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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: nps

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: thedeserve.com

Photo credit: thedeserve.com

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 geocaching.com:

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 www.geocaching.com, 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. 

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: http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-grand-canyon-20140706-story.html#page=1

Link to the Outsider Magazine article based on the above: http://www.outsideonline.com/news-from-the-field/Bad-News-on-the-Horizon-for-Grand-Canyon.html?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=facebookpost

 

 

 

 

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