in the LA Times. Nor did I address the letter to any of your readers/commenters or other bloggers.

    Please note that one of my charges in the letter is that those the skeptic brand of science, of which you identify yourselves to be members, tends to ignore and malign their critics rather than responding to their earnest concerns and questions. I wrote that this dismissal may in fact be the reason that the public is ignoring your community and their pronouncements.

    It has been a week since I wrote that piece, and you and Chris have responded by in fact, ignoring my earnest criticism and questions and pointing to another author who is maligning me.

    So I wanted to ask you the question publicly that I have asked you privately.

    Do you plan on responding to the content of my letter?

    And do you plan on doing any self-evaluation to see if my critique of the problem of the disconnect between your community and the public is indeed a valid one?

    Or is your link to Orac and his position (that I just don’t count) your answer?

    Additionally, as I didn’t get a private response to another question I sent you, I will post it again here. I don’t believe that correlation equals causation (but it is of course a big fat clue as to where to start looking). I don’t think that I gave the impression that I believed that correlation did equal causation and asked you to point out where you think I did (as I would like to correct that impression if I gave it).

    Can you point that out for me?

    Thank you,
    Ginger Taylor

  20. I know you’re starved for attention Ginger, but maybe M&K have better things to do with their time than boosting your ego. I suggest you accept that Orac’s is the best response you’re probably going to get and accept that M&K have already given their seal of approval to that response.

    But speaking of which, it’s been nearly a week since Orac refuted your article, and I have not heard a response from you yet. Do you plan on responding to it yourself? I see that J. Bradley Borden responded for you. But Orac didn’t write his blog to Borden, and was not looking for a response from Borden. Nor did Orac address his blog to any of your readers/commenters or other bloggers at Age of Autism.

    And as anyone who looks at the Age of Autism site today will notice, the anti-vaccinationist brand of science, of which you are a member, tends to ignore and malign their critics rather than responding to their earnest concerns and questions. I find that this dismissal may in fact be the reason that the scientific community is ignoring your community and their baseless pronouncements.

    It has been a week since Orac wrote that piece, and you have responded by in fact, ignoring his earnest criticism and questions and letting another author with no understanding of the science at all continue to malign Mooney.

    So I wanted to ask you the question.

    Do you plan on responding to the content of Orac’s response?

    And do you plan on doing any self-evaluation to see if Orac’s rather extensive critique of the problem of the disconnect between your community and those who know what they’re talking about is indeed a valid one?

    Or is Borden’s ridiculous blog and his position your answer?

    You said “I don’t believe that correlation equals causation (but it is of course a big fat clue as to where to start looking).”
    The first half of that sentence doesn’t seem consistent with the second half. Correlation alone means absolutely nothing and is scientifically worthless. For instance, the alleged rise in the rate of autism directly correlates with the rise of reality television, the rise of cell phones, the rise of the internet, the rise of years with two zeros in the center, the rise of Quentin Tarantino movies, the rise of Starbucks coffee, and the fall of Communism. While those looking to find a connection can point to any one of these things, a rational person recognizes there is no plausibility for such connections and that the correlations are purely superficial and totally unrelated.

    “I don’t think that I gave the impression that I believed that correlation did equal causation and asked you to point out where you think I did (as I would like to correct that impression if I gave it). Can you point that out for me?”
    The entire vaccine/autism myth is entirely predicated on the assumption that perceived correlation equals causation. Once you put the accusations that kids magically turned autistic shortly after being vaccinated, what else do you have?

  21. I have responded to Orac privately. If you would like to read that exchange, then you may ask him for it.

    I do not answer for anyone’s words but my own, and I believe it is up to these authors to answer for their words. I continue to await their reply.

    If you have any specific questions for me about my piece, or anything I have written, please send me and email and I will answer you privately.

    … and anyone who acts as if correlation is meaningless to causation, acts foolishly, and should be suspected of not wanting to know what the actual causation even is.

  22. Skepacabra your name calling rants are not not persuasive. Whatever you want to call that self stimulatory behavior on your part it is not science. I don’t care if you call me names but when you mock people like Dr. Healy you simply make a fool of yourself.

    What you call coincidence many in fact be more than that. You have no controlled experiments to suggest otherwise. And no observational studies comparing vaccinated and non vaccinated populations have been done. What you have are weak, conflicted studies. The science is not finished on these issues no matter how much name calling you offer.

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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry. Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 info@hachettespeakersbureau.com For more information, visit her website or email Sheril at srkirshenbaum@yahoo.com.

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