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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: natural histroy


As someone who studies the intersection of science and leisure, I feel the need to participate in those leisure activities. When a friend and comic creator on Twitter (@BlackMudpuppy) started the #TinyTankCahllenge, I had to join in. 

The rules of the challenge are to create an aquarium that is equal to or under 5.5 gallons of water and costs $100 or less to set up. Quite the challenge!

To follow our progress, please consider checking out our collective blog at Parlour Oceans and checking out the hashtag on twitter: 


New Fish Named after a Fish Hobbyist

Science can be a profession or a leisure activity. 

Anyone can be a scientist, anyone can observe and discover new things.

One aquarium hobbyist, Gary Lange,  has been at the forefront of finding new, exciting species of rainbowfish from Australia and New Guinea. It started out as a leisure activity: keeping fish and catching them while abroad. Then, it became a passion. As Gary progressed through the aquarium hobby, he became more interested in science and scientific discovery- I remember meeting Gary and trading rainbowfish eggs for scientific literature on describing species.  He really wanted to learn taxonomy and reach the pinnacle of both his natural history and his fish keeping interests.

While I don't think Gary has described a species himself, he was honored in a recent publication in the Fishes of Sahul, a publication of the Australia New Guinea Fishes Association. The honor consisted of describing a new species of rainbowfish after Gary, Melonotaenia garylangi.

Photo of  Melonotaenia garylangei  from  .

Photo of Melonotaenia garylangei from .

While I am not a fan of naming fish, or any species, after people... I'm proud to be hypocritical here. It's a much deserved honor and one that I hope many hobbyists will strive for. 

Congrats to Gary! 

5 Reasons YOU Should Engage in Citizen Science!

If you don't identify as a scientist, do you sometimes want to learn more about a science subject? Maybe get more involved? Taking part in "citizen science" might just be for you! 

If you do identify as a scientist, do you want more data? Reach more people with your work? Communicate better with non-professional scientists? Then guess what?? Taking part (involving) "citizen scientists" might be right for you! 

DATA! Photo credit: Kelsey Neam

DATA! Photo credit: Kelsey Neam

So just what is this "citizen science"? Check out my colleagues' work in Central America to see how they engage citizen scientists and what positive outcomes stem from that inclusion. Here is their blog post on the subject:

The only photo you get from a sloth is a butt-shot. Photo by Kelsey "Sloth Lover" Neam

The only photo you get from a sloth is a butt-shot. Photo by Kelsey "Sloth Lover" Neam

Want to get more involved in science? Send me an e-mail and I can point you in the right direction! 

Also, check out twitter #citsci for the most up to date information and news about citizen science! 

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? 

Academic Papers: Aquarium Species v1

As an academic I need to stay on top of my field. To do this, I subscribe to updates through Google Scholar.

This subscription allows me to send myself new publications on papers I *should* find relevant. 

I get a lot of new papers I can't really use but know others who may find the material interesting, even if it is just the abstract. So, I am going to try to post some links to BRAND NEW information on aquarium species of fish, mainly. 

If you're interested in more information on each paper, please contact me

Here is v1:

1: Evaluation of decompression and venting and its affect on stress and mortality in the Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens). Click here for the abstract. 

marchio yellow tang fish aquarium

2: The relationship between the numbers of spot, sex and size of the spotted barb, Puntius binotatus was investigated in order to develop a phenotypic sex identification method for the broodstock management of this species.  Click here for the paper (I think this will work) 

marchio barb aquarium fish

3: Ecological and Evolutionary Applications for Environmental Sex Reversal of Fish DNA. Click here for the abstract.


3: Barcoding in Pencilfishes (Lebiasinidae: Nannostomus) Reveals Cryptic Diversity across the Brazilian Amazon. Click here for the PAPER! Yes, open access! 

Photo by  Rachel O'Leary

4: Growth of mycotal fungus on carp eggs in differing environments. Click here for the PAPER!



Well, I hope this was helpful! Please give me feedback in the comments or via e-mail

Starting an Aquarium uses SCIENCE!

I've told people how I became a scientist and that a lot of it has to do with keeping aquariums.

science bitch.jpg

So... What does science have to do with keeping an aquarium?! 

Here is a teeny, tiny illustration of this phenomenon:

First of all, an aquarium is an ecosystem. Period. Accepting this is absolutely a key to success- if you cannot think of the aquarium or "tank" as a small slice of a wild counterpart (ocean, swamp, river, etc.), you're going to fail over and over.

Aquariums are biological recreations of the real world. 

Sometimes aquarists accidentally accept this fact. They may not recognize the hobby as "science" or that utilizing science will help them succeed; however, interestingly they actually use the scientific method of falsification in order to obtain success- another form of science in the hobby! Simply put, falsification is hypothesis testing: You make a prediction and if it fails, you know that's not right and you alter your prediction and try something else. Eventually you get a billion and one ways of doing something wrong and you forge a tiny little path into success. If aquarists stick to falsification long enough (have enough cash to blow, are stubborn, etc.), they eventually "accept" the ecosystem phenomena, whether they know it or not.

