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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: lol

Feral Cat Colonies & Crazy Cat Lady Syndrome

We've all heard about the negative effects feral cats have on wild bird populations. It's a fact that cats are hunters and they're good at it. After all, there are probably millions of barn cats employed because of their wonderful work ethic! 

Image from

Image from

The most interesting thing about the feral cat issue taking place in our society today is the straight up crazy conflict over the situation. We all know cats kill other animals. We know they do it well and whenever they can. Regardless of what we all know, take a look at any social media post regarding feral cats killing birds and you see the cat defenders come out and swat away those negative cat statistics. 

Why would spay/neuter help keep cats from eating? This is a common argument of cat-defenders .

Why would spay/neuter help keep cats from eating? This is a common argument of cat-defenders.

Above you can see the cat-defenders using several different tactics to defend wild/feral cats. Strategies include an appeal to emotion, appeals to humanity, placing blame, offering (biased) information to support pre-determined decisions, logical reasoning, and threats. It's intense and flies in the face of the information we all know: cats are killers and bird populations are on the decline because of it. So why defend cats so vehemently?

Enter: Toxoplasmosis. 

Toxoplasmosis gondii. Photo from Wikipedia.

Toxoplasmosis gondii. Photo from Wikipedia.

Toxoplasmosis is a parasite that is found in cats and cat feces. It is also found in rats. Basically, an infected rat is eaten by a cat (yay barn cats!), which then infects the cat. The cat does what all cats do, and poops. The feces house Toxoplasmosis and make it "available" to the environment. Uninfected rodents can get infected via fecal contact and so can people.

So, if you have a cat and you clean its box, or the cat gives you "the brown eye"... you may have Toxoplasmosis. 

Up to 80% of people could have Toxoplasmosis! 

This isn't even the scariest part. I haven't told you what the parasite can do... 

In rats, it has been shown to cause a reduction of fear. This is a "plan" by the parasite! If eaten, especially by a cat, the parasite can continue its life cycle. If the host rat doesn't fear cats, then cats get Toxoplasmosis. Here's a video to help explain:

This lack of fear response could also be an affection response.

It's well known by most people that people who keep a cat have an increased propensity to own another cat... and so on... and so on... This can lead to hoarding and an intense, self-destructive affection towards cats. 

This is Crazy Cat Lady Syndrome and it involves Toxoplasmosis.

 If social media stories on feral cat issues have replies/comments that are made up of 50% cat-defenders, are 50% of the people replying to that story "suffering" from Toxoplasmosis?  

After all, they are defending cats based on a reduction of fear and a strong, almost insatiable,  emotional attachment towards cats. 

Perhaps the feral cat issue can be aided by research in the "suffering" of Toxoplasmosis in the public? If people who will not aid bird conservation by limiting the number of cats in the wild actually have a disease and cannot act any other way towards cats... maybe there can be some middle ground forged? 

No one wants to know they're a part of a parasite's plan, or life history, so I doubt this gets much attention, but damn, isn't this at least interesting?

Accidentally Went Viral: Embrace the Mistake

So sometimes we, as humans, make mistakes.

Yeah, duh, right?

And sometimes those mistakes get made fun of and gossiped about...


But looks like that ain't nothin' now. Gossip the "old fashioned way" was verbal and or on paper; the new gossip is immediate and akin to a wildfire. If you're on the wrong side of this phenomenon, good luck.

A simple mistake can turn into a HUGE, GLOBAL mistake. 

So, what is there to do about this? Well, we could always be a bit better about consuming and regurgitating these viral mistakes. Spreading the snapshot of an editing mistake instead of notifying the editor is snarky and pretty nasty. Yeah, geeze, seeing something dumb is funny, I agree- but at what cost? You spread the viral mistake and become "internet famous" at the expense of someone else. So, those of us who like attention, and that's all of us, we need to be a bit more mindful. 

So, yeah, us consumers of media could be mindful, but is that really going to happen to the masses? Probably not. So, what do you do if you're on the other end of the viral mistake? The one who MADE the mistake? Well... good question. If you cower and hide you're likely to become a larger target (bullies love to feel the power, right?). My suggestion is:

Embrace the Mistake!

We all make mistakes and those who deal with them with dignity and honesty can actually become role models. So what if you left something stupid in a document and the WHOLE WORLD saw it? The whole world saw YOUR document! You're on stage now!

Take advantage of it and embrace the mistake! 

"Going viral" can be good or bad, depending on how you deal with the situation. 

"Going viral" can be good or bad, depending on how you deal with the situation. 

Now, let's see how the ESA comet shirt guy deals with his...

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