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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: outreach

Science as Leisure: A Leisurely Primer

Many people ask me to explain my concept of "Science as Leisure".

It's pretty simple:

If you're taking part in a leisure activity that requires an understanding of activity-related scientific concepts to continue in said leisure activity, you're doing science as leisure. 

Science itself is a "way of knowing". You can also know by faith or other methods, but most of those have risks and pitfalls if you're trying to do one of these science as leisure activities. 

Take, for example, fish-keeping. To keep a fish alive, it's actually pretty complex. These animals do not live on land so their requirements and ways of living are vastly different than our own. Someone attempting to keep a fish alive in an aquarium doesn't only need to understand a baseline level of fish biology (e.g. (most) fish have gills) but also ecological processes. An aquarist needs to understand various concepts in biology and ecology for a fish to live. Aquarium keeping is thus a science as leisure activity. 

So what happens if the aquarist doesn't learn science?

Well, their fish dies.

 This is  Paracheirodon innesi , the neon tetra. It is a species that is highly colored and thus highly sought after by aquarists. It is also the most commonly murdered aquarium resident (per. obs.). Luckily, that pressure lead to captive breeding and more careful vetting of aquarists during purchases (all ethics pushed by industry, not government). If you want to poo-poo the trade, please fund IUCN's fisheries assessment team. This fish, which is sold to aquarium stores by the hundreds, has not even been assessed! Photo:  Rachel O'Leary

This is Paracheirodon innesi, the neon tetra. It is a species that is highly colored and thus highly sought after by aquarists. It is also the most commonly murdered aquarium resident (per. obs.). Luckily, that pressure lead to captive breeding and more careful vetting of aquarists during purchases (all ethics pushed by industry, not government). If you want to poo-poo the trade, please fund IUCN's fisheries assessment team. This fish, which is sold to aquarium stores by the hundreds, has not even been assessed! Photo: Rachel O'Leary

And here is where things get sticky. Many aquarists will give up after this initial attempt at keeping a fish in captivity. After all, who wants to kill cute little neon tetras? But others persevere and continue after having been, essentially, a fish murderer. The fish must be taken care of by the owner or it won't live; if it dies, it's most likely you're fault.

This is, however, a very important learning experience. A fish's death is feedback to the aquarist. "AHhhhh... I did something wrong! I wonder what it is?"... and BOOM, we have a budding scientist right there. Next steps: Observation, Hypothesis, Data Collection, Analysis, Results, Conclusion. Of course most aquarists do not keep a log of this, or even think of their aquarium or their learning process in this manner. But that doesn't mean it isn't happening.

To keep an aquarium, the aquarist must understand a baseline level of scientific concepts, be able to implement them, and reformulate after failure to try again. This is a science as leisure activity and it only exists when the participant understands activity-related scientific concepts.

science as leisure

Attention Percula Clownfish Breeders!

I'm in need of:

CAPTIVE BREEDING POPULATION INFO ON PERCULA CLOWNFISH

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

Abstract:

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!

 

Amateur Hour: Fish Drawings Desired

I'm creating an online collage of people's renderings of fish! 

So, if you have a spare few minutes:

  1. Think of fish. What do image pops into your mind?
  2. Attempt to portray that image on paper or an app (whatever works for you).
  3. Send me your fish image and...
  4. Send me any information regarding your familiarity with fish. For example, do you study them? Keep them? Fish them? Eat them? Whatever helped you think of an image of a  "fish", let me know! 

Send to: elizabeth.marchio@gmail.com or @LizMarchio on Twitter.

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