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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: science as leisure

Science as Leisure: A Leisurely Primer

Many people ask me to explain my concept of "Science as Leisure".

It's pretty simple:

If you're taking part in a leisure activity that requires an understanding of activity-related scientific concepts to continue in said leisure activity, you're doing science as leisure. 

Science itself is a "way of knowing". You can also know by faith or other methods, but most of those have risks and pitfalls if you're trying to do one of these science as leisure activities. 

Take, for example, fish-keeping. To keep a fish alive, it's actually pretty complex. These animals do not live on land so their requirements and ways of living are vastly different than our own. Someone attempting to keep a fish alive in an aquarium doesn't only need to understand a baseline level of fish biology (e.g. (most) fish have gills) but also ecological processes. An aquarist needs to understand various concepts in biology and ecology for a fish to live. Aquarium keeping is thus a science as leisure activity. 

So what happens if the aquarist doesn't learn science?

Well, their fish dies.

This is  Paracheirodon innesi , the neon tetra. It is a species that is highly colored and thus highly sought after by aquarists. It is also the most commonly murdered aquarium resident (per. obs.). Luckily, that pressure lead to captive breeding and more careful vetting of aquarists during purchases (all ethics pushed by industry, not government). If you want to poo-poo the trade, please fund IUCN's fisheries assessment team. This fish, which is sold to aquarium stores by the hundreds, has not even been assessed! Photo:  Rachel O'Leary

This is Paracheirodon innesi, the neon tetra. It is a species that is highly colored and thus highly sought after by aquarists. It is also the most commonly murdered aquarium resident (per. obs.). Luckily, that pressure lead to captive breeding and more careful vetting of aquarists during purchases (all ethics pushed by industry, not government). If you want to poo-poo the trade, please fund IUCN's fisheries assessment team. This fish, which is sold to aquarium stores by the hundreds, has not even been assessed! Photo: Rachel O'Leary

And here is where things get sticky. Many aquarists will give up after this initial attempt at keeping a fish in captivity. After all, who wants to kill cute little neon tetras? But others persevere and continue after having been, essentially, a fish murderer. The fish must be taken care of by the owner or it won't live; if it dies, it's most likely you're fault.

This is, however, a very important learning experience. A fish's death is feedback to the aquarist. "AHhhhh... I did something wrong! I wonder what it is?"... and BOOM, we have a budding scientist right there. Next steps: Observation, Hypothesis, Data Collection, Analysis, Results, Conclusion. Of course most aquarists do not keep a log of this, or even think of their aquarium or their learning process in this manner. But that doesn't mean it isn't happening.

To keep an aquarium, the aquarist must understand a baseline level of scientific concepts, be able to implement them, and reformulate after failure to try again. This is a science as leisure activity and it only exists when the participant understands activity-related scientific concepts.

science as leisure

7 Ways Twitter is for Scientists

 Social media is good at taking over lives but it can be beneficial too. 

liz marchio

I've told science colleagues I am on Twitter and gotten about a 90% rate for reproachful looks. I'm guessing they consider it to be a place for movie stars to push their interests to the masses. Well, it can be; however, I have found it to be surprisingly helpful. 

Sure, there are self-serving people on Twitter and it may even make you self-serving as well. But yet, there are 7 positive attributes I consider to be great equalizers:

  1. Communicating with the public: I can cast my net wide and promote my ideas and research to a wider community of people. Not only this, but I learn to follow trends which allows me to communicate more effectively with the public. Scientists are not the best communicators so any practice I can get is beneficial. 
  2. Networking: The open access of Twitter promotes networking with people. I've met many new and potentially unapproachable scientists through Twitter. Through "Tweet-ups" at conferences and meeting people at professional meetings, it's a way to get involved.
  3. Immediate news: I used to use Facebook (FB) for my real-world and research news. Now, I rely on Twitter for the most up to date information. This includes up to date science! New papers, research, and ideas. It is exciting to be on the outer limits of knowledge!
  4. Less doom and gloom: I found FB and perhaps my day-to-day experience to be full of negativity. This negativity was affecting my disposition and causing me to be disappointed in humanity & depressed. Twitter isn't always *happy* but I found the negatives are outweighed by the positives, especially stories on activism (e.g. people doing something rather than watching it happen).
  5. Less biased/More diverse information: I don't just get a "snow-ball effect": only seeing the news and information that my friends and family pass on through FB. Because of the short character limit I can follow a more diverse crowd and get more types of information. "Trending" stories round out my viewing. 
  6. Practice being concise: Most of your life you're taught to write excessively in order to make a page limit... but grad school wants clear and concise. Twitter helps me cut out unnecessary adjectives and description in order to keep it under 141 characters. I also get feedback: my Tweets aren't read or retweeted unless they are also clear. Overall, good practice for keeping it short, sweet, and interesting! 
  7. Writing and Funding opportunities: I have been published in the Working Life section of Science because of a writing opportunity I saw on Twitter. Also, I've applied for several unique funding opportunities seen on Twitter. I feel good applying for them since they are unique and potentially have a higher award rate per cost of time spent applying. 

BONUS #8: JOB OPPORTUNITIES! 

 I really cannot stress this enough. Every single day I see at least one job opportunity posted that is potentially applicable to me. I'm mainly on Twitter only in very short, but regular, bursts (i.e. bathroom breaks) so there's a lot going on Twitter.

 These are the reasons I have found Twitter to be a good use of my limited time. If you're a scientist and find these 7 reasons potentially helpful, join the community!

And make sure to follow me @LizMarchio

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: https://centralamericaabs.wordpress.com/2015/02/19/why-participate-and-engage-in-citizen-science/

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! 


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. 


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