Archive for September, 2009

Science can be fun

September 9, 2009

Hi all,

I thought I’d use my first post to tell you about how the scientific endeavor can be fun.  When I see scientists in the media or on TV sitcoms, they’re portrayed as nerdy social misfits that lack personality and couldn’t lift a pin cushion if they had to.  Admittedly, there are scientists out there that are like this, however, there are a breed of scientists that enjoy the outdoors and live to do field work.  You’ll occasionally see these types of scientists on NOVA specials about glacial floods and such, but did you know that a “natural scientist” does field work on a regular basis?

This summer, I spent almost everyday out in the field north of Tucson, AZ collecting soils and building experimental plots and shelters.  You might ask how working during the summer in the desert is at all fun – it’s hot, there’s lots of spiny cacti, snakes, and buzzards, etc., but you get used to the heat, drink a lot of water, and your schedule changes so that you start the day at 5AM and go until 10 or 11 AM. Plus, I used a four wheeler to get to my field sites a couple of times.

Mark in the passenger seat

The day that my field assistant, Mark, and I went out on the four wheeler was absolutely thrilling.  We had to take the Charaleau Gap road (the top rated four-wheeling road in southern AZ) to one of my experimental sites.  It got the adrenaline pumping to say the least.

Rain out shelter

Anyway, I was able to hike all summer and I was able to get a lot of work done in the process.  We build rainout shelters at 6 sites in the Catalina’s.  These rainout shelters are designed to create drought conditions under the shelters – more about why I’m doing this in a later post.

There are many scientific disciplines that get to do field work: ecology, geology, paleontology, archaeology, biology, etc., even social scientists get to go outside every once in a while.  This is what makes a lot science fun, it’s not all lab work, and doing math (even though these are important aspects of science).    For those of us out there that love to hike and spend our days outside, “natural sciences” allow us to mesh our hobbies with our work.  What can be better than that?


Hello world!

September 9, 2009

Hi everyone and welcome to my blog.

I’ll be posting science content here as a way to reach out and unveil some of the mystery about science.  I work mainly in soils and with climate change, so these two subjects will probably dominate my blog, at least for the time being.  I would also like to discuss what scientists do and how science is performed.  I was out of science for a couple of years and I found that there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what science is, which I attribute to the total inability of scientists to explain what they actually do.

I grew up surrounded by science; you could say that I come from a scientific family.  Yet, stepping back and talking to non-scientists, I found that there are basic questions out there that people still have.  I invite you to ask any questions you have about science, climate change, natural resources, or anything that crosses your mind and I’ll do my best to give you an informed answer.  I look forward to the dialogue.