The hobby, accepted as science or not, utilizes it to just keep fish alive in an aquarium.

Other times, repetitive failure ends in quitting the hobby. And, of course, it's not this simple... understanding the hobby as science won't immediately make you succeed at keeping fish in a tank, but I bet it will get you there faster. Part of the hobby is figuring it out, taking chances, doing something crazy and seeing how it works. Failure keeps it challenging.

As I said, the hobby uses science just to keep fish alive in an aquarium. Another important and major science-understanding obstacle of keeping an aquarium is what aquarists call, "The Cycle". This concept may strike fear into a newbie- there are a lot of big, strange words. In the end, this cycle is the core of keeping aquatic animals alive in captive environments. The concept is important and its utilization essential

nitrogen cycle.png

The cycle is basically answering "where does the poop go?". Maybe when you flush the toilet, you never think about your own "creation" and where it goes... but when you keep an aquarium, you not only have to think about poop (a lot), you have to physically remove it with your mouth. 

Wait, what?? With your mouth? 

Yep. Well, it is one way to remove waste from an aquarium. And, technically, you aren't removing poop; you're removing nitrate (see image above). 

As you can see, just getting an aquarium started takes you through a lot of science concepts and can accidentally make you more science literate.

I'll post more science-phenomena about aquariums in another installment. I hope this was informative and enjoyable. Have a bone to pick with me about this? Please send me an e-mail and let's talk. 

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. 

NOTW: Mark Valen, a man of many naturalist hats

 This NaturalIst of the Week has been written by guest blogger: Katie Wedemeyer

Sometimes when you meet some people for the first time, you can tell right away that they’re special. Mark is one of those people.

Mark and I got hired around the same time at the Living Coast Discovery Center (formerly the Chula Vista Nature Center) at San Diego Bay in Chula Vista, California. I was hired for education and Mark as the lead horticulturist (“hortus” = garden; “cultúra” = cultivation). I knew right away Mark had a lot to teach me, as a colleague and a human being in general.

Mark, a man of many naturalist hats showcasing a Yucca flower pruning. (photo credit: Mark Valen) 

Mark is the epitome of a naturalist: 

Every aspect of his life shows appreciation and awe at the natural world  - and a profound respect for it that is contagious. His enthusiasm spreads to those who are lucky enough to learn from him, young or old.  

Mark in his natural habitat (photo credit: Mark Valen)

His list of naturalist-related accomplishments is impressive, and steadily growing. He currently is in a Masters of Liberal Arts in Sustainability and Environmental Management through Harvard, while also working as the Horticulturist and Facilities Lead at the Living Coast Discovery Center. Did I mention he also is adjunct faculty in the San Diego Community College District and the Southwestern Community College Districts, teaching about sustainable landscaping and urban agriculture? 

Through his work at the Discovery Center, which reaches many underprivileged schools, and through working at the Community Colleges, Mark is directly impacting and inspiring students who may not have the same “top tier” opportunities as those from more “privileged” (i.e. funded) neighborhoods.

In his free time he serves as commissioner on the City of Chula Vista's Resource Conservation Commission that advises the City Council on environmental decisions. As an undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz he not only helped develop his own sustainability major he also created and taught classes for it. There’s a reason he is the NOTW of many hats!

Despite so many accomplishments, Mark is the most Down to Earth (pun-intended), sincere nature lover out there. Each time we interacted at work I was always paying close attention, excited to learn something new, to gain a new appreciation for plants.

As a scientist, I always appreciated plants for giving me oxygen but lost interest after that – until Mark presented them as fascinating organisms with incredible adaptations.

His lessons may have been geared towards the 7 year olds attending summer camp but I was hooked! 

Mark inspiring (and blowing minds of) some of the Living Coast Discovery Center campers (photo: Living Coast Discovery Center facebook page

Did you know that pickleweed (Salcornia virginica) lives near the brackish (salt + fresh water mixed) water of the salt marsh It lives so close to the water’s edge that it can actually “drink” salt water! What? How cool is that!  Have you ever accidently ingested salt water? Did it quench your thirst or make you thirstier? It makes me thirstier! Several marine animals (like sea turtles, sea birds, and marine fish) have adaptations for drinking salt water, but it turns out that plants do too! Pickleweed, which gets its name from its pickle-like shape and salty taste, is generally green in appearance except for its red tips where it concentrates the salt it has sucked up and when the tip becomes saturated with salt, it turns red and falls off. By getting rid of the excess salt it can hold onto sufficient freshwater to help it grow and survive! What a cool adaptation!

Pickleweed! (Photo credit:

Mark was a key component of many of the education programs I created at the Living Coast Discovery Center, always eager to contribute to educating the youth and getting them out to play in the dirt.

We had several campers compost and the looks of amazement on the kids’ faces were priceless as they held worms for the first time, their eyes fascinated, moving quickly along with the squiggly movements of these often underappreciated creatures. 

For the first time they realized that worms have an important job: mixing different layers of the compost and aerating it simply by burrowing through it. They couldn’t wait to dive in to the compost pile to find more! 

