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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: controversy

Attention Percula Clownfish Breeders!

I'm in need of:


Data collected from clownfish breeders will be used to create an economic model for this purpose:


Private breeders, responding to market forces, are responsible for a surprising amount of conservation of endangered exotic species occurring within the United States. Tropical birds, African ungulates, and marine fish are being raised to provide animals for pets and wild game hunting.  These private actions can play a critical role in biodiversity protection, supplementing conservation in native habitats and zoos. Breeders who are active in these markets, however, have often complained that the Endangered Species Act (ESA) can create obstacles that make breeding uneconomic, actually increasing the likelihood of extinction. In this paper we consider the conditions in which ESA and ESA-like regulations can have perverse impacts, harming prospects for ex-situ conservation without meaningfully impacting wild animal populations.

Motivation and Three Cases:

The paper is motivated by three cases (hyacinth macaw, antelope, clownfish)  in which breeders play a role in protecting endangered species, but the economic viability of those enterprises is threatened by proposed or existing policy.

I need data to run this model! 

If you are willing to share information on your percula clownfish breeding operation, please fill out this survey with as much information as you can. It is understandable that some people may not want to share their secrets to success, but hopefully these are fairly benign questions.

The information you provide will be used to create an economic model that, in turn, will start a few publications on the complex nature of the ESA and captive populations of fish bred by aquarists.

Again, the survey can be found by clicking this link: SURVEY

Thank you for your consideration!


7 Ways Twitter is for Scientists

 Social media is good at taking over lives but it can be beneficial too. 

liz marchio

I've told science colleagues I am on Twitter and gotten about a 90% rate for reproachful looks. I'm guessing they consider it to be a place for movie stars to push their interests to the masses. Well, it can be; however, I have found it to be surprisingly helpful. 

Sure, there are self-serving people on Twitter and it may even make you self-serving as well. But yet, there are 7 positive attributes I consider to be great equalizers:

  1. Communicating with the public: I can cast my net wide and promote my ideas and research to a wider community of people. Not only this, but I learn to follow trends which allows me to communicate more effectively with the public. Scientists are not the best communicators so any practice I can get is beneficial. 
  2. Networking: The open access of Twitter promotes networking with people. I've met many new and potentially unapproachable scientists through Twitter. Through "Tweet-ups" at conferences and meeting people at professional meetings, it's a way to get involved.
  3. Immediate news: I used to use Facebook (FB) for my real-world and research news. Now, I rely on Twitter for the most up to date information. This includes up to date science! New papers, research, and ideas. It is exciting to be on the outer limits of knowledge!
  4. Less doom and gloom: I found FB and perhaps my day-to-day experience to be full of negativity. This negativity was affecting my disposition and causing me to be disappointed in humanity & depressed. Twitter isn't always *happy* but I found the negatives are outweighed by the positives, especially stories on activism (e.g. people doing something rather than watching it happen).
  5. Less biased/More diverse information: I don't just get a "snow-ball effect": only seeing the news and information that my friends and family pass on through FB. Because of the short character limit I can follow a more diverse crowd and get more types of information. "Trending" stories round out my viewing. 
  6. Practice being concise: Most of your life you're taught to write excessively in order to make a page limit... but grad school wants clear and concise. Twitter helps me cut out unnecessary adjectives and description in order to keep it under 141 characters. I also get feedback: my Tweets aren't read or retweeted unless they are also clear. Overall, good practice for keeping it short, sweet, and interesting! 
  7. Writing and Funding opportunities: I have been published in the Working Life section of Science because of a writing opportunity I saw on Twitter. Also, I've applied for several unique funding opportunities seen on Twitter. I feel good applying for them since they are unique and potentially have a higher award rate per cost of time spent applying. 


 I really cannot stress this enough. Every single day I see at least one job opportunity posted that is potentially applicable to me. I'm mainly on Twitter only in very short, but regular, bursts (i.e. bathroom breaks) so there's a lot going on Twitter.

 These are the reasons I have found Twitter to be a good use of my limited time. If you're a scientist and find these 7 reasons potentially helpful, join the community!

And make sure to follow me @LizMarchio

Why you need to memorize science facts in school

From science-focused college undergraduates I have heard the same repetitive criticism of coursework, "All I do is memorize facts!" 

Are we in fact making a generation of fact-regurgitators, people who could slay on Jeopardy but can't function as real scientists? Or is there some other reason for this fact-memorizing methodology?

