To whom much is given, much is expected. As publicly funded scientists at a public university, and having the privilege to follow our life’s passions, we believe that sharing what we know in an engaging way is one of our job’s great, and enjoyable, responsibilities. Here are some examples.
Visits to Norman Schools
Members of the lab occasionally visit local schools, like Kennedy Elementary, to introduce students to the glory of entomology. Jackson, apparently, has his work cut out for him.
Organized by the Oklahoma Biological Survey, Bioblitz gathers biologists and the public each year to survey a different Oklahoma park or preserve. We do soil invertebrates, naturally. Here Brittany Benson, ably handles a coffee mug and sifting cup as she leads her charges into the prairie.
Mike gives the occasional public lecture with titles like “Death Underfoot: the story of army ants”, and “We are Starstuff: the origins of the elements and the evolution of life”. One rider in his contract, besides the one about brown M&Ms, insists that every title has a colon.
Some of the best ways to get the word out is to get the audience outside. Given that we are field biologists, working at field stations, there are frequently opportunities to guide visitors and explain our work. At the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institutes, public officials from around the world come and visit, and allow us to talk about life, the universe…everything. Many in our lab are alumni or teachers on the Ant Course,
One of the most exhausting and rewarding things I’ve ever participated in was helping to teach a Jason course in Panama. We developed curricula–paper and video–on how rainforests work. Jason then flew down groups of very savvy undergrads, and we performed 5 one-hour shows daily–for two weeks!–that were streamed to 1.7 million students…live. The curricula is still in use in Panama.
The field of ecology is full of musicians, as Nick Gotelli, ESAs curator of music amply shows on his webpage. Nick and Elizabeth Farnsworth arrange jam sessions at every ESA, and La Selva Biological Station, where Debby and I met, had a regular Musica Noche. There I debuted my one and only contribution to the canon of music about love and parasitology in the tropics. Come to think of it, Botfly is like a canon of one.