Over the past few weeks there have been two significant scientific marches here in the US, The March for Science last weekend, and the Climate March just yesterday. These have been powerful demonstrations, with literally tens of thousands of people coming together in support of science, environment, and positive change. In a climate (atmospheric and political) that is changing (in more ways than one), these were ways for supporters of science to make their thoughts and opinions known to those in power.
We should remember, though, that the best way to really change what people think is through face-to-face communication. The person who thinks funding for ecological research is a waste isn't likely to change their mind because a bunch of people wearing Patagonia and hiking boots stood on Boston Common in the rain. They might, however, see things differently after honest communication, hands on experience, and genuine interaction with science. In Boston, there was a Kids March with educational demonstrations, activities, scientists excited to talk to kids (ok, grown ups too). This is what we need more of!
In other news, the salamanders are out en force! From red-backs, to duskys, to spotteds! If you haven't had the chance, I would encourage you to get out in the woods and flip some logs. If you find one, tweet a picture of it to me @bpdilla!! For now, enjoy some splendid salamanders.
Stephen Jay Gould
Even things that seem on the surface to be completely boring and uninteresting can be made engaging by a passionate communicator. Stephen Jay Gould was a master at this. Gould, a brilliant evolutionary biologist, wrote a column for Natural History Magazine for nearly 30 years, most of which have since been compiled into books. In his writings you get the opportunity to see the inner workings of a curious scientific mind. I have a few books of his collected essays, and I always enjoy grabbing one off the shelf and learning something new.
Just yesterday I read an essay about Siphonophores, a group of Cnidarians that includes the infamous Portuguese Man-O-War. The thing about these things that is so wild is that scientists have long argued whether they are one individual, or a colony where each individual has a special job. Each part of a siphonophore has its own unique origin (so they are a colony, right), but can't survive on its own (ok, so maybe not). It gets you thinking. Is a colony of ants, where all workers are genetically identical, a colony, an organism, or a super-organism? Amazing stuff!
Stay tuned on the blog ladies and gents. There is a lot coming, including a post about the intersection of social justice, politics, and science!