That face indicates he probably isn't ready to move up the ladder...

That face indicates he probably isn't ready to move up the ladder...

Science education is a knowledge pipeline and you need to learn the basic fundamentals before you move to the next level. Well... perhaps it's a ladder rather than a pipeline. Or maybe it's all one gigantic and challenging test to push you to your limits. After all, to get the highest academic position in any program, you have to be the best of the best and prove yourself worthy. We wouldn't want doctors who don't know fundamentals like anatomy, right? Why would we want a scientist who doesn't know the basic concepts science is built upon, like the scientific method and other basic science facts? 

Science is an intellectual activity and you need to master the fundamentals of science and those are facts. As a science-focused college undergraduate you also need to pick your science path... so you take all kinds of science classes to figure it out. From physics to chemistry to biology... you are forced to cast your net wide!

 The earlier you focus, the more you could potentially funnel yourself into more advanced (and less fact-oriented) work. This kind of work is skill oriented, where you apply your facts and your proven perseverance to do real science. You can't just skip to this level! [You don't want to skip to this level!] 

I think of it like this:

 To get towards the top of the science ladder, you must master the core, fundamental knowledge rather than the skills.

Skills you learn later under the tutelage of a science sensei! 

You may move up to working with a science sensei once you have proven yourself worthy. Then guess what? You must continue to prove yourself through tedious, monotonous tasks.

You may move up to working with a science sensei once you have proven yourself worthy. Then guess what? You must continue to prove yourself through tedious, monotonous tasks.

While you're with your sensei, you must hone your science skills. This takes time and practice.

While you're with your sensei, you must hone your science skills. This takes time and practice.

Once you have mastered the facts and some skills during research credits, you may graduate to working on your own. This may be a job, a Master's degree which you work with another sensei and hone yet more skills, or a PhD which is a more advanced form of tutelage with a bit more freedom [i.e. risk of failure]. 

Once you have mastered advanced science skills through a Master's or PhD, you may challenge your sensei for the final test: The Defense! This is not recommended for those holding down jobs... 


Once you've finally proven yourself worthy during the defense,  you can move on to doing science on your own! With the facts and skills you've learned along the pipeline/ladder, you can take on the world!


Remember, you have to start somewhere, and in science that means FACTS! 

Dead man charged $985.61 for an ambulance ride

It's finals week and I'm a graduate student. That means I'm trying to finish A LOT of important work that can make or break my career. I don't have time for regular baths let alone dealing with being taken advantage of. Today is the straw that broke the camel's back. I am again asking myself this question:


My grandfather, my best friend, passed away almost exactly 2 months ago today. I've come to realize his untimely passing may have been painful for me but a blessing for him. It was an almost immediate death, painless, and quiet. He was filling out paperwork at his regular doctor at Mt. Carmel East (Columbus, Ohio) and just slumped in his chair. [We didn't have an autopsy done so I can't say exactly what caused his death. I think some kind of aneurysm since it was so quick and painless.]  Eventually his immobilized body was noticed in the waiting room and he was given CPR. But... he was gone.

The doctor's office called an ambulance since you can't just call a morgue or the family (or can you? Not exactly a social norm for family to transport deceased loved ones...). Of course the ambualnce and medics couldn't revive him and he was transported NEXT DOOR to the ER. 

My deceased Grandpa took an ambulance from the yellow square to the red square and it only cost $989.15! 

My deceased Grandpa took an ambulance from the yellow square to the red square and it only cost $989.15! 

Two months later, my mother received a bill for $989.15. Here it is: 

The bill  is not really itemized in a logical manner and includes codes that I had to research to figure out. Surprise. 

My pronounced-dead-at-the-scene grandfather was billed $985.61 for an "ALS 2" which is, according to this website, "A0433 Advanced life support, level 2 (ALS2)". He was dead at the scene and had been for an unknown amount of time so I'm not sure why he was not only driven to the ER in an ambulance but done so under an elevated emergency level (Level 2 vs. Level 1). 

The other $3.54 charge was for the mileage to the ER from the building next door. The bill does not tell you what that mileage is, unless "000" is it. It probably is 000 miles, just look at the map! 

So, can someone please tell me how my dead grandfather was charged $989.15 for a level 2 emergency ambulance ride to the building next door? I understand there are flat rates for things, but for an ambulance ride?! For a dead man?! This is repugnant. 

