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Science as Leisure

Liz Marchio

I am a trained ichthyologist interested in what gets people interested in natural history, biological sciences, and science careers. My passion is to find out what fuels curiosity for the natural world.

Biology-related serious leisure activities can impact people's interest in ecology, biology, and natural history. Do these activities promote biological understanding? If so, how does that progress and to what level does it progress to? 

If you're interested in a starting a dialogue, please feel free to contact me. If you're curious about how I got here, my story can be found on the About Me page.

 

Filtering by Category: aquarium talks

What is a species?

You know what a species is, right?

Duh, yeah, of course you do! 

OK, let's put it into words. A species is: a... uh... group of animals, er, I mean organisms, that can interbreed and make fertile babies. 

BOOM. DONE. 

So, this definition of species is actually one of many.

Yep. One of many! Is your mind blown yet? 

It is true that many organisms pick out others "of their own kind" to mate with. We see this all around us; we hear frogs calling, birds chirping, and crickets... uh... cricketing. This "selection" for a mate is done by either the male or the female and they make sure their potential mate has certain attributes or characteristics. Some of these attributes help identify those of the same species; for example, a certain call or smell. However, some species can't select a mate because they do not have males and females!

Ever heard of an asexual? An asexual ('a' = without; 'sexual' = gender) can be thought of an individual without gender, or it can be thought of as one that just does not need a mate to reproduce! 

Perhaps you've heard of asexual-ness and "virgin births" from tabloids or other reading material. It's not just a story, it can actually happen. These "virgin births" as a result of parthenogenesis ('parthenos' = virgin; 'genesis' = creation or genesis). Believe it or not, this process occurs in fish, lizards, and of course the creepier crawlies such as daphnia ("water fleas"). The process of parthenogenesis can be divided into further types, but to keep it simple, here is daphnia's parthenogenic process:

 Daphnia's default lifecycle is "virgin birth". If necessary, they can produce males.  That's right, males just are not necessary...! Photo from"    www.ansci.wisc.edu

Daphnia's default lifecycle is "virgin birth". If necessary, they can produce males. That's right, males just are not necessary...! Photo from" www.ansci.wisc.edu

With our definition of species above, are parthenogenic organisms actually "species"?

 They violate the definition after all! 

 

It turns out that the definition I gave is one under the "biological species concept". This is basically what we, the entirety of the United States (and maybe the world), uses to describe species. There are other species concepts that I can go over later but this gives you a good idea of just how complex describing a species is! We straight up ignore the fact that daphnia, and other pathenogenic organisms, don't follow the rules. Did you even know about this? Pretty crazy!

There is another glaring issue with the biological species concept. Can you figure out what it is? 




NotW: Rachel O'Leary - The Mohawk Aquarist

Sometimes you just know you've come to the right place.

That's how I felt when I met Rachel O'Leary.

We were both invited speakers and since I hardly see women at these events, I knew Rachel was going to make an impression. And boy, did she! 

                                                Rachel in her natural habitat- her fantastic fish room! 

                                               Rachel in her natural habitat- her fantastic fish room! 

Rachel O'Leary - The Mohawk Aquarist & Naturalist

Rachel epitomizes a lot of qualities that I respect (and wish I had the balls enough to do). She travels the country doing fish club talks, she is her own scientist and natural historian, published author, and an aquarium-related icon. Maybe it's the mohawk? Nope, this woman knows her fish, loves her hobby, and one of the most down to Earth people I've ever met. 

I remember sitting in her aquarium-club talk on dwarf shrimp and being impressed with the amount of information she knows and is completely up to date on. For example, the dwarf shrimp genera (Caridina, Neocaridina, etc.) are currently in flux taxonomically, and she has her finger right on the pulse. Frankly, the only thing that could hold her back from being more knowledgeable is the lack of Open-Source scientific publications (hint hint). 

Not only is Rachel knowledgeable, she is willing to take a lot of time to educate others. She is also willing to stand up and tell people "No" when they want to buy organisms that are inappropriate for their aquarium set-up:

 Rachel imports fish and invertebrates to sell to fellow aquarists; sometimes it's a demanding job. But the following she has supporting her decision not to sell (65+ likes, 80+ comments) shows she is indeed making a difference and a leader in the hobby.

Rachel imports fish and invertebrates to sell to fellow aquarists; sometimes it's a demanding job. But the following she has supporting her decision not to sell (65+ likes, 80+ comments) shows she is indeed making a difference and a leader in the hobby.

Aquarium keeping has gotten and will continue getting a lot of flack for irresponsible pet ownership issues, but people like Rachel are making a difference, once teeny tiny seemingly insignificant step at a time. 

Kudos to you, Rachel, our Mohawk Aquarist and Naturalist of the Week! 

Check out Rachel's website, her book, and her aquarium talks

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New Aquarium Talk for 2015: "Species. What's in a Name?"

Attention Aquarium Clubs!

I am interested in producing and presenting a new aquarium club talk on species and species concepts. In this talk, I will go through aquarium fish-related information covering:

  • Taxonomy and binomial nomenclature; its importance and use (see this blog post).
  • Introduction to species concepts
  • The "Species Problem"
  • Implications for the hobby

I want to offer a new, interesting, and thought provoking talk that not only informs but also gets aquarists (marine or freshwater) interested in asking questions and thinking about a concept most people don't question.

If you are interested in hearing "Species. What's in a Name?", please pass this post on to your club's members and president or contact me directly (elizabeth.marchioatgmail.com).

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