Why Science Outreach?

By Maria

This past summer, I taught a conservation-themed day camp for 9-13 year olds. For each day of the camp, I invited a different biologist to visit the class and tell the students about their research and career paths. They weren’t long visits—perhaps 20 minutes of presentation and half an hour of conversation with the kids. Nothing that can’t be added on occasion to even the busiest researcher’s schedule.

Still, the experience very distinctly left a mark on the kids. The scientists’ research topics later appeared unprompted in the children’s art work and their free time conversations. One girl even approached me with her observation of common experiences the researchers had all shared from when they were her age (“All of them in their presentations talked about playing in creeks as a kid, like me!”). Meeting a scientist each day of the camp had been impactful for them. They weren’t just reading about a faceless researcher online or watching a TV news clip about a latest study. Local scientists had made time to talk to them. That mattered. Continue reading

Does Familiarity Really Breed Contempt?

By Rob

I don’t think the old phrase, “familiarity breeds contempt” applies to nature conservation.  If anything, it’s the opposite.  Years ago, when I had first moved from the suburbs to the city for college, I often saw pigeons congregating in disorganized flocks.  They strutted around, not even caring about cars barreling down the street.  Once they did become bored and decided to move on, they often left a mess behind.  I heard quite a few other folks refer to them as “rats with wings.”  Yes, they are indeed as ubiquitous in a city as the rodents that people fear will infiltrate their food cupboards.  They’re brazen, willing to swoop around an unsuspecting tourist like mosquitoes seeking a quick blood meal.  They’re unwanted, with the only way to keep them off historic landmarks is by placing sharp metal spikes.  Why should anyone care for these messy, bothersome birds that probably harbor mites? Continue reading

Exciting World Awaits!

Hi folks!

It’s been quite a while since I updated this blog, but I’ve been working through a great opportunity to write on a different platform. If you’d like to keep up with my work, you can subscribe from the most recent of the posts. And, as always, keep exploring!

A Seasonal Tradition of Citizen Science – Outside the kitchen window, the sun was rising over the snowy, tree-covered hillsides — streaks of pink light contrasting with the blue-tinted shadows of the early morning. Inside that kitchen in Hampton Township, just north of downtown Pittsburgh, a group of seven finished gulping down their coffees and hot chocolates, ready for their adventure to begin.

A Tale of Winter’s Opposites: Urban Heat Islands – Have you ever noticed how it’s often warmer in a city than even just a few miles outside of it? Why is that? Let’s explore!

Drowsy December: Hibernation, and Acorns, and Bears-Oh My! – When the temperatures drop, some of us might want to curl up under a warm pile of blankets and hibernate like one of Western Pennsylvania’s black bears until spring! But true bear hibernation might not be the long winter’s nap that it seems.

Year-round Feathered Friends – Most of us can recite the conventional wisdom that birds fly south in the winter without even thinking about it, but we also know that, really, not all birds do. Why do some birds stay put here in Pittsburgh while others migrate?

Any opinions that appear on Linnaeus and the Lamppost are purely my own, and do not reflect that of any other organization.

Can We Talk To A Gorilla?

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Source: koko.org

By Maria

In 1999, PBS released a Nature documentary called “A Conversation with Koko”—a feature all about the story of a Western Lowland gorilla named Koko and the primary researcher behind the communication efforts, Dr. Penny Patterson. Dr. Patterson had begun teaching sign language to Koko all the way back in the 1970’s and was still working with her and two other gorillas on a daily basis. Through their unique abilities, the gorillas were able to share their personalities in a way few animals can, and it was fascinating to watch their progression from their first three signs “eat,” “drink,” and “more” to thousands of complex words and phrases. Continue reading

The Science of Wanderlust

By Maria

Ever catch yourself staring out the window, perhaps at 2:15 on a Tuesday, only to realize you’re not really looking at the trees and traffic outside? Perhaps you’re really looking at the ruins of an old Irish castle, hauntingly beautiful in its age and surrounded by rolling green hills. Or perhaps you’re exploring the streets of a small Hungarian village—not understanding a single word around, but overjoyed by the new experience of cobblestone under your feet and the inviting smells from bakeries and little restaurants. Or maybe you’re lounging in a chair under a palm tree, toes in the sand, and watching the brilliant turquoise of ocean water gently roll up the beach and back.

If any of this rings a proverbial bell, you, my friend, might have wanderlust. Especially if this desire to travel and explore is intense, and you’re willing to work with whatever budget you have, the tourism industry would define you as a wanderluster. Continue reading

For the Love of Pandas

By Maria

Next week, on August 22nd, a very special little guy named Bei Bei will have his first birthday. Bei Bei is a giant panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, who lives at the National Zoo, as do his parents Tian Tian and Mei Xiang and his sister Bao Bao. In honor of his upcoming birthday, can we just take a moment to appreciate some panda?

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She’s laying down to eat. How can you not admire that? (BaoBao, I think.)

Last summer, I traveled with a friend to Washington, D.C., to see pandas at the National Zoo. I remember pulling into the parking lot, almost crying because I was so excited that I was about to see a panda for the first time in my life. And when I finally got to see one… Continue reading

The Anger Management Christian

Real talk time, folks. This post is highly personal since it’s something I struggle with. If my writing occasionally sounds gritty or harsh, a lot of it is frustration with my own failure and how that failure has contributed to the Angry Christian label we all carry to some extent. I’m human, of course, so I know I will never be perfect. At the same time, though, I know I can be better. Continue reading

What Even is Cancer, Really?

One evening last week, I was rather mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed. It was late enough at night that I didn’t want to start anything productive, but not quite late enough to head to bed. Thus, scroll, scroll, scroll, ooohlike, scroll, scroll, hahahawow, scroll, scroll…wait…what?

I had stumbled upon the comments section (dear heavens, save us all) from a crowd-sourcing page for a woman fighting cancer. The woman’s story was heart-wrenching, but the discussion attached the fundraising for treatment had shifted to the efficacy of naturopathic/homeopathic remedies for cancer. I have plenty of thoughts on that subject, but what was clear from my accidental stalking was that the primary arguers (on either side of the camp for/against scientific medicine over “natural remedies”) were a bit murky on what cancer actually is. They both were describing cancer as though it was a condition or infectious disease—perhaps not contagious, but something that can be fought off like a cold or a flu or something like a broken bone that just needs to be properly set to then heal itself. Continue reading

Of Men and Marshwiggles

Have you ever been to Narnia? I hear you can race on talking horses through wild forests, sail on the Dawn Treader until the ocean water becomes sweet, and perhaps even meet Aslan—who is definitely not a tame lion.

You haven’t been there? Don’t feel bad, I haven’t either. If you ever find a teleporting wardrobe or green/yellow rings, let me know. In the meantime, though, the books will have to suffice—no matter how much I’d like to high-five some of the characters or tell them what an amazing allegory for our real world they are. Continue reading

Budding Urban Naturalists

By Rob

During the past few weeks I’ve gotten to go on a few outdoor adventures with my wife.  She’s truly the perfect adventure partner, always up for getting dirty or sweaty, equally enjoying chasing some bird down a trail to snap a picture or making a coffee stop.  And she knows quite a bit about what we’re looking at while outdoors (Maria: he’s being sweet).

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Coffee…the most important part of going outdoors

I’ve always found many positive things in the outdoors, solace when getting over a heart-ache, adventure while orienteering, quiet conversations while fishing with my family, and the chance to push my physical limits when biking and running.  A new aspect I’ve recently started adding is that of an aspiring naturalist.

Continue reading