If you agree, can you please get the word out about this? I am taking time away from my studies to write this in an attempt to stick up for what is right. I'm tired of being so busy with my life that I let unfair, disgusting, and monetarily draining things like this slide. Please consider passing this on, if not to help then for simple awareness. 

Thank you. 

Note: I want emergency medics and doctors to get a fair and above average wage. Furthermore, I understand the system may "work" in many circumstances but this doesn't seem to be one of them. 

Feral Cat Colonies & Crazy Cat Lady Syndrome

We've all heard about the negative effects feral cats have on wild bird populations. It's a fact that cats are hunters and they're good at it. After all, there are probably millions of barn cats employed because of their wonderful work ethic! 

Image from

Image from

The most interesting thing about the feral cat issue taking place in our society today is the straight up crazy conflict over the situation. We all know cats kill other animals. We know they do it well and whenever they can. Regardless of what we all know, take a look at any social media post regarding feral cats killing birds and you see the cat defenders come out and swat away those negative cat statistics. 

Why would spay/neuter help keep cats from eating? This is a common argument of cat-defenders .

Why would spay/neuter help keep cats from eating? This is a common argument of cat-defenders.

Above you can see the cat-defenders using several different tactics to defend wild/feral cats. Strategies include an appeal to emotion, appeals to humanity, placing blame, offering (biased) information to support pre-determined decisions, logical reasoning, and threats. It's intense and flies in the face of the information we all know: cats are killers and bird populations are on the decline because of it. So why defend cats so vehemently?

Enter: Toxoplasmosis. 

Toxoplasmosis gondii. Photo from Wikipedia.

Toxoplasmosis gondii. Photo from Wikipedia.

Toxoplasmosis is a parasite that is found in cats and cat feces. It is also found in rats. Basically, an infected rat is eaten by a cat (yay barn cats!), which then infects the cat. The cat does what all cats do, and poops. The feces house Toxoplasmosis and make it "available" to the environment. Uninfected rodents can get infected via fecal contact and so can people.

So, if you have a cat and you clean its box, or the cat gives you "the brown eye"... you may have Toxoplasmosis. 

Up to 80% of people could have Toxoplasmosis! 

This isn't even the scariest part. I haven't told you what the parasite can do... 

In rats, it has been shown to cause a reduction of fear. This is a "plan" by the parasite! If eaten, especially by a cat, the parasite can continue its life cycle. If the host rat doesn't fear cats, then cats get Toxoplasmosis. Here's a video to help explain:

This lack of fear response could also be an affection response.

It's well known by most people that people who keep a cat have an increased propensity to own another cat... and so on... and so on... This can lead to hoarding and an intense, self-destructive affection towards cats. 

This is Crazy Cat Lady Syndrome and it involves Toxoplasmosis.

 If social media stories on feral cat issues have replies/comments that are made up of 50% cat-defenders, are 50% of the people replying to that story "suffering" from Toxoplasmosis?  

After all, they are defending cats based on a reduction of fear and a strong, almost insatiable,  emotional attachment towards cats. 

Perhaps the feral cat issue can be aided by research in the "suffering" of Toxoplasmosis in the public? If people who will not aid bird conservation by limiting the number of cats in the wild actually have a disease and cannot act any other way towards cats... maybe there can be some middle ground forged? 

No one wants to know they're a part of a parasite's plan, or life history, so I doubt this gets much attention, but damn, isn't this at least interesting?

Part 2: What is a species: Hybrids

My last blog post covered the biological species concept and some of the issues surrounding its use. This post builds on that introduction to "species".

At the end of the last post, I asked: What is another issue surrounding the use of the biological species concept (BSC)? 

A major problem with the BSC is it stipulates that species cannot interbreed. However, we see consistent examples of interbreeding across species. Here are a few examples of crosses, or "hybrids":

A lion x tiger cross = "Liger" or "Tigon". Photo credit:

A lion x tiger cross = "Liger" or "Tigon". Photo credit:

Horse x donkey cross = mule. These are yearling mules out of saddle and draft mares. Photo credit:  Deb Kidwell,  Lake Nowhere Mule and Donkey Farm  (Thanks, Deb!) 

Horse x donkey cross = mule. These are yearling mules out of saddle and draft mares. Photo credit:  Deb Kidwell, Lake Nowhere Mule and Donkey Farm (Thanks, Deb!) 

