Category Archives: Coastal Waters Education & Outreach

The Myth of Science – – written by Leandra Darden

Researcher with marsh rice rat

If you ask students what a scientist does, they will tell you, it is someone who does experiments. If you then ask them how many experiments they are running at a time, they will generally tell you one. Most of the time students are picturing someone in a lab with a lab coat mixing chemicals, and shouting “EUREKA” when they come up with the answer to their question. Cartoons have conditioned kids to believe that science is done inside with chemicals, and beakers, and an assistant named Igor. We are here to debunk some of the myths.

Myth 1: Science is done inside.

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That is not true at all. Did Charles Darwin study animals inside? Did Galileo study the stars inside? The answer is no. To understand the natural world, you have to conduct science outside in the heat, cold, with bugs, wind, and sometimes rain. Nature is a beautiful interconnected world, and you have to preform experiments in situ. This means in the actual environment to begin to comprehend the intricacies of patterns. That is why scientists will set up experiments outside. Scientists will build study sites, generally near each other so they experience similar situations during the study time, which will include at least one treatment and a control. Then they have to check progress to collect data. This can mean daily, weekly, monthly or yearly trips out to the study site. While this often the best way to understand exactly what is going on, it can be time consuming, costly, and sometimes hard to understand what factor might be influencing the focus of the experiment. To try and alleviate some of the parameters scientists will build mesocasms, small versions of the environment that they can manipulate to get better results. This allows the scientist to fine tune any differences between treatments and begin to understand how they are affecting the results.

Myth 2: Scientists run one experiment at a time.

When you talk to various scientists they will tell you that one of the reasons that they chose the profession is because they had a lot of questions. After you run an experiment, you will begin to see more questions actually arise from your experiments than those you answer. Scientists will have many different projects running that may overlap but are seeking to find different answers.

Myth 3: Scientists work alone or with one assistant.

While in college many people would tell me that they wanted to be a scientist because they would not have to deal with people. The reality is that scientists are NOT loners, they are in fact, team oriented. In order to answer the many questions, process the massive amounts of data and samples, and just plain keep things in order a scientist will be a part of a lab. This lab generally includes research assistants, a lab manager, undergraduate students, graduate students, and post-docs all working together and on separate projects. Are there days where you are so caught up in your job that you may not see anyone, yes, but for the most part you are going to be part of a well-oiled machine that helps to identify and answer life’s questions.

Myth 4: All scientists wear a lab coat.

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This is true and not true. Most scientists do not wear a lab coat all the time and some do not wear one at all. Even in more biologically focused labs, chemicals may be necessary to process samples. A lab coat is not for show, it is to protect yourself and your clothing from anything harmful. A lot of the equipment being used needs to be kept at low temperatures so the lab coat has the added bonus of keeping you warm!

Myth 5: Scientists yell “Eureka” when they make a discovery.

It is fun to think that all scientists have that lightbulb moment and they remember to yell that iconic phrase…but the reality is not so. During a discovery you are more likely to hear a “FINALLY” or a “Hmmm, this is weird” or “I don’t understand what is happening” than anything else.

 

Hopefully we have successfully refuted some of the myths behind science!

Love Me, Love My Marsh Photo Campaign

Our photo campaign’s mission is to highlight the appreciation many of our Louisiana residents have for our marshes and coasts. It also serves as an environmental campaign to increase awareness to the land loss and other environmental problems our coasts and marshes are going through. We are hoping this photo campaign will facilitate communication about our areas and communities affected by the 2010 oil spill.

We are hoping to get a lot of entries as a winner will be chosen every 8 weeks! Please help us spread the word!

Public Education Workshop #2-Dr. John Marton

This past Saturday the Coastal Waters Consortium and LUMCON hosted their second public education workshop. Our featured scientist was the distinguished Dr. John Marton. His talk focused on coastal wetlands formation, function and susceptibility. His talk allowed the attendees to further understand the classification of wetlands as one of them noted, “Dr. Marton’s lecture broadened my knowledge on Louisiana’s wetlands.” Dr. Marton’s main work is in biogeochemistry and he serves as the post-doctoral research fellow in the Roberts Lab located at LUMCON’s De Felice Marine Center. His eagerness to teach others about his work led participants to his lab where he prepared some samples for testing. “It was a great opportunity to come inside his lab and see him run some tests” said one of our participants. Dr. Marton is eager to give another public education talk this coming year!

Aside from learning from a great scientist, attendees also had the great opportunity to tour the R/V Pelican, our UNOLS vessel for the Gulf of Mexico. It was a great experience for participants as our R/V Pelican is offshore conducting research most of the time. Captain Max Wike led the tour that included the resources inside the vessel as well as the second floor that allows scientists to be overboard and enjoy the scenery. The R/V Pelican was not the only research vessel participants were able to enjoy as the heavy winds did not allow us to paddle we took them overboard on the R/V Acadiana, other research vessel. This trip allowed us to see some of the sites Dr. Marton discussed in his talk and observe some of the plants and trees are found in throughout our marshes.

As we continue to host these public education workshops we hope to be able to expand our outreach efforts. We had an outstanding 23 participants this past weekend and hope to continue to expand as we outreach to other communities among the region.

We want to thank Dr. Marton for giving an amazing talk as well as the Environmental Writer for the Houma Courier, Xerxes Wilson for adverting our event. Also our participants who attended as well as our CWC Marine Educators, Murt Conover and Jessica Hernandez.