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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: environment

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. 

Don't Mess with ... Birders! The Vikings' new stadium is not for the birds.


people who spend their leisure time looking for and usually documenting the birds they see. 

These birders are looking for waterfowl species in 42F temperatures and 40mph winds. Photo taken by Kirby Adams. 

These birders are looking for waterfowl species in 42F temperatures and 40mph winds. Photo taken by Kirby Adams. 

To some birders, "birding" is a challenge to see as many species as possible; to others it's an excuse to get outdoors and connect with nature. To almost all, it's a passion and a life choice to be a "birder". 

The absolutely most amazing thing about birders is that there are no groups of amateur scientists that can rival birders in passion, conservation attitudes and behaviors, and even biological education. As novice birders become seasoned veterans, this passion grows until it bursts forth.

If you mess with birds, you mess with birders!  

When birds are in peril, the people who appreciate them most will speak up until their voices are heard. These passionate bursts are evident in a few recent stories from around the nation, including this one from the Midwest:

Washington, D.C., January 29, 2014: According to, one of several wind turbine projects planned for the shores of Lake Erie, in one of the greatest bird migration corridors in the Western Hemisphere, has been halted following submission of a letter of intent to sue from American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO). The two groups had vigorously opposed the project due to its exceptionally high risk to federally protected wildlife.

The ABC and BSBO are run by citizens who are passionate about birds. Because of passionate individuals, like yourselves out there in internet-land, something poorly planned can actually be halted. No one had to chain themselves to trees to make a point - they used social media, wrote letters, and basically made a big 'ol stink. If you really care about something, you are not helpless! 

The most recent story about birds and a poorly-planned project is the proposed, and currently under construction, Minnesota Vikings stadium. This American football team is rebuilding their stadium on the banks of the Mississippi River, which in of itself isn't ideal for the environment as a whole (just ask any New Orleanean who deals with the dirty Mississippi delta...) and consequently the location of the stadium is within one of the largest bird migration corridors IN THE COUNTRY.

This isn't just birders talking out their collective cloaca, this corridor or "flyway" is a cold, hard fact of life. 

Maybe the Vikings really hate the Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, and Seattle Seahawks...?

Maybe the Vikings really hate the Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, and Seattle Seahawks...?

If you're not a birder you can just chalk this issue up to "progress", right?

"Us or them"?

Ooooo.... but look at that purdy building! Local materials are being used " whenever possible " so, I mean, that evens out the bird deaths, right?

Ooooo.... but look at that purdy building! Local materials are being used "whenever possible" so, I mean, that evens out the bird deaths, right?

Well, the real problem with the new stadium isn't its existence. It's the glass they are using in the construction. Birds hit it. HARD.

And die.

Glass that reduces what birders call glass "strikes" is available and absolutely supported by the birding community (and birds, for that matter). So, what's the problem? For one, an estimated 988 million birds die annually when they inadvertently fly into buildings and windows, according to the American Audubon Society. Furthermore, the Vikings simply didn't budget for 1.1 million more dollars for "special bird glass". but ya know what they did budget for? 

According to, the new Vikings stadium will provide several unique features compared to all other NFL stadiums, including:

  1. The largest transparent ethylene-tetraflouroethylene (ETFE) roof in the nation.
  2. Five 95-foot high pivoting glass doors that will open to a nearly three-acre plaza and the Minneapolis downtown skyline.
  3. Fans will experience an outdoor feel in a climate-controlled environment.    [wait.... seriously....???]
  4. Two of the largest and highest-quality HD video boards in the NFL will be located in both the east and west end zones, and over 2,000 HD flat screen televisions will be distributed throughout the stadium.


Well. In that case...


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