Trimaculatus cichlid x ??? x Parrot cichlid = "parrotfish" Photo credit:

Trimaculatus cichlid x ??? x Parrot cichlid = "parrotfish" Photo credit:

I don't know about you, but I definitely see a horse as a different species from a donkey and a tiger definitely different from a lion!

So, what's the deal?

If we define species by the BSC, where "species cannot interbreed"... are these seemingly distinct species actually ONE? Are lions and tigers one species??

As with ALL science, rules are hard to make for nature! 

If we rely on the biology of one "species" to differentiate it from others, there are always exceptions to the rule! In science as a whole, there are almost always exceptions to the rules!

Maybe that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. How do we know anything then? What's the point of science if it can't answer "basic" questions??

Well, yeah... How do we know anything? The answer is, we don't know anything for sure. A scientist will never tell you they are 100% sure of anything. We are humans and we are making the world around us into understandable parts. We see the diversity of life on earth and we want to name and categorize things. To do that, we use a system. Unfortunately, time does not stand still and things are always changing. The biological species concept does not take into account these kinds of things. There are other species concepts who do (evolutionary and phylogenetic species concepts, for example), but even those are flawed.

Maybe we get ligers and tigons because they are really closely related and haven't been separate species long enough. It takes TIME, lots and lots of time, for these kinds of changes to "be set in stone".

But, hey, that's one of the most amazing things about studying life on earth! There is no creation of a species. There is no "BAM!" you're a tiger and will always be a tiger.

We are trying to figure things out as we go. We are making theories and testing them. And, interestingly, we are hanging onto theories such as the biological species concept even though there are obvious exceptions. 

So what are your thoughts?

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. 


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"

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

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? 

The Environment is Caching in on Geocaching

When I was a kid I really liked playing in the woods. I climbed trees and played hide and seek with my friends. Once, I found a small wet box with little trinkets inside. My imagination told me this was most certainly a treasure! 

Little did I know that yes, this was a treasure! A treasure for a scavenger hunt!

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

This scavenger hunt is global game called "geocaching" ("geo" = earth; "caching" = hides).

When you join the game, you use clues, namely GPS coordinates, to locate caches. You sometimes have to walk far distances, climb over logs, look under and inside natural objects, and always, always keep your eyes open and searching. There are urban caches as well, hidden in plain view.

I'm sure you've passed by multiple caches every single day.

How crazy is that?!

Check out the introductory video from

As with most leisure activities, you can "get serious" and advance. As you progress you get better at finding caches, you create your own for others to find, and you may even join in geocaching events. Many advanced geocachers participate in CITO® events, which means "Cache In, Trash Out" which is exactly what it sounds like. You go in for the cache and you bring trash in the area out. Literally, bags of trash are brought out by geocachers with the ultimate goal of keeping the environment clean and giving back to the local communities they use. 

The geocaching website states, "Cache In Trash Out® is an ongoing environmental initiative supported by the worldwide geocaching community. Since 2002, geocachers around the world have been dedicated to improving parks and other cache-friendly places. Through these volunteer efforts, we help preserve the natural beauty of our outdoor resources!"

Now, is geocaching itself to blame for this trash? Are the caches really just hidden trash? Of course some people may see the negatives in the game and understandably so. That's critical thinking, right? Well, there is, with everything, always a trade off... if getting people outside helps improve environmental concern and stewardship (which CITO does), it seems the positives outweigh the negatives. National parks deal with the same kinds of issues; a recent article tells how the hot springs in Yellowstone National Park have been discolored by humans simply visiting the site. Carlsbad Caverns National Park regularly has volunteers go through and pick fuzz off formations. So what do we do? Ban people from nature? 

One of the best things I think we can do is promote environmental stewardship through leisure activities that get people invested and involved in the environment. Makes sense, right? Well... now it's your turn. After reading this blog, head over to, make a free account, watch some tutorials, download the app to your smartphone (or use a GPS), and go out into the world to explore, invest, and get involved! I promise you will find places you never knew existed. 

Killing Animals for Decoration

Ever look at a hunter's wall and think how unnecessary that wall of death is?

That's a lot of dead animals...

That's a lot of dead animals...

Well, as gross as that may be to some people, I have an even bigger beef to talk about- people who keep dead animals in their homes and don't even know it! 

I'm talking about the Curio trade. You know, dead starfish, coral, and fish like pufferfish and seahorses! 

Googly eyes are like my favorite thing on earth, but it seems a bit disrespectful on a dead animal decoration!! 

