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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.


Beautiful Trash: Sea Glass Beaches

Human society has a knack for holding beautiful things in higher regard, whether that thing be a beautiful person or an attractive organism. Beautiful things get a "pass" when we attempt to hold a standard. For example, we all know that attractive person in our life that just gets away with so much more than others; they are just too attractive to be treated poorly, or so it seems.

This behavior is evident in our general treatment of organisms as well. For example, unattractive plants in our yards are considered "weeds". Sometimes these are non-native and we cull them from wild areas; however, some are just ugly natives.

We desire to have attractive things around us.

Similarly, we desire to go see attractive things. We pay to travel and visit beautiful places or see beautiful organisms. Sometimes we even pay to see attractive people (e.g. movies, concerts).

Attractiveness can outweigh anything else.

This accepting behavior goes for beautiful places as well. Sea glass beaches are a great example of an unnatural but beautiful place. However...

 Sea glass is trash

It is glass that has been literally dumped into the ocean instead of a landfill. As it drifts through the current and against rocks and reefs, it is tumbled  and forms small, rounded pebbles of translucent color. Hundreds of thousands of tiny glass (i.e. trash) particles are strewn across beaches all over the world. In some places, like Ft. Bragg in California, a beach of sea glass can be found downstream from a historical trash dumping site. The online history of this beach is littered with information stating: this is trash.  But people intentionally go there to look and collect the sea glass.

An example of green seaglass collected on a beach of sea glass. Beautiful trash. Image from

An example of green seaglass collected on a beach of sea glass. Beautiful trash. Image from

People spend their time and money traveling to sea glass beaches to look at and collecting sea glass (i.e. trash). They are tourist attractions and some prohibit the picking up of trash (i.e. sea glass) off the beach. Some places are actively promoting the creation of more sea glass by dumping trash into the ocean! 

Of course a beach covered in other, less attractive, trash is condemned. Plastic strewn across beautiful white sand beaches is a "tragedy" and "pollution", but if it's colorful and attractive like sea glass, it's a treasure, a wonder, and a beautiful tourist attraction. 

Beautiful trash? This is tumbled plastic.  Photo from .

Beautiful trash? This is tumbled plastic.  Photo from

So, what does this hypocrisy mean? It means we, humans, are sometimes blinded by beauty. We don't always see the forest through the trees or the hypocrisy of a situation. Sometimes it's just easier to look the other way and sometimes it's just more beautiful to. 

Sea Glass Beach in California. 

Sea Glass Beach in California. 

What do you think? 

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