Mark teaching a composting class at the Living Coast Discovery Center (photo credit Living Coast Discovery Center facebook page)

He has, without a doubt inspired thousands of individuals, from children through senior citizens, to get out in nature and not be afraid to dig in the dirt and to appreciate all of nature’s contributions to the beauty and function of our everyday lives.

For these reasons, Mark is our NOTW and our naturalist of many hats!

To contact Mark, send him an e-mail or just go visit the Living Coast Discovery Center (or at least visit their Facebook page)! Bring the kids, bring the wife! Get Dirty! 

For more information on our guest blogger, Katie Wedemeyer, please follow her on twitter @krwedemeyer and visit her website!

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


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).

NotW: Aaron Roland- A Natural Born Naturalist

This week I showcase a "non-professional" ichthyologist, Aaron Roland.

Don't let "non-professional" fool you... I'm betting Aaron could school any marine biologist on fish and coral husbandry, propagation, and even native habitats and geography.

No Doctorate? No Problem! 

Aaron (almost) in his natural environment.

Aaron (almost) in his natural environment.

I used to work for aquarium and pet stores in Columbus, Ohio from 2000-2010. During that time I met and worked with a multitude of people, most of them amazing in their own way. As I progressed from working at a pet store to working at a fish-only aquarium store, the people I worked with became more specialized and actually, increasingly passionate about conservation and wild stocks of fish.

Perhaps your're wondering how conservation and aquariums goes together... Well, I'll touch more on that in another post, but think about it- as I said above, as I specialized in my work (and leisure) the people involved in the hobby did too. This specialization in a serious leisure activity allows people, like Aaron, to progress to a level that rivals "professional" ichthyologists. 

The art of nature as seen through the lens of Aaron's camera. 

The art of nature as seen through the lens of Aaron's camera. 

Not only is Aaron a very smart non-professional-degreed ichthyologist, he uses his free time to study and keep fish.

Aaron lives and "breathes" fish! 

This intense passion for aquatic life has spurred him to new heights in knowledge and awareness. As many aquarists know, keeping fish is a double edged sword- conservation and consumptive hobbies can deplete resources such as ornamental fish. However, with people like Aaron at the helm, someone infatuated with the natural world and absolutely well-known in Columbus for his willingness to help any aquarist who needs it, the aquarium hobby and evolve and progress into a conservation-minded force!

For these reasons Aaron Roland is the Naturalist of the Week! 

Click the Rivers to Reefs logo to visit Aaron's facebook page.

Click the Rivers to Reefs logo to visit Aaron's facebook page.

Thank you, Aaron!

You've educated and guided so many people to be stewards of the natural world rather than just consumers. 


Aaron is currently working on opening his own aquarium-only store in Columbus, Ohio. If you live in the area and want to keep a conservation-friendly aquarium (and get some really good advice and help on all things aquatic), please consider offering him your future business. As I said in my last post, there are stores that only consider fish as products- Aaron considers them ambassadors to the wild world of fish. 

The Loss of SciDiversity...?

With increasing interest in technology, the realm of biological sciences may be losing its academic diversity.

Taxonomy in Decline? 

Bird specimens at Louisiana State University. Birds collected from all over the world aid in research on bird biodiversity and speciation. Those who utilize these collections are namely taxonomists.

Bird specimens at Louisiana State University. Birds collected from all over the world aid in research on bird biodiversity and speciation. Those who utilize these collections are namely taxonomists.

Taxonomists are people who name new species and many test the organism's place on the Tree of Life.

They know every tiny character in their organism of interest- whether that be fish, bird, mammal, etc. These people are natural historians and hold an unimaginable wealth of information about their study organisms. 

Their training is incredibly difficult and time consuming- I tried to be a taxonomist myself and found it extremely intense. These people lay the foundational knowledge about the species they study. Without knowing what the animal looks like, what bone is connected to what, what their eggs and babies look like, etc., it's extremely difficult to effectively utilize technology to aid in identifying species successfully.

DNA work and taxonomy are two sides to the same very important coin. 

The importance of taxonomy and taxonomic studies does not end with the identification of new species. Taxonomists are rarer now than ever before because the antecedents to wanting to learn about animals in this detail are being filtered out of our culture. Ask a taxonomist how they got into it- it starts with playing outdoors, having a mentor, and taking part in leisure activities that incorporate science. These activities are being replaced with other, more indoor, activities. 

Taxonomists are in decline and it starts in childhood.

But, make your own decisions- here's the article that got me thinking.

What do you think?

Here is what a museum based on DNA would look like. WOW such color, much peaks, very BORING.   

Here is what a museum based on DNA would look like. WOW such color, much peaks, very BORING.


Utilize DNA/technology, but don't lose sight of the importance of the organisms! 


Also, as soon as I posted this blog story, I heard the lone, but very awesome, fish taxonomist at Texas A&M, Dr. Kevin Conway, just discovered something cool in clingfish... All because he was looking at the tiny, anatomical details! Story: Tiny, tenacious, and tentatively toxic

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