Googly eyes are like my favorite thing on earth, but it seems a bit disrespectful on a dead animal decoration!! 

I googled "dead puffer" images and no curio puffers showed up on the first visible page. This lends support to the idea that people do not understand a dried puffer is actually a DEAD puffer. 

This is a trade that permits collectors to collect namely marine animals for decorations. It's not illegal, but it is almost completely unnecessary and definitely tricks people! I don't know how many people I've talked to or seen online that are confused when they learn a dried starfish from the $1 store at Mission Beach is actually a REAL DEAD animal! Some even try to put these DEAD ANIMALS into their AQUARIUMS!

No, you cannot stick a dead animal into your aquarium! 

No, you cannot stick a dead animal into your aquarium! 

Not only are consumers unaware of the dead nature of these "decorations" they are fully unaware of the process of  making them dead. People who collect these animals are collecting LIVE specimens, and many times allowing them to suffocate slowly in order to keep their shape and color. How do you think a dried seahorse is in that cute seahorse shape? It's dying and molded into an attractive pose.

Avenge me, brother!

Avenge me, brother!

Other times animals, especially those with shells, are simply bleached alive. I remember I was looking for shells on one of the beaches in South Carolina and saw a man with a HUGE beautiful shell. It was a conch-type animal and it was very much still alive. He was a stranger but still openly stated, "I'm going to keep it for it's shell". RIP you poor, and probably decade-old, thing. 



So, is the killing of sea animals, especially in the face of extinction and loss, really necessary? Do you need some sea shells sitting in some sand on the toilet? Do you really need to buy your kid that googly-eyed pufferfish that they will forget about in a week?

Probably not. 

So what do you do? Well, (1) spread the word that these animals actively die for the curio trade. They aren't washing up on beaches, they are collected and systematically killed for decoration; and (2) stop buying these things. As I said in my Walmart fish post, if you don't want to promote the consumption of something, stop buying it yourself.

What could be any easier than NOT buying something?

Disclaimer: if you are purchasing shells that were collected for meat and done so appropriately, fine. And yes, there are cultures that eat and use seahorses as food or medicine. Maybe those things are fine, maybe not, but what we can do here in the States is at least stop the consumption and thus the collection of live animals only to be killed for decor. Please pass this information along!


TransRacial Families on the American Race Debate

Are there race issues in America right now? Taking a look at social media outlets...

The majority of African Americans say YES. White people are either ambivalent or they take a side. Many say NO.

If one group of American citizens almost all say the same thing, doesn't this alone tell you that there is a problem? If you still need persuading, perhaps another perspective on the issue will help shed some light on the "problem".

After Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice and the almost racially dichotomous side-taking, I want to hear from people who bridge the gap.

I want to hear from One race of Americans who have adopted another race into their homes.

This tiny section of the American society is almost never heard from, and yes, they do exist! 

I have had the privilege to speak to a white woman, Amanda Scott, who has fostered and then adopted several non-white children into her home. Amanda and her husband Jacob have many fears for their children as they grow up in our current American society. But first, what do we call these kinds of families? Mixed? Or what?

Amanda said: "I tend to prefer transracial, but that gets confusing, so mixed is fine. It's also totally fine to call us biracial, since I really believe once one member of your family is not white, you are a non white family." So, since Amanda self-identifies as transracial, let's take a look at a transracial parent's feelings toward the race issues going on in American society today:

The main question I asked her was: What do you worry most about your children and growing up black in America? 

The long answer is:  "I'm scared that I won't be able to properly prepare them to live in a country that's steeped in institutional racism. There are some things I can do - like telling my sons to raise their hands and never move them and to not talk back to officers and only respond politely. But, as Tamir Rice demonstrates, they might not even get the chance to do anything that could help them survive an encounter."

"I'm also afraid I can't protect them from the other realities they will face. Like the fact that my older son will be less likely to be called in for a job interview because he has a less traditionally White sounding name. Or the fact that accounting for SES and education, my non-White kids will (statistically) have worse health outcomes, a fact that many researchers are beginning to attribute to the multitude of large and small interactions people of color have with a racist society that increases their stress and is linked to things like premature infant birth (and higher mortality), higher blood pressure, more risk of diabetes, etc. Those are the two things that scare me the most."

"I worry about what happens to them when my privilege no longer transfers. When my being white doesn't protect them."

