Monthly Archives: November 2011

Little Red Wagon

Little Red Research Wagon

One of the unexpected fun bits about being an urban ecologist — using a Radio Flyer little red wagon for fieldwork today!  Thank you to Owen and Phoebe (my advisor’s kids) for letting me use it.

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Filed under Urban Ecology

Media Interviews

I’ve just been interviewed by Minnesota Public Radio, BoingBoing.net, and WCCO-TV.  Whew!  Fortunately these interviews weren’t for public consumption — they were part of a science-communication workshop with the Boreas environmental leadership program.  But we actually had journalists from these three organizations come in, give a panel discussion, and then do mock interviews of us.

A few main things I learned:

Storytelling matters.  I mean REALLY matters.  Continue reading

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Filed under Boreas, Communicating Science, Media

Discovering only what we expect

We think that our science is nice and objective, but it’s not that simple.  Scientists are pretty willing to admit that there’s a strong bias in terms of what we choose to study and what questions we ask, but today someone was seriously arguing that the rest of it is (or at least can and should be) unbiased.  I had to disagree pretty strongly.

It’s not too hard to design a study that avoids most bias (randomize!) and to collect data accurately.  But data have to be interpreted to have any meaning.  There’s a reason we labor over working out figures and writing up our findings, rather than simply handing out copies of our datasets.  And the interpretations and conclusions are filtered through our biases, expectations, and assumptions.

I recounted one of the Cedar Creek intern presentations this summer.  They were watching red-headed woodpecker behavior, and they had a finding: “Both males and females feed the young.”  This was really startling because it’s absolutely impossible to sex a red-headed woodpecker without a DNA test. Continue reading

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Filed under Queer Science