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
Most of the content below was from a post I originally shared in 2016. The gorilla in focus passed away earlier last year, and the foundation where she lived has been embroiled in legal battles over their remaining gorilla ever since. Those human squabbles have kept the gorillas in my mind, though, and I wanted to bring up these ideas again. We share this planet with these magnificent creatures, and we have so much power over what happens to them and their homes, we at least owe them this sheer wonder!
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
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
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
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, oooh—like, scroll, scroll, hahaha—wow, 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
noun: citizen science
- the collection and analysis of data relating to the natural world by members of the general public, typically as part of a collaborative project with professional scientists.
When I was a kid, I had a burning desire to see how much electricity was in a bolt of lightning. I didn’t understand watts, volts, amps, or Ohms yet. All I wanted to know was if those bright streaks that crashed to the ground were strong enough to power a light bulb. Continue reading
About a year ago, I wrote a blog post on how to tell if information sources are trustworthy or not. Since repetition helps information retention, I decided it was time to revisit an updated version post. Especially now as we are approaching election season, it is critical that we are relying on trustworthy sources to give us accurate information. There’s a lot of junk out there, but we can sort through it together. Continue reading