So, with that short interview, I think it's evident that social media, and all media, could do a heck of a lot better by asking transracial families, of either variety, what they think of the issue.

Amanda and Jacob's beautiful family photo! These are families we need to hear from on these racially-charged issues.  

Amanda and Jacob's beautiful family photo! These are families we need to hear from on these racially-charged issues.  

These are the only people that bridge that gap and their voices should be, and deserve to be, heard.

Accidentally Went Viral: Embrace the Mistake

So sometimes we, as humans, make mistakes.

Yeah, duh, right?

And sometimes those mistakes get made fun of and gossiped about...


But looks like that ain't nothin' now. Gossip the "old fashioned way" was verbal and or on paper; the new gossip is immediate and akin to a wildfire. If you're on the wrong side of this phenomenon, good luck.

A simple mistake can turn into a HUGE, GLOBAL mistake. 

So, what is there to do about this? Well, we could always be a bit better about consuming and regurgitating these viral mistakes. Spreading the snapshot of an editing mistake instead of notifying the editor is snarky and pretty nasty. Yeah, geeze, seeing something dumb is funny, I agree- but at what cost? You spread the viral mistake and become "internet famous" at the expense of someone else. So, those of us who like attention, and that's all of us, we need to be a bit more mindful. 

So, yeah, us consumers of media could be mindful, but is that really going to happen to the masses? Probably not. So, what do you do if you're on the other end of the viral mistake? The one who MADE the mistake? Well... good question. If you cower and hide you're likely to become a larger target (bullies love to feel the power, right?). My suggestion is:

Embrace the Mistake!

We all make mistakes and those who deal with them with dignity and honesty can actually become role models. So what if you left something stupid in a document and the WHOLE WORLD saw it? The whole world saw YOUR document! You're on stage now!

Take advantage of it and embrace the mistake! 

"Going viral" can be good or bad, depending on how you deal with the situation. 

"Going viral" can be good or bad, depending on how you deal with the situation. 

Now, let's see how the ESA comet shirt guy deals with his...

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 (

NotW: Dr. Luiz Rocha - The Deep Sea Naturalist

Welcome to another installment of Naturalist of the Week (NotW)!

This week's featured naturalist is the "Deep Sea" Naturalist, Dr. Luiz Rocha.

Dr. Luiz Rocha giving young ichthyologists a tour of the collection at CalAcademy! 

Dr. Luiz Rocha giving young ichthyologists a tour of the collection at CalAcademy! 

Luiz is an ichthyologist ("ich" = fish; "-ologist" = study) from California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, CA.  He studies the generation and maintenance of the extremely high biodiversity in tropical coral reefs. Sounds awesome, right?! So, how did Luiz get into this field?

Well, I asked him myself and he said he was interested in the natural world since at least third grade! In third grade, I too was passionate about animals and life on Earth. It must be a formative time period! 

At this age, Luiz kept a homemade ant farm, mayonnaise jars with jumping spiders, a box of caterpillars waiting to metamorphose into butterflies, and.... fish tanks! He started out the aquarium hobby with a large tank of guppies and a few small tanks with bettas.

He says he just never grew out of being a naturalist. 

New species of Grammatonotus (collected by Brian Greene; 470 feet) in  May 2014 . 

New species of Grammatonotus (collected by Brian Greene; 470 feet) in May 2014

Today, Luiz's most exciting work includes scubadiving deep into mesophotic reefs which extend from 100 to 330 feet (up to 500 ft in tropical regions), have low light, and lots of sponges, algae, and low-light photosynthetic corals. And awesome, cool, and rare fish!

He and his team finds new species of fish in every dive and see species that were previously only seen and/or collected by submarines!

Check out/like the CalAcademy Ichthyology Facebook page if you're as geeked as I am about new species of marine fish! 

And, as you can see from his photo on the top of the page, Luiz does some very important outreach to formative young students- our future naturalists and ichthyologists! Other outreach opportunities he participates in includes: public events at CalAcademy, blog contributions (this one is on fish sex), Twitter (@CoralReefFish), and giving talks to marine aquarium clubs in North America (such as the 2014 MACNA).

Luiz and Brian Greene (slowly) bringing up some deep water fish, including a NEW species of  Liopropoma  (candy basslet)! Photo by Bart Shepherd.

Luiz and Brian Greene (slowly) bringing up some deep water fish, including a NEW species of Liopropoma (candy basslet)! Photo by Bart Shepherd.

