It’s no secret: I feel very strongly that scientists should be regularly involved in outreach. From a community standpoint, I would love to see scientists be recognizable individuals that local school children can reference. From a funding perspective, when scientists receive either private or federal funding, outreach should be a significant way to give back to those who have supported your work. On top of it all, science communication shouldn’t be limited to academic journals and conferences—exciting findings should be shared, and preferably by the scientists themselves! Continue reading
As the long line of people slowly moved towards our destination, I could feel my hands start to tremble with nervous excitement. I clutched my worn book more tightly. In my head, I rehearsed a speech that included my admiration and my aspirations—I want to be just like you someday. I want to make a difference for conservation like you someday. I was only fifteen; plenty of time for dreaming of the future. Continue reading
By Maria and Rob
Early spring is a wonderfully unique time of year to go for a walk in the woods. The landscape is still mostly draped in browns and grays, but here and then, little blushes of green glow from thickets and undergrowth while fat little buds tentatively wait to burst from the ends of tree branches. Last weekend, we went on such a walk at a nearby park, just to see the magic in progress, and we were not disappointed!
It may be a brown hillside now, but soon it will be a bright, vibrant green.
By Rob and Maria
If you’ve been following the wildlife news circuit, you probably were quite intrigued by the story that broke earlier this week about the “type D” orcas, sometimes also referred to as the New Zealand killer whales, found in the Southern Ocean! These whales (well, dolphins, technically) are much smaller than other known killer whales; they have shorter, more rounded heads; their fins are pointier; and their classic killer whale eye patches are distinctively small. A handful of these unusual individuals were first observed in New Zealand in 1955, but they had not been definitively spotted since then. Of course, marine biology fans are abuzz—are they a whole separate species than the killer whales we all are familiar with? Time will tell. NOAA biologists (including a married couple team—we can appreciate a good nerd love story) are hard at work to unravel the mystery of these mysterious killer whales. Continue reading
By Rob and Maria
We’ve been volunteering twice a month at the National Aviary since October. In our busy, modern world, sometimes even those alternating weekends feel tough to schedule, but once we’re there, it’s such a joy. It just does not get old to talk with kids and families to spark excitement for conservation and wildlife. Plus, there is just something about the sheer beauty and mysteriousness of nature that can coax a smile from even someone having the worst day. We get to watch some of those smiles appear. Continue reading
By Rob and Maria
We woke up to pouring rain outside. It was still dark. The sun wouldn’t rise for another 90 minutes or so, but we probably wouldn’t notice right away through the heavy clouds anyway. Ah well, the rain might dampen the ground, but not our spirits! Today was our Christmas Bird Count, and science stops for no rain! We just pulled on layers of leggings, wool socks, thermal shirts, and flannel, topped with rain jackets and rain pants. It was time to count some birds! Continue reading
By Maria and Rob
Worried about conversations lagging at all of those holiday parties coming up in the next few weeks? Or positively fretting that someone will bring up the latest political scandal at Christmas dinner? Never fear! We have the perfect solution for moments when you need just a little extra loquaciousness: Christmas-themed science trivia. Your casual yet intriguing small talk will amaze your hosts and ensure that you will be invited back to fabulous parties year after year! Or be purposely not invited next year…it could go either way, really. But we would totally re-invite you. Continue reading
In the past year, I’ve attended at least three different fairly large meetings where the topic of post-PhD job prospects was a central topic. I’ve spoken to multiple highly accomplished post-docs frustrated with how many jobs they have applied for, and I’ve seen some very nervous grad students when mention of the future comes up. It’s a serious issue! Only 7-14% of PhD-holders in STEM will go on to a tenure-track professor position within three years of graduation, and only 9% of PhDs in the life sciences will end up in a professor position at all. In a worrisome way, this makes sense given that the number of PhD-holders aged 35 and under has increased roughly 60% since 1993, yet tenure-track positions have remained nearly stagnant in that same time frame. Continue reading
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