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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 Tag: dead

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. 

THROW IT BAAAACK!!!

THROW IT BAAAACK!!!

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!

 

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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