In light of the recent hubub regarding the proposed listing of Amphiprion percula (Percula clownfish, AKA Nemo) on the Endangered Species List as well as other media implicating the marine aquarium hobby in major ecological and environmental issues (i.e. release of lionfish and other non-natives), the marine aquarium hobby seems to be a tipping point.

I asked Luiz what he thought of the aquarium hobby.

He stated, "I think the educational benefits brought by the aquarium hobby far outweigh its impacts. Aquarium fish collection is not the same as food fish collection. You need a much larger infrastructure for aquarium fish because you need to keep them alive, so prices must remain high to support the industry. And for the prices to remain high, the supply has to be kept at a certain level. If supply is too high, prices drop and the industry stops making money, so I think it is somewhat self-regulating. Food fish on the other hand, have a much higher demand, so food fish industry tries to collect every single fish they can."

What do you think? 

Whatever your stance on the aquarium hobby, Luiz is utilizing it as a vehicle to educate the public about fish, ecology, and nature as a whole. He has taken it upon himself to be a leader in professional ichthyology to reach out to non-professionals. 

Kudos to you, Dr. Luiz Rocha, our Deep Sea Naturalist, for all the time you invest in the people who are starting out in ichthyology- those who can and will make major impacts on the world with their attitudes and behaviors. 

If you're interested in deep water fishes, ichthyology, and other science related news, please consider following Dr. Luiz Rocha on Twitter (@CoralReefFish) and his work at the California Academy. Thanks for reading and if you haven't already, follow me on Twitter (@LizMarchio).

Homophonophobia: Big Science-y Words Strike Again!

For those who have read my previous post I mentioned that big, science-y words can be broken down into smaller, more manageable and understandable chunks. This avoids confusion, right?


In a story that is making rounds on Facebook under "I can't believe this is not satire!" headlines, a man who teaches English to students who are learning it as their second language was FIRED for blogging about homophones

So... let's try breaking down the word "homophone" to see what the big deal is:



"homo" which comes from "homos" = same

"phone" = representing vocal sounds


Hmmm... well... I guess someone was fired over "words that sound the same"? Like "their", "there", and they're? Uhhh....

so the real story is...

It turns out, to some people:

the word homophone is a homophone for homosexual.


Are you still with me here? Someone was fired because they were adequately teaching English and someone misunderstood that the big, obviously quite scary science-y word (i.e. homophone) sounded too "gay". The boss man explicitly stated "Now our school is going to be associated with homosexuality". Sounds like he is suffering from "homophonophobia":



"homo" which comes from "homos" = same

"phone" = representing vocal sounds

"phobia" = excessive or irrational fear of




The Grand Canyon: Only For the Able Bodied?

The Los Angeles Times just released a story on Grand Canyon National Park and outside interest in making the park more than just  "a drive-by wilderness experience".  The local community of Tusayan plans to "add 2,200 homes and 3 million square feet of commercial space to a town two blocks long."

The development would increase the time visitors spend in the area and potentially increase revenue in the small gateway towns, such as Tusayan.

The plans also include the addition of a gondola that will allow visitors to reach the bottom of the Grand Canyon without having to hike or rent a mule. 

The conflict doesn't end there: Native American tribes own the rights to much of this land and their religious/spiritual ties to the land will suffer with increasing development. For example, they believe the confluence of the Little Colorado and Colorado Rivers

"represent male and female, and where they meet is where life begins."

Furthermore, Renae Yellowhorse of the group Save the Confluence states:  

"That's where our spirits go back to,"

"My father passed away last March. That's where he resides. If there is a development there, where are our prayers going to go?"

Lastly, the reason I wrote about this subject, it seems as though many avid outdoor enthusiasts are ignoring the Native American's perspective and the commercial and housing developmental issues (such as lack of drinking water in the area) to instead specifically fight and focus on the gondola.

A gondola would yes, surely mar the views of the Grand Canyon for those experiencing that area of the park but will also allow elderly, handicapped, and young visitors to visit and experience the park from top to bottom.

Who deserves to be able to see the entirety of the park?

Only those who are able bodied? Only those that can afford the hiking equipment? Or is seeing these sights rightfully left for those who are willing to put in the effort and time to "afford" it? It's a tough call and one I have no answer for.

Here is the mission of the National Park Service:

The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world.

Knowing all this, what do you think?




Link to the original LA Times article:

Link to the Outsider Magazine article based on the above:





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